I do not have children, nor do I intend to; so why does the vaccination problem irk me so?
I think it bothers me because, quite frankly, there is no debate. It bothers for the same reason the existence of Fox News irritates me; a sheer and consistent distortion of the truth which, for some reason, prevails. For example, when Fox News publish percentages that do not add up to 100, or get very obvious facts wrong, why do people believe them? Why do people continue to watch it? Why are they not publically humiliated and the laughing stock of America?
I don’t know. And I don’t know why people still believe that vaccinations are a bad thing either. I mean, haven’t we proven this over and over again?!
The “measles cause autism myth” is the turd that won’t flush; no matter how many studies disprove the link or how many times the original study that claimed it is discredited, removed, burnt and thrown to the wolves, some people are still hell-bent on digging it up.
The “if I’m a good enough parent I can deal with measles on my own” idea is cock-sure ego-driven fallacy. It is also oddly idealistic and pertains to an illusionary superiority.
Vaccinations mean that many diseases that once killed thousands of people per year are now thankfully very rarely observed. Measles for example was once a disease that everyone knew the look of; whooping cough was once a familiar and dreaded sound, but since the invention and implementation of vaccinations, the cases of both these diseases are now low.
Measles used to infect over 43,000 Americans per year, and since the vaccination was implemented in 1963, the average is 60 cases per year. The downside of the lower prevalence of disease is complacency. In 1963, no parent would willfully refuse a measles vaccine if it were offered; because most of them would have seen or heard of a child in the neighbourhood having been hospitalized for it.
Measles is deadly; it deserves to be feared, however the privileged position of living in a country with vaccinations that keep cases of measles as low as they are can lead to complacency. Factor in scare tactics and erroneous science claiming that the MMR vaccine is responsible for autism and the result is a rise in the number of parents opting out of having their children protected by a vaccination.
An estimated seven percent of parents in the Boulder Valley School District opted out of having their children vaccinated in 2011. In most states in America, the exemption rate is around one percent. In 2009, the vaccination exemption rate in Washington state fell to under 8 percent and in reaction to this, Washington State passed a bill stating that exemptions would only be granted with the production of a registered doctors note. Following this action the vaccination exemption rate decreased significantly. There is a call for Colorado to follow suit from many healthcare professionals.
Colorado is one of the 20 states in which a parent can opt out, and out of those 20 it is one of the easiest. Most states require truly exceptional circumstances for vaccination rejection, and children that cannot provide an up to date vaccination certificate are denied school access. Not in Boulder, here a parent only has to write a note in order to not have their child vaccinated.In the school year 2012-2013, almost 3,000 kindergarten children in Colorado did not receive a vaccination due to this Personal Belief Exemption.
You may wonder why one parent’s decision not to vaccinate their child is anything other than their own personal, private business, and you may think that as long as you have your own children vaccinated, that they are safe regardless of what your neighbours are doing.
Unfortunately, it does not quite work like that. In every 100 children that are vaccinated there are a few that will not receive immunity. These children for one reason or another come out of the doctor’s office having received the full dose of the recommended vaccines and are not immune. There is no way to tell if the vaccine that you child has received was effective or not until he or she is caught in a school where there is an outbreak. The higher the percentage of children in a school whose parents chose not to have vaccinated, the higher the chances of an outbreak.
With this in mind, it is clear that the actions of one can and do affect the health and wellness of another. When deadly diseases are the subject, it is important that the community acts as a whole to ensure that children are kept safe.
In December 2013, The Colorado Immunization Section of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment sent a letter to all the parents of students in Colorado Schools asking them to have their children vaccinated. This request was sent in an attempt to remind parents of the dire consequences of disease spread in a school situation, and outlined how and why immunization is important. However in the attached information sheets it was obvious that all parents had to do in order to exempt their children was write a letter.
Surely in a time where there are an increased number of measles outbreaks not just in Colorado, but across the United States and Europe, the slack should be pulled on vaccination compliance?
And now,(surprise, surprise!) measles is making a comeback. After the Disneyland outbreak in California, there have been 121 cases reported in 17 states. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most of these cases were unvaccinated individuals. Up to 18 percent of students in Boulder Valley schools are currently unvaccinated, that equates to around 5,200 kids. Like I said, I don’t have children, so I’m not worried about my own kids; I’m just cross about it because it is so bloody stupid!
According to Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition, in 2013, there were 538 children hospitalised for vaccine-preventable diseases and these resulted in nearly $30 million worth of medical bills.
The CDC has also reported that Kindergarteners in Colorado had the lowest vaccine rates last year for MMR at 81 percent.
I’ve been writing about vaccines for a while now. I have also spoken with a number of parents and doctors, from both camps, on the subject. What I have learnt is that no amount of peer-reviewed, credible, scientific research is going to convince an anti-vaccer that vaccines are safe. Seriously, it’s like trying to argue about religion or politics, or with a Fox News presenter. The only thing that will convince an anti-vaccer to get their child vaccinated is when they see someone’s kid get sick. Unfortunately, that is becoming increasingly likely.
Some links of interest: