Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Let's start an epidemic!

I wrote some time ago about my mixed feelings regarding people who decide to pray when their children are sick rather than take them to the doctor. While I feel that what they do is basically akin to child abuse, I don't know if the answer is for the government to intervene. Anyway, I've been discussing an issue with my wife lately that I feel is related to that sort of a thing.

Apparently, there are a lot of people who are saying that there's a link between autism and vaccines. Who are these people? Not the majority of doctors in the medical profession. Not the American Academy of Pediatrics. Not the FDA. And yet, celebrities like Jenny McCarthy go on TV and talk about it as though there is some credible proof of a connection.

What proof do these people offer? Their children are autistic, and their children had vaccinations. They also say that their kids had no signs until they received the Measles/Mumps/Rubella vaccine - even though the sings usually don't show up until about the age where a child would receive that vaccine in the first place. Also, never mind the fact that the vast majority of people who get the vaccine (raise your hand if you've been vaccinated and you're not autistic!) don't have autism. And of course, never mind the fact that the research into the connection has been inconclusive at best.

So, what's the harm then? People won't get their children vaccinated. Surely nothing bad can happen from that, right? I mean, you don't want to take a chance and have an autistic child, do you?

Oh yeah, I just remembered - VACCINES SAVE LIVES!!! Ever wonder why you don't know anybody who died of the measles, the mumps, rubella, etc? (Okay, maybe there's somebody out there who has, but generally speaking, most people my age have never even met a person with any of those diseases.) The thing is, we're not talking about chicken pox here. These are life-threatening illnesses. (Although I suppose that even that is potentially life-threatening.) There are people around the world who wish that they could have given a vaccine to their child who died of one of these diseases. (I just read a story in my local paper about all the kids who still die of the measles in this world.)

The thing is, you do a little bit of online research and you'll find all sorts of information about this. I checked out YouTube, and there are all sorts of videos on this topic. Some of them have people saying that there is no proof that vaccinations have stopped all of these diseases. No proof? Are you freakin' kidding me? What, did they all go away by magic? Did everybody just pray really hard? Did Apollo stop shooting his infectious arrows at the Greek armies? (That's an Iliad reference, boys and girls.)

I've written about this before, but I think that this is one more symptom of a larger problem that we have in this country. People act like everybody's opinion carries equal weight. A celebrity with an autistic child has the same credibility as a scientist who has done actual research on the issue.

What's it going to take for people to wake up? This is a potential health-risk that we're talking about here. Again, I'm skeptical about government intervention, but don't you think that the government is going to do something if an epidemic breaks out?

It's bad enough if a person chooses to not have their kids receive medical attention because one child dies. But not vaccinating your child doesn't just endanger him or her - it's putting others at risk. Do these opponents of vaccinations even think about the possible consequences of what they're suggesting? Will stupidity be the death of us all?

And for the record, I link this kind of foolishness with the same sort of foolishness that has people believing that Intelligent Design is science. Sure, this is potentially deadly, but they're both signs of the general level of scientific illiteracy in this country that should send shivers down your spine.

1 comment:

Weemaryanne said...

There was a news story in Toronto a few weeks ago about four cases of rubella that were diagnosed among people who worked in downtown Toronto. If I were one of the young pregnant women in our office (and there are a lot of 'em, bless 'em) I would have been freakin' terrified.

My sisters and I had mild cases of chicken pox and mumps; or maybe it was something else with similar symptoms, because we all had our vaccinations. But a friend of mine contracted mumps somewhat younger than I did and he was sick enough to be hospitalized; after it was over, he had lost all hearing in his left ear.

Don't kid yourself: Epidemics can still happen. Many people of our grandparents' generation lost a sibling to diphtheria or polio or tuberculosis. It could happen again, to us or our grandchildren. Even today, TB is a real problem on many Indian reservations in Canada; I don't know about elsewhere.