Thursday, September 20, 2012


I approve of this:
Washington State Makes It Harder to Opt Out of Immunizations

Washington State is home to Bill and Melinda Gates, champions of childhood vaccines across the globe. Its university boasts cutting-edge vaccine research. But when it comes to getting children immunized, until recently, the state was dead last.

"You think we're a cut above the rest," said Dr. Maxine Hayes, state health officer for Washington's Department of Health, "but there's something in this culture out West. It's a sort of defiance. A distrust of the government."

The share of kindergartners whose parents opted out of state immunization requirements more than doubled in the decade that ended in 2008, peaking at 7.6 percent in the 2008-9 school year, according to the state's Health Department, raising alarm among public health experts. But last year, the Legislature adopted a law that makes it harder for parents to avoid getting their children vaccinated, by requiring them to get a doctor's signature if they wish to do so. Since then, the opt-out rate has fallen fast, by a quarter, setting an example for other states with easy policies....
It embarrasses me that so much of this resistance to vaccination comes from our side of the political ledger:
Parents who refuse vaccines tend to be more educated, and often more affluent than the average, researchers say.

Jonathan Bell, a naturopathic doctor in Washington State who encourages his patients to vaccinate their children. Those who opt out, he said, tend to distrust the public health establishment because of what they see as its unsavory connections with the pharmaceutical industry. "The argument is, 'Oh no, I'm putting off vaccines,'" he said. "'I'm part of a group that's smart enough to understand the government is a pawn of big pharma.'"
I feel about this the way I feel about teaching evolution in the schools: Yeah, this is America, which means you're free to believe what you want and say what you want, but science says you're wrong. Period. Full stop. So society needs for your kids to know the truth about how life has developed on this planet, and society needs your kids to be immunized unless there's a damn good reason.

I'm glad that (apart from Donald Trump) the anti-vaccine movement isn't really linked to the right. Can you imagine if vaccine skepticism were seized on by the right-wing noise machine? It would spread like wildfire. A third of Americans simply wouldn't vaccinate their children, insisting that the health effects of vaccination are just a "theory." Every Republican in Congress would have to sign an anti-vaccine pledge. There'd be movements to make vaccines illegal in the red states, and dispensers of vaccines would be defunded in those states, and their offices would be shut down. Right-wing billionaires would bankroll documentaries linking vaccination to Hitler and eugenicism, and the Fox/talk radio crazies would flock to those documentaries, which would break box-office records. Half the books on the bestseller list would have covers depicting Democratic politicians as Dr. Mengele.

So maybe we're sort of lucky.


Victor said...

Great take on this, Steve!

That Republican angle wouldn't have occurred to me.

But yeah, I can see the consequences - a pregnant single mother, with a young child holding her hand, walking along some dark and dirty backstreet, to find the clandestine little office that does women's abortions and childrens vaccines - for cash only!

Tom Hilton said...

It embarrasses me that so much of this resistance to vaccination comes from our side of the political ledger...

I was in Portland last month, where they're currently fighting over whether to fluoridate the water. Remember all that Bircher nonsense about fluoridation back in the '60s (part of the inspiration for General Jack D. Ripper's 'purity of essence' fixation)? Well, in Portland it's the neo-hippies and 'natural' food obsessives who've been fighting that fight.

Philo Vaihinger said...

Man, I wish you hadn't decided to risk giving them ideas.

Talk about irresponsible free speech.


Burnt Sienna said...

I take some offense to this. I don't VAX my kids because of legitimate concerns about the ingredients used in the vaccines. My kids have a wide-range of pretty serious allergies, and a lot of the vaccines contain ingredients that they are or may be allergic to. That is not a gamble I want to make with my children's' lives. So until they make doctors better educated about potential side effects, until they make their products safer for children with allergies, and until they're more transparent about the contents and manufacturing processes of vaccines, we won't be vaccinating. It's not that we disbelieve in vaccines, but I'm not willing to put my children at risk of something more likely to harm them than the off chance of catching the diseases themselves. Of course, our kids aren't dumped off in daycare and school, because we teach them at home - proper science, evolution and all. We're in Washington state, and this news actually makes it more difficult for us to protect our kids. Sure, there are other paranoids who don't VAX because of lame reasons, but please don't paint us all with such a broad brush. Thanks.

Josh said...

So, despite my hard core liberal leanings, my graduate degree in earth science and my deep belief in science ahead of everything, you think that someone like me is part of the right wing nut job machine because I don't trust vaccines being pushed by big pharma in conjunction with our government? I agree with nearly everything you post here, but this one is going too far.
Please don't talk to me like some kind of right wing crazy because I think about what I want being injected into my child. We're told constantly to avoid eating blue fin tuna, shark, any other number of large fish because of the mercury. Yet we're also told to inject some substance containing high amounts of mercury, as well as aluminum and other heavy metals into our 3 month old children? You can deny it all you want, but there is a big time partnership between big pharma and the government. I guess I'm also crazy for refusing to get a flu shot year after year? 34 years and never having the flu kind of keeps me thinking I should stick to what works. Oh yea, not to mention the bird flu, swine flu, "enter animal name here" flu, we are told is going to wipe out the population of the earth if we don't rush out and get the the vaccine of the year...yet there's been no epidemic.
You have the right to criticize those who read literature, and do their homework and make their own choices as to how they want to take care of their children, but don't lump us all into the right wing, inability to think, category. It's very offensive.

Anonymous said...

Burnt Sienna, indeed, some children cannot take some vaccinations due to allergies, such as children with egg allergies should not take vaccines containing egg protein from their manufacture. Other reasons are children with auto immune or immuno deficiency disorders, or those who are too young for a particular vaccination. However that's why you need to have a good relationship with your pediatrician so that s/he is aware of your child's medical profile and knows which vaccine s/he can and cannot receive. And the fact that some children cannot vaccinate only makes it all the more important that other children DO, so that the children who cannot vaccinate are protected by being surrounded with other children and adults who are protected and therefore who are not likely to catch and spread the disease. It is not a reason to make vaccines easier to opt out of, because that only leads to undervaccination by children (and adults) who can be vaccinated, weakening the herd iummunity effect.

Josh, you really need to research the actual science behind vaccines, because you have fallen for one of the most thoroughally discredited anti-vaccine myths. Firstly thimerasol, the preservative which contains mercury, has been removed from virtually all vaccines on the vaccine schedule since 1999. Only certain brands of flu shots which come in multi dose vials still contain thimerasol, and those vaccines are also available in single dose vials without it. So if you are concerned you can avoid mercury entirely. Secondly, although the FDA banned thimerasol from most vaccine out of a sense of "better safe than sorry" when the issue was first raised, later research conclusively proved that there was no risk. This is because the amount of mercury was minute, far below the amount of mercury required to cause harm even considering all vaccines combined, and also because the type of mercury, ethyl mercury, unlike the methyl mercury in contaminated fish, is not bioavailable and in any case is flushed out of the body within days and therefore cannot accumulate to reach harmful levels. That'ws not to say that there are no risks in vaccinating, just that mercury is not one of them. There are some risks in vaccinating for a small subset of children with allergies or immune disorders, as mentioned above. And there are some possible side effects, but most side effects are mild, such as temporary fever or swelling, and the serious side effects are EXTREMELY rare, affecting only one in hundreds of thousand or even one in millions of children. That's far less of a risk than the diseases being protected against which carry risks of death, brain damage, blindness or deafness, sterility, and so on, not to mention the pain and suffering the diseases cause even if they do not suffer permanent injury or death. For your own children's protection, and for the protection of children who can not vaccinate, please vaccinate your children.