I’m about to do something I swore I wouldn’t do: I’m going to write a post about vaccines.
I can’t help myself; I have to read and hear these vaccine debates on the daily. Each and every time I endure another one of the mud-slinging, name-calling, biased source citing arguments, I get a little angrier. Considering the frequency of them lately, I am raging. I just want to yell.
SHUT. THE. HELL. UP.
All you pro-vaxxers posting your links blaming the unvaccinated for the ‘outbreaks’ occurring, calling them stupid and uneducated: Shut the hell up.
All you anti-vaxxers crying conspiracy theory, yelling at big pharma for ‘poisoning’ your precious little offspring over some ‘harmless’ disease: Shut the hell up.
All of you – seriously. Just stop.
The debate has gotten so out of hand we aren’t even dealing with facts anymore. We are calling 5 (yes FIVE) cases of hospitalized measles (20 cases in total) in NYC an outbreak. 2 of those hospitalized cases are suspected of being transmitted INSIDE A DOCTOR’S OFFICE. The population of NYC is 8.3 million. So even if we take the full 20 cases into account, 20 in 8.3 million is hardly an outbreak. Yet the pro-vaxxers are calling it that and using it to try to scare parents into vaccinating. Fear-mongering smut blog articles are circulating around the internet, shaming anti-vaxxers for causing the entire debacle and putting the public at risk by not immunizing their kids. There’s flaws to that argument, given that the herd immunity theory is based on actual disease contraction and not immunization rates. Given that there are low responders to any vaccine. Given that outbreaks are happening in vaccinated populations. Given that most adults I know are not up to date on their booster shots and thus are considered unvaccinated as well. Given that there was a study done that says – “In the absence of vaccination, lifelong immunity is maintained through frequent encounters with infection, which act to boost the waning immune memory (this agrees with the findings of Whittle et al. 1999). However, when vaccination is introduced the prevalence of infection declines, which in turn reduces the amount of boosting and hence the level of immunity (in agreement with Muller 2001). What is more surprising is that the interaction between vaccination and waning immunity can lead to pronounced epidemic cycles in which the peak levels of infection can be of the orders of magnitude greater than the mean.” In other words – the life cycle of disease is such that instances will decline and then explode BECAUSE OF immunization. And although I suppose that those 20 cases in NYC could have started with an unvaccinated child (which I find unlikely given the media’s admittance that “A city health official says medical facilities may be partly to blame for the rare outbreak.”), it’s hardly the crisis that the pro-vaxxers are claiming. In fact, there were more instances of measles in the US in 2011 than there were in 2013. A whopping 222 of them. Whew, crisis indeed.
And then there’s the anti-vaxxers, posting non-credible sources for your facts. Claiming that big pharma’s sole goal is to make money, lots of it, and to hell with anyone who gets hurt along the way. Posting that conspiracy theory shit is the reason why the pro-vaxxers call you uneducated. Vaccines are not without risks, but they do actually work. Vaccines have saved many a life and all but eradicated many a disease and there’s a lot of sound science to back it up. Just ask someone who has suffered from polio if they think vaccines are worthwhile. We have the luxury of choosing whether or not to vaccinate because our population is not riddled with the very diseases you’re choosing not to immunize against. When you’re not the least bit concerned with contracting diphtheria you can move on to worrying about the contents of the vaccine meant to prevent future contraction. What a very fortunate position, indeed. The reality is if we all stopped vaccinating, we would be in some deep doo doo and it’s not completely off base for people to be a bit wary that this anti-vaccine thing may be catching on.
The reality is that diseases suck. They have consequences. They kill people and if they don’t get that far they may cause lifelong damage. It’s true that we don’t see a lot of that here (mostly thanks to vaccines!), but it doesn’t make it untrue. Do you really want to get to a state where you find out what a real outbreak is? Diminishing people’s concerns about the potential results of a disease by citing it as ‘mild’ and ‘harmless’ isn’t helpful, especially if you are concerned about a vaccine reaction. The chance of a vaccine reaction is most cases is comparable to the chance of a disease complication. Sometimes it is less. So telling someone they are silly for worrying about a ‘mild’ disease is pretty darn hypocritical. Same goes for you, pro-vaxxers. This works in vice versa, too.
The reality is that vaccines do carry risks. Any of the product monographs will tell you that and they are published by the manufacturers themselves! The side effects can be scary, and are vastly under-reported. It may be a small chance, but this is your CHILD we are talking about. Is it really so terrible that parents are hesitant to expose their children to a barrage of chemicals that have known and documented side effects? Is it really such an awful thing to ask the manufacturers to create safer vaccines? I don’t know many anti-vaxxers that are lobbying for the cessation of immunization, just safer immunization. We could probably all do with a few less carcinogens in our system, and faulting parents for advocating for that seems counter-intuitive.
The reality is that vaccines work and protect us. There are a ton of peer-reviewed, scientifically sound studies that prove it. We are lucky to have access to them and that our generation is all but ignorant to the horrors of many diseases.
The reality is that vaccines are not a guarantee. Herd immunity is flawed, and outbreaks happen even in fully vaccinated populations. They have also not always been incredibly safe, even when the scientific community is insisting that they are. The first batch of the polio vaccine caused polio.
The reality is that it is prudent to pay attention when instances of a disease start to rise. It is responsible to recommend population-wide immunization (for those that want it) to mitigate the potential risk BEFORE it becomes an epidemic.
The reality is that anti-vaxxers are not the problem. They’re still a very small percentage of the population. They just don’t have the power to cause a mass outbreak, there’s not enough of them. Diseases come back; they ebb and flow. It is not as simple as blaming the unvaccinated, nor will it ever be.
The reality is that every single parent has made their decision based on what they feel is right and in the best interest of their child. That every single parent, regardless of vaccination status, has the same end goal in mind: protecting those they love. It doesn’t make them stupid, uneducated, irresponsible, sheep or gullible. It makes them human.
And what do all these wars serve, really? All I see is division, not changed minds. I see parents attacking parents, hurt feelings. Passive-aggressive link posting that leads to a barrage of commentary underneath. I don’t see progression. I don’t see respectful conversation. People are so passionately one side or the other they cannot contain themselves and conduct themselves with even the tiniest amount of decorum. Upset that not everyone feels their child should be exposed to either disease or vaccine in the name of the greater good. We’ve resorted to altering the truth, convinced that either the anti-vaxxers are causing epidemics or that big pharma is out to get us.
The last thing we need is one more thing to fight about. More friends lost over something that you both approached with the same mindset. So do me, and all of us, a favour.
Shut the hell up.