Parenting

Vaccines: Are We Really Still Debating This?

The Boy

UNICEF predicts that approximately 5 million people a year are saved from the horrific disease of smallpox due to the large scale vaccination programme that was undertaken in the 1970s. This programme effectively eradicated the virus from the human population.

5 million. Per year. For one disease.

In fact, from Edward Jenner onwards, countless lives have been saved by vaccinating people. This is an undeniable fact.

Clearly, however, some people don’t like ‘real’ facts and prefer to believe nonsense masquerading as facts. Which, from here on in, will be referred to as ‘BS’.

BS peddlers come in many guises, from chiropractors to faith healers to psychics to homeopaths – but they all have one aim in mind; to subvert normal science and logical thought with the hope of selling you a service or a product. I’ll talk about homeopaths later – and you’ll see my ire justified – but for now we should look to the media as the biggest BS peddlers around.

The media has a vested interest in selling easily digested, low threshold stories that everyone can read. That, in itself, is not a bad thing. Busy people want to know the facts and newspapers want to sell more newspapers.

What is a problem is when the desire to sell newspapers outstrips the desire to report the facts. So complex news stories get reduced to the lowest common denominator. You know the stories I mean, “eat more purple sprouting broccoli to prevent nipple cancer”. You buy the paper because it’s interesting that they’ve found that out and then next time you’re in the supermarket you wander by the purple sprouting broccoli and pick up a pack thinking “well, I don’t want nipple cancer”.

The actual story behind the headline might be that some scientists have concluded that a compound which is prevalent in purple sprouting broccoli has been shown to have an adverse effect on nipple cancer cells in a petri dish.

That doesn’t mean it will translate into an actionable effect because – and you’ve probably noticed this yourself – you are not neatly laid out in petri dishes. Unless you are very unwell, in which case the efficacy of purple sprouting broccoli is going to be limited anyway.

The story is less interesting when the modal is employed so declaratives take charge.

This does!

Will cure!

Science proves!

Buy now!

A Case In Point

The greatest BS peddled by the news in recent years (to do with health at least) was the link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

I remember this story hitting the news and I was shocked by the reactions of parents. How, I thought, could any right thinking person not protect their child against the horrific triad of mumps, measles and rubella? Especially when the scientific case for vaccination was so easy to prove whereas the same could not be said for Wakefield’s (the doctor who compiled the research) claims. In fact they were readily and repeatedly disproved.

At the time I thought that these parents were so impossibly negligent that they should be prosecuted for child abuse.

Over time, I used the MMR/Autism story as a teaching tool to illustrate media bias, and to show how what is reported can have serious consequences in society.

A sound academic use for an unsound one was, I thought, the end of it.

And then I became a parent.

Suddenly there seems to be a reinvigorated backlash against the idea of vaccinating your child because of the scientific equivalent of ‘what some bloke told me in the pub’.

Being a parent has also changed my perspective a little on people who fail to vaccinate their offspring. Don’t get me wrong, I still think parents who choose to not have their children protected are negligent and should be given a stern talking to about how the ‘democratic right to choose’ does not include allowing your child to fall ill with any number of disfiguring and potentially fatal illnesses.

But I understand that the fear of the vaccine being worse for your child than the illness it is supposed to protect them against would cause at least a momentary pause for thought. The little bundle of pink gurgling happiness is your world and I truly believe that you don’t know true fear until you’ve had a child.

Unfortunately, it seems the fear of an unproven connection between ingredients in vaccines and autism is more persuasive than the tried and tested truth that measles (a potentially life-threatening illness) is prevented by vaccination.

An Alternative?

Wouldn’t it be great if there was someway of immunising your child against these awful diseases without having to pump them full of chemicals?

Luckily for us all, a group of snake oil salesmen homeopaths are waiting in the wings to take your cash.

I was teaching a lesson the other day and needed a last minute example of a text with bias. So I showed the students this:

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 09.51.58

 

And this got me thinking. If people are willing to make claims that you can cure flu (a sickness that kills between 3300 and 49,000 people per year) with water then surely it can’t be too much of a leap to suggest you can vaccinate children with the same and call it ‘the natural alternative’.

Turns out it isn’t:

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 10.00.53

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 10.02.57

These are two of the many examples of BS that abounds surrounding this issue (images are links). 

 

And don’t try and tell me that homeopathy actually does anything. It is water. Water doesn’t have ‘memory’, do you know why? Because it’s fucking water. If it could be proved true that water possesses such powers then it would, at a stroke, rewrite our entire understanding of physics, chemistry and biology whilst simultaneously meaning that the drink you have in your hand ‘remembers’ all the poo it’s had in it like some kind of scat-focused obsessive diarist.

The worrying thing is that parents are buying (literally) into this. Leaving their children unprotected from some truly terrifying illnesses.

What You Should Do

As you know, I am very relaxed on the idea of how you choose to parent your child. Some parents set up structured and rigid routine from the very moment of cervical dilation. Others let their flower children float free upon the winds of expression. Most, like us, fall in the bumbling-along-trying-to-keep-him-alive style of parenting. A middle path, if you will.

However you choose to raise your child is up to you.

But the one thing I will say that all parents must do is to immunise your child, with scientifically proven medicines. Medicines that will help not just their health but the health of all of the people they come into contact with for the rest of their lives.

And, if you are a practising homeopath please don’t tell people lies about protecting their children with ‘magic water’ and taking their cash. Because when there is an outbreak of mumps and children are deafened by the virus, or measles and children start suffering permanent brain damage, your pseudo-scientific BS will be part of the reason why.

Thanks.

 

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29 thoughts on “Vaccines: Are We Really Still Debating This?

  1. The only time I ever understood it, although I still rejected it, was when my friend who has two children with autism, one with severe autism, delayed vaccinating her third child because she was so terrified that the MMR shot would cause him to get autism if he were predisposed. But she did eventually have to get him immunized anyway bc of school. I think they have been doing studies showing that there are signs of autism that can be detected now BEFORE the age when they get the MMR shots to show people that the diagnosis is coincidental not causal from the MMR shot. But honestly I think we should spread out shot schedules and not give kids so much shot at once. My doctor explained that it is done this way now for parental convenience and for fear parents won’t come back with their kids to get all of the boosters. Along these lines, I have a child on the spectrum and another child who at 5 has epilepsy. It’s treated with meds. People tell me to put him on these radical diets because they are supposed to cure it naturally. I’m like, oh yeah, there was a study of 28 subjects? People seem clueless that small studies don’t mean anything and they are all anxious to think we can control everything with diet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I understand the fact that people are afraid but it seems mad (to me at least) that parents aren’t afraid of the very diseases we are immunising against.

      The fact that people think you can treat conditions like epilepsy with diet just shows how lacking in scientific knowledge the general public are. Which is scary because if a parent (out of the very best of intentions) acts on this advice, they leave their child at serious risk.

      I’ve taught quite a few kids on the spectrum and it made me completely change my approach to teaching all of my students – especially when highlighting the emotional aspects of a text.

      They also gave me the best feedback on my lessons. If a kid with Aspergers tells you they liked your lesson and learnt something new, you know its the truth!

      Thanks for commenting 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I so agree. I do photoresearch for my job and seeing children in Africa with measles, it is just AWFUL. On the spectrum note, ie seeing things differently, my son was fixated briefly on the Titanic but had no interest in the passenger deaths but was fascinated by the idea that all of the Titanic china got destroyed. The lack of empathy/theory of mind/emotional connection kills me sometimes.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Another sad thing with the Wakefield fallout is that the media has been lax in taking to task those who continue to spout the BS about the autism link. American celebrities, such as Jenny McCarthy (probably the worst offender, and the one with the least talent), should have no career to speak of for helping to perpetuate these lies, but instead they are rewarded.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can, just about, understand a parent who is so concerned that they don’t act to immunise their kids.

      What I don’t understand is why anyone would, choose to spread this idea. Either they are morons and truly believe this crap. Or, they place their own bank balance over the health and wellbeing of children.

      If its the former, they deserve to be treated with utter contempt. If it’s the latter then they are truly the most evil of people and deserve to be locked up.

      We have plenty of this BS in the UK as well (daytime TV is littered with it) and it scares me.

      Luckily there are people (like Ben Goldacre – seriously check this guy out) who are fighting the good fight.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. My b/f read a shocking statistic of late regarding his home state California re: how many parents are choosing to NOT vaccinate their children. It’s kind of crazy how anti-intelligent we’ve become. For an educated society we sure have turned towards sheer blind faith when it comes to everything important. Sad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Lani,

      Been crazy busy so haven’t got around to reading and reviewing your book. Will try this week (sorry mate).

      The scary part is that the rate of immunisation is dropping below 95% in many places. This is the threshold for ‘herd immunity’. Basically, anyone is is allergic or would have an adverse reaction to the vaccine is covered by the fact that everyone else is. Once you drop below that, you expose those people to infection and increase the risk of an outbreak.

      And that *is* scary.

      Like

      • Unfortunately, I think it will take an outbreak to bring folks back into the realm of reality.

        Ah, yes, the book! I’m afraid I missed the sale. Can you loan me a Kindle copy and I’ll do the same?

        Like

      • Worryingly I think you’re right and those poor kids will be properly ill for no good reason.

        I don’t know how to do that but probably not too hard. Let me figure it out and I’ll get back to you 🙂

        Like

    • California is the king of doing whatever, even if it makes no sense. However, most of the num-nuts that don’t vaccinate come from more ignorant states with anti-scientific influence. Seriously, if you can honestly listen to a politician denying climate change or a bible thumping nutcase like Sarah Palin talking creationism is it any surprise ?

      The problem here in the USA is demographics. They are changing. Fast. This has the ruling elite old farts scared something awful so they’re on a tear to convince a new generation stupdity rather than science. Just another reason I can’t wait to get outta here in a few months

      Liked by 2 people

      • Good points. We’ve become a “anti-science” society. *scratches head* And I wonder if anyone has documented this turning point. I mean, what happened? I’m still a fan of science and logic.

        A couple of months away is it? Good luck on your travels 🙂

        Like

      • It’s all there for anyone to see or read but the new generation cares little about munch beyond texting their friends or earning “online income” while traveling the world. The USA mostly prohibits mainstream media from “real” reporting if there’s any chance that a CEO, lobbyist or politician might suffer any detrimental effects.

        Yes. the house goes on sale March 17th; we apply for MM2H in late April. And then we’ll spend about a month in Canada with family while waiting for the visa’s conditional approval but plan on flying to MY by JUly. NO doubt it will be before the approval but we met a couple from my blog that happens to be moving there about a month ahead of us. We are driving up to Portland next weekend to meet them and they said we can stay with them when we first arrive while looking for a short term rental. They’re going to Ipoh, not far from Penang. By mid summer we should be approved (hopefully) and then we’ll go to Penang.

        Of course we can’t wait to go back to Thailand so when we’re in Chaing Mai expect two
        visitors; 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Anyone who believes that the universe was created 7000 years ago and is in charge of education needs to take a very long walk on a very short pier.

        It is scary when so much ignorance abounds. It is evil when ignorance is used to make money.

        Liked by 1 person

      • America is beyond scary. And now with Mitt Romney not running in 2016 I can’t wait for 8 more years of GOP rule. Let’s see: They will continue The Muslim War, occupy another nation or two, waste 8 more valuable years not passing legislation to counteract the climate change that once again is pummeling the east coast with winter storms and turning the west into a desert, continue to screw people like us with their illegal tax rules imposed on the the entire world’s banking system, keep interest rates near zero to manipulate the stock market’s fake “recovery” and piddle around with ObamaCare enough to throw half the country back into being insurance-less. Yeah, thank God I won’t be here to witness it

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  4. I kind of tend to think that with a lot of people it is less of a not understanding science thing and more of a prestige, I’m above all that thing. The neighborhoods in California with the truly high “personal belief” exemptions are wealthy and you would think at least moderately educated. And yet it has been proven in studies that actual facts make anti-vaxxers even more anti rather than changing their minds. The fact that in most of the world people will trudge for miles to make sure their kids are vaccinated because they see their kids dying from these diseases just makes the “I’m above all that crowd” believe in their own superiority based on their “clean” diets and wonderful “hygiene” and magic water too. I think rather than trying to educate anti-vaxxers, which has been proven not to work anyway, we must start shaming them for their selfishness. Anti vaccine “paranoia” is not about their children it is about them and their status, and their status seeking behavior puts others at risk. And all “personal belief” exemptions should be outlawed for public health. That is why laws are in place because the idiots of every stripe will be selfish and not do things that are proven to be beneficial to the community as a whole. Giving those idiots an out is, well, idiotic. Only a medical exemption for allergies or immune suppression should be allowed. Those are the people that need the protections of herd immunity.

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  5. Excellent points. Sadly the empire known as America is filled with crackpots and a majority right wing republican leadership (can you call it that?). As long as this remains a nation that listens to the likes of Sarah Palin and many other Christian fundamentalists that skew science in the name of their own religious moral views, America, the supposed “leader of the free world” remains in 144th place as far as measles vaccinations go, for instance. This report just came out the other day. Sad and pathetic.I hope Europeans are smarter.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Fear of losing power is sadly the real reason there will not be any REAL (meaningful) social,economic or political changes in the G8 nations in my lifetime (or yours). I could tell you stories from working in the evil industry for years and I was only a peon

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Since I know some of these intransigent people, who are intelligent and sophisticated and educated, not the Neanderthals I expect them to be, I think we are up against adamant prejudices that won’t easily be worn down. Something that should be self-evident has to be discussed and addressed, and then isn’t listened to. I don’t know what goes on in their heads, but it is all very discouraging.
    (Partly I think it’s because they’ve never seen a case of measles or whooping cough or any one of the diseases that I grew up with, and was heartily thankful was being eradicated.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I want to believe that these people are morons because it is easier than trying to understand how an intelligent and educated person could believe this stuff.

      But yes, it’s all very discouraging and sad that the indefensible putting children at risk is allowed credence.

      Like

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