Also known as, "Why I hate Dirty God Damned Anti Vaccine Hippies and Jenny McCarthy".
Now last night was a good night for me. I went to a friend's house, we got Chinese food, we had a drink, and then we sat down to watch Vaccine Wars. It's a documentary about the ongoing debate over whether or not vaccines are safe, cause autism, and are worth the potential risks. (Protip- yes they usually are, they certainly don't seem to, and yes because Polio sucks). I have to say that the vaccine debate is something I have taken a huge interest in as the debate has raged on, and my friend shares my ire toward Ms. McCarthy.
Now, perhaps some background on Jenny McCarthy is needed here. The woman was a playboy playmate, and while that doesn't mean she's stupid, it certainly doesn't make her a doctor or a pathologist or a statistician. In fact, Jenny dropped out of Southern Illinois University Carbondale where she originally studied nursing. Perhaps if she had continued reading her text book in between nude shoots, she would have actually learned something about vaccines, the history of vaccines and the difference they make in modern medicine, and even about Autism (which sadly, her son suffers from). Later in life she had a child, and decided he was "special" an that he was a "crystal child" and she was an "indigo mom". Meaning that when her son was exhibiting odd behaviors and developmental patterns, she read some bullshit books and crap online instead of taking him to a doctor for testing, lovely. Evan's disorder began with seizures and it was noted that his improvement occurred after the seizures were treated; symptoms experts have noted are more consistent with Landau–Kleffner syndrome, often misdiagnosed as autism, meaning that Jenny's "Autism is Curable" campaign may be based entirely off anecdotal evidence about the wrong disease. Jenny began her anti vaccine campaign when she went online and saw some anecdotal evidence that swayed her to believe that vaccines could have been the cause of her child's disease.Jenny McCarthy and her public outcry were not harmless. Many listened to her rants and did not vaccinate their children. here is a website tracking the disease and death that spread like wildfire after jenny opened up her mouth and spoke about things she wasn't educated about -Jenny McCarthy Body Count. Note how many vaccines caused autism.
The idea behind the whole "vaccine's cause autism" bit is the fact that some vaccines, notably the MMR vaccine, contain (or did contain) the chemical Thimerisol. Thimerisol is a mercury based organic compound that is used a preservative. Many people assumed that anything mercury based could poison a person, however, the amounts found in an average vaccine dose are very small, and so far have been shown to be perfectly safe. In fact, a study in Denmark of children who took MMR vaccines with and without Thimerisol showed no difference in the occurrence of autism. This proves that the chemical had no relation to children having autism.
Part of the problem behind people who are against vaccinating is that they don't understand basic principals of science, medicine, or statistics. It is true that there has been an increasing number of children with autism, and that there are more vaccines given to children now then ever before. but the important thing to remember (and something drilled into my head during high-school math and science classes) is that CORRELATION DOES NOT IMPLY CAUSATION. Using the same logic, I could blame global warming on a lack of pirates, there are less pirates now then there were hundreds of years ago, and there are also more greenhouse gases, so obviously pirates prevent global warming, right? No. that's silly, and so is this argument. I am all for people forming watchdog groups, and keeping an eye on vaccine procedures and the companies that supply the shots. i agree that the shots should continue to be tested for greater safety. But I also know that vaccines are an amazing thing, and that they protect people.
The greatest benefit of vaccines is not to the individual, it is to the community, and those who cannot receive the vaccine themselves. Herd Immunity is important. Small children, elderly people and people with medical issues cannot receive vaccines themselves, so they rely on the people around them to be disease free. When a person makes a choice to not vaccinate their child, they are creating a vector for disease. People often mention that they would quarentine a sick child, but the simple medical truth of the matter is that many diseases can be spread before there are any obvious symptoms, and in that case, others are put at risk. If you don't vaccinate your child, and they spread something like whopping cough to an infant, and that baby dies, are you at fault? Should people without any medical training be allowed to make these kind of important choices? I am not so sure.
Today we are seeing the revival of many diseases that haven't been seen in years. Whooping cough, measles, what's next, polio? People have lost the fear of these diseases because they weren't around in the US, but they weren't around because there were vaccines keeping them at bay. The same parents choosing not to vaccinate their children were likely vaccinated themselves. They have never seen a baby die of whooping cough, or seen a child crippled by polio. Yet it was not so long ago that these diseases ran rampant. My own grandmother still remembers the polio outbreaks she lived through as a child, how scary it was to see children carted off the hospital, and coming home unable to run or play. Many diseases we vaccinate for are not curable. We can stop a person getting the disease, but once they have it, it can't be treated easily, and there is a very real chance of death. As these diseases make a comeback, I can only hope that more people will take time to truly educate themselves and listen to experts, for the safety of their children and others as well.