Sunday, 11 May 2008

I still seem to be living in a stupid country

The latest BBC news Have Your Say is about a proposed scheme for mandatory vaccination of young children. Far too many of the most recommended comments demonstrate the complete ignorance that has been spread in this country by the tabloid media. Knowledge about vaccines, and even basic critical thinking, seems to be almost totally absent from this cross-section of the population. For example:
"...parents who refuse to have the MMR/AUTISM jab..."
Autism jab? So somebody else reads the daily Male, or whatever other filth tabloids were spreading these lies about the MMR vaccine and autism. Studies show that there is no link between the two. This doesn't stop the flourishing movement that aims to spread this misinformation. If, as a result, some of the weaker members of society (young children who may be allergic, for example) catch measles and die I know who I'd blame.
"Vaccines should never become compulsory. I almost died after a diptheria vaccine..."
This is, of course, why the plural of anecdote is not data. We seem to have managed to put vast portions of people through education without giving them any critical faculties whatsoever for examining evidence and thinking rationally. Just because one person might win the lottery every week doesn't mean I have good odds if I buy a ticket.
"No parent should be forced to jab a kiddie. With bad hygiene you could be infecting millions with HIV!"
Yes... Someone has clearly been smoking something a little stronger than their usual crack. Welcome to the land of straw men. Imagine! If all cars were designed to explode, loads of people would die. We should ban cars! Down with the witch-craft of car manufacturing! Off with it's head!
"In the past few decades, as the number of mandatory vaccines has skyrocketed, there has been a corresponding skyrocketing of childhood cancers, including leukemia and brain tumors. Various neurological diseases, autism and immunilogical illnesses have likewise skyrocketed since the proliferation of vaccines. Coincidence?"
Probably, yes.
This is prime vintage nonsense. I had a little look and I couldn't find any credible evidence for the cancer angle. As for the autism/neurological conditions slant, it is a known fact that reporting of such conditions has increased with improved screening and wider ranges of diagnosis. In fact, all of the vaccine/autism "evidence" disappears if you take proper account of increasing diagnoses. So, not only a coincidence, but really a lie as well.
"There is no absolutely proof that vaccinations work. Ever."
This one is a classic. If vaccines don't work, where the hell did smallpox go? Is it behind the fridge? Maybe it's on holiday in the Bahamas? Oh wait, I think I have it. It's living with Hitler in his secret 4th Reich Moonbase on the dark side of the moon isn't it? Makes about as much sense as this.

The suggestion being debated is the introduction of mandatory vaccination linked to child benefits. So the bulk of the objections take the form of "It's 1984 all over again!" The problem is, it's already illegal to kill someone either on purpose or by your own negligence. By not vaccinating your child you still get to rely on the herd immunity from all the other vaccinated children and your kid will probably not catch measles. However, if rates drop low enough (as they have done in some areas) it becomes possible for these diseases to take a hold in the population and spread through the unvaccinated. At this point, all unvaccinated children are at risk.
In addition, those weaker members of sicuety who do not have immunity for one reason or another are also put at increased risk. By not vaccinating, parents risk not only the health of their children but that of others as well. To me, this seems very selfish.
All treatments have side-effects, and in rare cases these will be seriously harmful. However, it seems ot me that this is the much lesser risk. Especially as the vast majority of the purported negative effects of vaccines are entirely fictional.

1 comment:

Shaheen Lakhan said...

Sometimes, it surely does seem that way. We recently wrote an article on a similar issue at Brain Blogger.

The days of patients blindly following doctor's directions are over. After all, how many times do we hear that we are ultimately in charge of our own health? When it comes to parents who choose not to vaccinate their children, a study reports two types: radical (refuses everything) and reformist (selectively opt out). Especially for the reformist group, pediatricians must be able to discuss anti-vaccination issues with the parent without acting like he/she is dumb, naive, or insane. In order to convert a parent from "reformist" viewpoints, acknowledging his/her questions and concerns as valid is the first step.

We would like to read your comments on our article at our site. Thank you.

Sincerely,
Shaheen