An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endangers Us All
To hear his enemies talk, you might think Paul Offit is the most hated man in America. A pediatrician in Philadelphia, he is the coinventor of a rotavirus vaccine that could save tens of thousands of lives every year. Yet environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. slams Offit as a “biostitute” who whores for the pharmaceutical industry. Actor Jim Carrey calls him a profiteer and distills the doctor’s attitude toward childhood vaccination down to this chilling mantra: “Grab ‘em and stab ‘em.” Recently, Carrey and his girlfriend, Jenny McCarthy, went on CNN’s Larry King Live and singled out Offit’s vaccine, RotaTeq, as one of many unnecessary vaccines, all administered, they said, for just one reason: “Greed.”
The poor man has received death threats and threats to his children!
n May, The New England Journal of Medicine laid the blame for clusters of disease outbreaks throughout the US squarely at the feet of declining vaccination rates, while nonprofit health care provider Kaiser Permanente reported that unvaccinated children were 23 times more likely to get pertussis, a highly contagious bacterial disease that causes violent coughing and is potentially lethal to infants. In the June issue of the journal Pediatrics, Jason Glanz, an epidemiologist at Kaiser’s Institute for Health Research, revealed that the number of reported pertussis cases jumped from 1,000 in 1976 to 26,000 in 2004. A disease that vaccines made rare, in other words, is making a comeback. “This study helps dispel one of the commonly held beliefs among vaccine-refusing parents: that their children are not at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases,” Glanz says.
“I used to say that the tide would turn when children started to die. Well, children have started to die,” Offit says, frowning as he ticks off recent fatal cases of meningitis in unvaccinated children in Pennsylvania and Minnesota. “So now I’ve changed it to ‘when enough children start to die.’ Because obviously, we’re not there yet.”
...Being rational takes work, education, and a sober determination to avoid making hasty inferences, even when they appear to make perfect sense.
...If your newborn gets pertussis, for example, there is a 1 percent chance that the baby will die of pulmonary hypertension or other complications. The risk of dying from the pertussis vaccine, by contrast, is practically nonexistent — in fact, no study has linked DTaP (the three-in-one immunization that protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) to death in children. Nobody in the pro-vaccine camp asserts that vaccines are risk-free, but the risks are minute in comparison to the alternative.
Of course we don't give the shots to newborns--which is why we don't want these diseases to gain more footing in our general population. I had pertussis and I felt like I was going to suffocate. I understood then why it was so feared and why it killed babies and small children so easily.
the human brain has a natural tendency to pattern-match — to ignore the old dictum “correlation does not imply causation” and stubbornly persist in associating proximate phenomena. If two things coexist, the brain often tells us, they must be related. Some parents of autistic children noticed that their child’s condition began to appear shortly after a vaccination. The conclusion: “The vaccine must have caused the autism.” Sounds reasonable, even though, as many scientists have noted, it has long been known that autism and other neurological impairments often become evident at or around the age of 18 to 24 months, which just happens to be the same time children receive multiple vaccinations. Correlation, perhaps. But not causation, as studies have shown.
Pseudoscience relies on this tendency and abounds with anecdotal evidence that is not really evidence at all. To the lay person who is not well educated in the sciences, it is easy for the many anti-vaccination websites to put all of this together in a very convincing package. If it weren't so deadly in its effects it would almost be amusing. But the price of ignorance is death, and bringing these diseases back can kill more than just the families of the anti-vaccination convert.
And then there are the famous names behind the anti-vaccination panic, lending dangerous credibility to crackpot theories that have already been disproved.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a scion of the most famous Democratic family of all, authored a deeply flawed 2005 Rolling Stone piece called “Deadly Immunity.” In it, he accused the government of protecting drug companies from litigation by concealing evidence that mercury in vaccines may have caused autism in thousands of kids. The article was roundly discredited for, among other things, overestimating the amount of mercury in childhood vaccines by more than 100-fold, causing Rolling Stone to issue not one but a prolonged series of corrections and clarifications. But that did little to unring the bell.
The evidence that autism is NOT related to vaccines is clear:
Twelve epidemiological studies have found no data that links the MMR (measles/mumps/rubella) vaccine to autism; six studies have found no trace of an association between thimerosal (a preservative containing ethylmercury that has largely been removed from vaccines since 20011) and autism, and three other studies have found no indication that thimerosal causes even subtle neurological problems. The so-called epidemic, researchers assert, is the result of improved diagnosis, which has identified as autistic many kids who once might have been labeled mentally retarded or just plain slow. In fact, the growing body of science indicates that the autistic spectrum — which may well turn out to encompass several discrete conditions — may largely be genetic in origin. In April, the journal Nature published two studies that analyzed the genes of almost 10,000 people and identified a common genetic variant present in approximately 65 percent of autistic children.
But that hasn’t stopped as many as one in four Americans from believing vaccines can poison kids, according to a 2008 survey. And outreach by grassroots organizations like Autism One is a big reason why.
There is much, much more and if you're faced with pressure from the anti-vaccination folks it is filled with good, solid counters for their claims. Of course they won't accept any of it--all evidence is tainted in their minds with connections to "Big Pharma" which is the ultimate evil in our society, out to get us all. The fact that some pharmaceutical companies have engaged in unethical practices--like other corporations--doesn't help, but it also doesn't make them completely evil and out to get us. Like all companies, they want to make a profit. Mostly they want to make a profit by helping us, but sometimes they've cut corners and paid the price in credibility. But their big profit maker isn't vaccination--it's medicines for chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, mental illness, migraines, GERD, and so on, that require medication every day or every month.