Standing Tall for Vaccines

“Who fears or rejects vaccines, why do they do so, and how might we reach them to change their minds?” On Aetiology, Tara C. Smith answers these questions with a new paper written as a primer for those who want to stand up for vaccination. She says, “for many individuals on the vaccine-hesitant spectrum, it’s not only about misinformation, but also about group identity, previous experience with the health care field, and much more.” The stakes of the vaccine debate are high. On Respectful Insolence, a mathematical model from Stanford shows that slight dips in uptake of the MMR vaccine would cause the number of measles cases in the U.S. to balloon. Meanwhile, in Europe, measles has killed dozens of people in the last year amidst thousands of cases that could have been prevented with a shot (or sufficient herd immunity). Orac blames Europe’s problems squarely on Andrew Wakefield, and as for the bubbling tensions in the U.S., Orac says “antivaxers have figured out how to weaponize their views by coupling them to right wing rhetoric about ‘freedom.'”

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Refusing Healthy Communities via Vaccine Exemptions

A new review of the scientific literature confirms the truth about vaccine exemptions; they endanger everyone. On The Pump Handle, Kim Krisberg outlines the horrible realities of vaccine-preventable disease, and writes that vaccine refusal has “accelerated the resurgence of whooping cough and measles here in the U.S.” On Respectful Insolence, Orac writes “the MMR [vaccine] is very effective against measles, over 90%, but not 100%.” Meanwhile, with whooping cough, vaccine-induced immunity wears down over time.

These windows of opportunity for infection would be inconsequential in a fully vaccinated population, but with a certain percentage of kids running around unvaccinated due to the religious or ‘philosophical’ objections of their parents, an outbreak of these diseases can easily spread. As Orac writes, “Despite what antivaccine parents claim, their choice not to vaccinate does impact more than just their children and themselves. It impacts the entire community in which they live negatively.” On Aetiology, Tara C Smith says: “this is, again, one of my biggest problems with those who refuse vaccines. They frame the issue as solely ‘my child, my choice.’ Which is fine, until you put that child in with the rest of society via school, or daycare, or even trips to McDonald’s.”

Choosy Moms Choose Measles

When a parent chooses not to vaccinate their child, they put many other people at risk. Some infants cannot be vaccinated due to medical complications, and even fully-vaccinated people are not always fully protected. Jessica Parsons tells the story of baby Finn on Aetiology, who was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma at the age of 3 months and has been undergoing chemotherapy, surgery, and blood transfusions ever since. Because he was immunosuppressed, Finn could not be vaccinated, and despite responding well to cancer treatments, his life was imperiled by a case of whooping cough. Meanwhile, on ERV, Abbie Smith explains that vaccination against measles does not guarantee that you will not contract and even transmit the disease. But 87% of measles infections in 2011 in the U.S. occurred in unvaccinated individuals. These are the people keeping antiquated pathogens in circulation, endangering the lives and well-being of others.