This week has been an interesting one in terms of the level of vitriol and hostility being shown by both sides of the vaccine debate. On the pro-vax side… I see people enveloping themselves in attitudes of smug intellectual superiority and declaiming those who do not vaccinate as being “stupid”; on the anti-vax side, I have myself come under personal attack by those who seem to think that my position — which is essentially that although we should have the right to informed consent regarding medical procedures, including vaccines, and that there are numerous issues which need to be addressed by the scientific community, that by and by far, vaccines are safer than electricity.
The first thing I would like to address is the fact that the anti-vax camp throws around their belief that vaccines cause autism. I am certain that there are rare instances where vaccines cause lasting and permanent harm and suffering, just as I’m certain that autism is a broad spectrum which can include everything from so-called prodigies to complete disability. However. The principle reason for the existence of these vaccines is because the diseases they prevent DO without question cause long-term disability, suffering, and death in the majority.
“Forty years after effective vaccines were licensed, measles continues to cause death and severe disease in children worldwide. Complications from measles can occur in almost every organ system. Pneumonia, croup, and encephalitis are common causes of death; encephalitis is the most common cause of long-term sequelae. Measles remains a common cause of blindness in developing countries. Complication rates are higher in those <5 and >20 years old, although croup and otitis media are more common in those <2 years old and encephalitis in older children and adults. Complication rates are increased by immune deficiency disorders, malnutrition, vitamin A deficiency, intense exposures to measles, and lack of previous measles vaccination. Case-fatality rates have decreased with improvements in socioeconomic status in many countries but remain high in developing countries.”
The second issue that I think bears discussion is the fact that the majority of those who choose not to vaccinate their children — on the principle of choice — tend to come from middle class to affluent backgrounds, while those with undervaccinated children tend to come from financially strapped backgrounds. This is particularly important when considering immunity, as the children of intentional anti-vaxxers may be better off immune-wise due to the fact that they experience less social stresses, are exposed to activities which are beneficial to their immune systems, such as sports or social clubs, and have an improved diet. Given that studies suggest that increased incomes correlate to a decrease in empathy, perhaps it is of no surprise that anti-vaxxers might consider it “selfish” of the pro-vaccination community to be concerned for other people’s children?