The devastation that is the anti-vaccination movement

African children with polioIn pre-modern times, an average of 50% of all children born in the Western world died before the age of five.  They died from bad milk, spoiled food, infections, accidents, and epidemic disease.  Nowadays, in theory, the only reason children anywhere in the world “should” die is unavoidable accidents.  Otherwise, we have pasteurization for milk, refrigeration for food, antibiotics for infections, and vaccinations for epidemic diseases.

The problem is that theory only gets one so far.  In poverty-stricken parts of the world, pasteurization, refrigeration, and antibiotics simply aren’t available, so children die . . . and die . . . and die.  Even in America, the anti-pasteurization “raw food” movement puts children at risk of contracting the horrible diseases that Louis Pasteur’s insights ought to have ended.

And as for that vaccination thing . . . oy!  In the Middle East and Africa, as well as in Muslim enclaves in Europe, imams preach that polio vaccinations carry AIDS (planted by Americans and Zionist agents), and insist that children not get vaccinated.  They’re willing to enforce this ukase with murderous violence.  Measles vaccinations are treated with equal disrespect and are, in any event, often unavailable in African and Middle Eastern hinterlands.

Sadly, in America, vaccinations are also missing.  They’re not missing because of violence or poverty but, instead, are missing because of a malevolent strain of ignorance, fully comparable to that the imams preach from their pulpits.  Middle class American parents have bought into fully debunked and discredited studies about vaccination’s association with autism.  In addition, a generation of parents that has never seen the scourge of an epidemic disease is more afraid of the small likelihood that a child might react to a vaccination than appropriately fears an actual epidemic.

There’s not doubt that, every time I vaccinate my children, I am taking the 1/10,000 or 1/50,000 or 1/100,000 risk that my child might die from that vaccination.  Of course, every time I put my child in a car, I’m also taking a risk, and a significantly larger one (1/84 chances of that happening).  Somehow, though, we manage to discount the car driving risk, but freak out over the vaccination one.  These freak-outs blind modern parents to the fact that a good epidemic, once it gets a foothold in society, can kill at rates between 10% and 50% before it burns itself out.  (In the 16th century, measles killed half the population in Honduras.)

Thanks to this all-American ignorance, measles, mumps, rubella, and whooping cough, all of which can be fatal in the short or long term, are on the upswing in America.  They’re not on the upswing because vaccinations don’t work; they are rising because American parents are exceptionally poor at risk evaluation.  They’re also on the upswing in Africa, Europe and the Middle East (along with polio) thanks to both war and prejudice:

The Council on Foreign relations prepared this graphic to show measles outbreaks around the world

The Council on Foreign relations prepared this graphic to show measles (purple) and whooping cough (green) outbreaks around the world

Learn more about the terrible dangers of the anti-vaccination movement here.

Quick picks *UPDATED*

The kids are back in school and I thought the house would fall silent and I would blog again. However, it turns out — and this is very flattering — that there were a lot of people who wanted to talk to me but felt they couldn’t while the kids were around. I’ve spent the last two hours on the phone with people who really, really needed to have my ear. So, blogging this morning will be somewhat abbreviated, and will boil down to my sharing with you somethings I found interesting.

The first thing I found interesting was the fact that both the WaPo and the WSJ expressed real dismay at the fact that the Dem candidates are engaging in truly unseemly contortions in their efforts to deny the Surge’s success. If this is just political expediency, it reflects poorly on their character. If it’s a genuine psychological inability to recognize the situation on the ground, its very scary that people who propose themselves as our Commander in Chief are laboring under that kind of mental handicap. At minimum, I’d like the person with his (or her) finger on the button to exist in the real world, and not suffer from monomaniacal delusions.

Speaking of delusions, Dennis Prager challenges the claim that Barack Obama is a “uniter.” This claim is, of course, ridiculous on its face. Obama is bound and determined to withdraw troops from Iraq instanter, if not sooner, as a colleague of mine used to say, while I’m an equally firm believer in staying in Iraq until the situation is completely stabilized for the US’s benefit. Where’s the middle road on that one? How in the heck is he going to “unite” his and my entirely disparate views? Here’s Dennis’ take on the real meaning behind the “unity” claim:

If those who call for unity told the whole truth, this is what they would say: “I want everyone to unite — behind my values. I want everyone who disagrees with me to change the way they think so that we can all be united. I myself have no plans to change my positions on any important issues in order to achieve this unity. So in order to achieve it, I assume that all of you who differ with me will change your views and values and embrace mine.”

If people from opposing viewpoints listening to Barack actually think he stands for their position, it’s because Barack is prevaricating and obfuscating. If he were clear and honest about his positions (and he is clear and honest about the War), approximately half the electorate would not view him as a uniter, but would view him as someone who could not possibly represent their interests.

Incidentally, Fred Siegel addresses much the same issue — Barack’s alleged universality — when he points out that those he knows who like Obama are completely unable to articulate what it is they like about him beyond a pretty face and nice voice. Many are also impressed by his Ivy League credentials, something that utterly fails to impress me. As I’ve mentioned before, while I’m sure there have been lots of good lawyers who emerged from Harvard Law in the last 20 years, I haven’t met them. Without exception, the Harvard lawyers I have met, have been almost stunningly inept. Many have been smart and nice, but all of them have ranked in the bottom 5th of lawyers I’ve worked with or appeared against. For me, a Harvard Law degree is like a big red warning sign. And if you are a wonderful, intelligent, incredibly competent Harvard lawyer reading this, my apologies. Clearly, I just haven’t met you, so you haven’t been able to un-skew my view.

On a completely different subject, let’s talk about vaccination. I’m a huge proponent of vaccination, something I think results both from the fact that I’m a history lover and I have older parents. The history part means that I’ve read about all the horrible epidemics that decimated childhood populations. Even in the 20th Century, although the US was able to reduce the 50% child mortality that existed in all prior eras and other places, polio was still a nightmare disease that hung over childhood until the Salk vaccine came along. My parents had measles, scarlet fever and diphtheria. I carry a discrete chicken pox scar on my face. The diseases are real and the consequences can be significant. As the diseases receded, though, people started fearing the vaccines’ side effects, even though those side effects, in all cases, have been minute compared to the disease risks. The latest fear was the fear that the preservative in many childhood vaccines caused autism. Yet another study has dis-proven this fear. I hope that finding encourages parents who were holding off on vaccines to give the subject another thought.

Here’s another wild jump in topic. The New York Times has a moderately interesting article about gephyrophobia — the fear of bridges. I’ve always found bridges concerning, perhaps because I grew up in earthquake country. My vague fear solidified completely when I saw the first Superman movie, back in 1978. (PLOT SPOILER HERE FOR ANYONE WHO HASN’T SEEN THIS MOVIE.) As you may recall, Lex Luthor’s nefarious plot involved creating a massive earthquake to get rid of California entirety, so that the Nevada property he’d purchased cheap would become valuable beach front property. When he successfully gets an earthquake going, the Golden Gate Bridge collapses. (SPOILER OVER.) As a kid in San Francisco, that image stuck with me — and was reinforced during 1989′s Loma Prieta earthquake, when a section of the Bay Bridge collapsed, killing one woman. I never got to the point where I avoided bridges, but I can’t say that I enjoy them.

Another topical leap: Your child and mine can now get college credit — at a taxpayer funded college — learning how to be gay. Yup, it’s truly no child left behind, or no child’s behind left alone, I’m not sure which. The famous university-level Mickey Mouse classes have just risen (or sunk) to a whole new level.

Whenever honor killings occur, whether in Canada or Texas, the usual suspects emerge to explain that honor killings and other acts of abuse against women have nothing to do with Islam, and that it’s just a bizarre coincidence that they keep cropping up in the Islamic community. Robert Spencer, however, got wind of a Yemeni columnist who wants nothing to do with this politically correct horse pucky. He’s quite clear on the fact that Islam demands the physical abuse of women — for their own good, of course.

And for now, th-th-th-that’s all, folks!

UPDATE: Whoops! I missed it. Fred Barnes also tackled the Dems’ peculiar aversion to the truth about the Surge.

UPDATE II: I like Bret Stephens’ take on the silliness of Obama’s constant promise to end American division in future:

Barack Obama, still fresh from his victory in Iowa last week and confident of another in New Hampshire tonight, has as his signature campaign theme the promise to “end the division” in America. Notice the irony: The scale of his Iowa victory, in a state that’s 94% white, is perhaps the clearest indication so far that the division Mr. Obama promises to end has largely been put to rest.

Of course, Barack’s Iowa victory may also cast into the light something I’ve already noted: Barack’s not really black. Sure, he’s got a genetic black inheretence, and he likes obsessing about his blackness, but his youthful influences and his education were mainstream white — something American blacks might notice.

UPDATE IIIChristopher Hitchens also examines the icky obsession with Obama’s race and suggests that, if you have questions about his racial views, you might want to check out the website for the Church with which Obama is publicly affiliated.  (Hat tip:  The Anchoress.)

Joe Klein isn’t as smart as he thinks he is

Drudge proves himself to be a good sport by linking to a Joe Klein post at Time Magazine’s website, in which Klein savages Drudge. Drudge is probably more than a good sport, though. He’s smart, too, because all that the post does is make Klein look like an idiot. Here is Klein’s post, in its entirety:

I know this is old news, but this guy is shameless. The headline, with a photo of a three-quarters crazed Hillary, is HEALTH INSURANCE PROOF REQUIRED FOR WORK but the linked story says this:

At this point, we don’t have anything punitive that we have proposed,” the presidential candidate said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We’re providing incentives and tax credits which we think will be very attractive to the vast majority of Americans.”She said she could envision a day when “you have to show proof to your employer that you’re insured as a part of the job interview — like when your kid goes to school and has to show proof of vaccination,” but said such details would be worked out through negotiations with Congress.

How stupid does he think we are? Answer: Extremely dumbolic.

I’ll have more about Clinton’s health plan in this week’s print column.

Ah, Joe. I don’t know how to tell you this, but your post shows that Drudge’s headline was entirely accurate. Drudge says Hillary would have “health insurance proof required for work.” And Hillary says she can easily imagine the day, under her plan, when “you have to show proof to your employer that you’re insured as a part of the job interview.” Now, I know I’m not as smart as a writer at an intellectual hot spot like Time Magazine, but even my limited mind has figured out that Drudge’s summary and Hillary’s quotation say the same thing.

I assume Joe is trying to make the point that Hillary’s requirement that adults enter her health plan as a precondition of employment is entirely innocuous because we already require kids to show proof of vaccination to go to school. That’s not a very good point, either. First off, a lot of people are very resentful of this requirement, feeling that vaccinations are more dangerous than the risk of disease. I happen to disagree with them, as I’m very pro-vaccination, but their attitude already goes to show that many people are less than thrilled by having the government push them around in a medical sense for them to gain entry somewhere.

But Joe also ignores the public safety issue involved here. The reason kids have to show proof of vaccination is to prevent the spread of deadly epidemic diseases of the type the used to ravage the school populations in America (polio being the most obvious example). Hillary, however, is saying that her dream is to see every private employer become a government agent by withholding employment opportunities from adults who haven’t meekly lined up for their doctor’s appointment under Nanny Hillary’s Care.

How stupid does Klein think we are?

Vaccines and proportionate risk

I live in an area where most of the parents I know are college grads.  It is amazing to me how many of them (not the majority, but a significant number) have decided not to vaccinate their children because of the “risk.”  The risk, of course, is the possibility that a child will have a bad reaction.  That risk is real, but small.  Certainly it’s small compared to the number of children who used to die or become permanently damaged because of measles or polio or diptheria, or any number of foul illnesses.  Indeed, if you want a feel for what real risk is about, watch the spread of polio through Islamic countries that have decided for ideological reasons to halt vaccinations, or in Africa, where a combination of poverty, war and ideological beliefs has stopped vaccinations.

In any event, one Marin doctor is trying to turn the tide amongst those people here who have an irrational fear of vaccinations:

I assisted on the autopsy of a 1-year-old boy who had died of hemorrhagic pancreatitis, secondary to infection by an organism called “hemophilus” or HIB. Pancreatitis is one of the most painful conditions that humans can experience. As I looked at this infant’s damaged pancreas, I could not imagine his excruciating pain and his inconsolable distress, not to mention the heart-wrenching loss suffered by his parents.

Aside from causing pancreatitis, this species of hemophilus was also responsible for outbreaks of deadly bacterial meningitis, mostly in children. Until 20 years ago, up to 1 in every 200 children was affected with some illness caused by HIB. Emergency physicians were always on guard against epiglottitis, which could cause total airway obstruction in a child.

Then 20 years ago, a vaccine against this bacteria arrived. Soon, millions of children were receiving it, including my infant son. I have not seen a case of HIB meningitis or epiglottitis since then. The incidence of HIB (that is, the number of new cases per year) has dropped 99 percent since 1985. The current cases occur almost exclusively in unvaccinated or insufficiently vaccinated children.

The same story can be told about rubella. Once a major cause of birth defects, now is all but eradicated in this country. What about polio and smallpox? They’re gone.

I recently attended a meeting of employers trying to gain some control over the skyrocketing costs of health insurance. During our lunch break, we were having an informal discussion of childhood immunizations. One of the insurance executives at the meeting told me his belief that childhood immunizations were required solely in order to make more money for the drug companies.

I said, “Oh, my goodness.” (Actually I didn’t say that, but I cannot print what I really did say.) However, I did proceed to inform him how I felt that he was misinformed.

Dr. Gross explains in his article that vaccines do carry risks, but that they are lower than the risks of doing without vaccinations.  Heck, in this age of biological warfare, whether waged by nations, Non-Governmental Armies, or individual nutcases, I’d happily hie me and my family off to get a smallpox vaccination.