Hal 11000 Beta is now two weeks old. He is in a very vulnerable time in his life, one of the most vulnerable. The reason is that he will not get his first dose of vaccines until he is two months old. I am counting down those days, hoping that he will not be exposed to something like whooping cough, a disease that can easily kill infants, in the next two months.
I shouldn’t have to be hoping this. Whooping cough and other childhood diseases had the daylights beat out of them in the 20th century. But thanks to research we now know to be completely bogus and a combination of ignorance, conspiracy-mongering and idiotic naturalism, these diseases are on the rise:
Led by discredited doctors and, incredibly, a former Playmate, the [anti-vaccine] movement has frightened new parents with claptrap about autism, Alzheimer’s, aluminum, and formaldehyde. The movement that was once a fringe freak show has become a menace, with foot soldiers whose main weapon is their self-righteousness. For them, vaccinating their children is merely a consumer choice, like joining an organic food co-op or sending their kids to a Montessori school or drinking coconut water.
The problem is that it is not an individual choice; it is a choice that acutely affects the rest of us. Vaccinations work by creating something called herd immunity: When most of a population is immunized against a disease, it protects even those in it who are not vaccinated, either because they are pregnant or babies or old or sick. For herd immunity to work, 95 percent of the population needs to be immunized. But the anti-vaccinators have done a good job undermining it. In 2010, for example, only 91 percent of California kindergarteners were up to date on their shots. Unsurprisingly, California had a massive pertussis outbreak.
It would be an understatement to say that pertussis and other formerly conquered childhood diseases like measles and mumps are making a resurgence. Pertussis, specifically, has come roaring back. From 2011 to 2012, reported pertussis incidences rose more than threefold in 21 states. (And that’s just reported cases. Since we’re not primed to be on the look-out for it, many people may simply not realize they have it.) In 2012, the CDC said that the number of pertussis cases was higher than at any point in 50 years. That year, Washington state declared an epidemic; this year, Texas did, too. Washington, D.C. has also seen a dramatic increase. This fall, Cincinnati reported a 283 percent increase in pertussis. It’s even gotten to the point that pertussis has become a minor celebrity cause: NASCAR hero Jeff Gordon and Sarah Michelle Gellar are now encouraging people to get vaccinated.
How responsible are these non-vaccinating parents for my pertussis? Very. A study recently published in the journal Pediatrics indicated that outbreaks of these antediluvian diseases clustered where parents filed non-medical exemptions—that is, where parents decided not to vaccinate their kids because of their personal beliefs. The study found that areas with high concentrations of conscientious objectors were 2.5 times more likely to have an outbreak of pertussis. (To clarify: I was vaccinated against pertussis as a child, but the vaccine wears off by adulthood, which, until recently, was rarely a problem because the disease wasn’t running rampant because of people not vaccinating their kids.
Not vaccinating your kids because you’re afraid autism or evil big pharma is akin to throwing maidens down wells or burning witches to stop a drought. There is zero evidence that vaccines are dangerous. There is plenty that pertussis is. Watch this awesome demonstration by Penn and Teller.
The most frustrating thing? Since it was shown that Andrew Wakefield’s research linking autism to vaccine was completely fraudulent, the rate of vaccination in this country appears to have decreased. The luddites are winning.
Not vaccinating your kids doesn’t make you a rebel against The Man, an independent thinker, someone attuned to nature or one of the enlightened. It makes you a dangerous idiot.