Preface: Before I respond, I want to be clear that none of my replies are intended to be glib or sarcastic. If they come off that way, it's unintentional.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Originally Posted by Douglas
So you have posted a lot of this stuff before, also on your FB, and I've hesitated to comment, but I will, finally.
There is a lot of information out there, especially in the age of the Internet. As we all know, a respected medical journal, Lancet
did publish Andrew Wakefield's paper before retracting it. Like it or not, this does create a credibility problem for the medical establishment. Drugs are often approved that are later found to have unanticipated side effects. Many of those are trumped up, but any medical treatment, at some level or another, is a question of balancing (real, actual) risks and (real, actual) benefits. Sometimes, treatments are broadly accepted for years before being acknowledged to be dangerous, or inappropriate. A very close friend of mine's sister is permanently, severely disabled (i.e. she is a vegetable) due to a tainted vaccination she received as a child. Granted, this was 35-40 years ago, and we get better all the time, but it's a fact: real, bad things do happen. Severe brain damage can occur in 1 in 2,000,000 doses, which is very safe, but someone's baby is that 1.
Even today, even the CDC admits there are side effects, some severe, to vaccination. The risks are very, very low. There is a ton of information out there, some from reliable sources, some from not. But parents are an emotional bunch. Many don't want to take any
risks with their children, they are running scared, and there's plenty of bad information out there to feed that emotion. And even the best information has to admit the risks.
The Wakefield paper hasn't just been discredited. He has also lost his license to practice medicine as a direct result of the fraud in his MMR/autism finding. There is no legitimacy to his claims, period. This means there is also no credibility problem, so I'm not sympathetic to anyone who uses that as a response. Back before the extent of his fraud was known, it wasn't outrageous to use his findings as one of the variables when a parent does the vaccination cost-benefit math. However, at this point, he has been so roundly discredited that having an opinion on vaccination without knowing about his fraud means one's opinion can't possibility be even remotely comprehensive.
I agree completely that there are risks, though I would note that your friend's sister receiving a tainted vaccine is inherently different from a risk from the vaccine itself. Bracketing that, the math is simple: Which option is more likely to result in serious health consequences, vaccinating or not vaccinating? The answer is the former, and its not even close. Using MMR as an example: In children, measles causes three deaths for every 1,000 infections; the MMR vaccine, on the other hand, is so safe that the CDC can't provide reliable numbers on how often serious (including allergic) reactions occur (their best guess for allergies is 1 in 1,000,000).
Now, would it be heartbreaking to have a child who wound up one of the vaccine-harm statistics? Absolutely, but not vaccinating makes severe harm far, far more
likely. Based on that evidence, it's not a tough decision. This also goes to your point about parents not wanting to take any risks at all. The fact of the matter is that not vaccinating is the more risky proposition, but people are so terrible at understanding risk that they don't get that.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
As a non-scientist, it's all over my head. At the end of the day, we have to trust that the information given about the things being put into our children's bodies are OK. Very few of us actually, really, truly understand the science, have access to the studies, know what they all say and what they all mean. Any of us have to trust what's being said as the needle goes into our kid.
The science is over my head, as well. However, the statistics are not, and the statistics clearly state that not vaccinating is a poor decision, both individually and in the aggregate. Moreover, we're not talking about some new medical technology that hasn't had time to mature. Vaccination, depending upon how you define it, is hundreds of years old.
I will agree that there is substantial value in discussing the cost-benefit of new vaccines as they come to the marketplace, but that is not the same as discussing vaccination as a debatable topic. You'll note that I exclusively attack the latter.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
And we all know there is a hysterical set out there that inherently distrusts authority, is susceptible to conspiracy theory thinking, etc. I agree - in the vaccination "debate," as in many many other fields, they are counterproductive and dangerous.
However, when it comes to reaching real, concerned people who are overwhelmed by the amount of information and for whom the science is all just a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, and converting them, all the swearing, the shouting-down, the eye-rolling, etc. are also counterproductive.
My confession is that my wife is one of the people who was/is skeptical of all the vaccinations being given to our daughter. She googled it all and found the usual overload of information. She had the temerity to ask our pediatrician about some of her concerns. What was her answer? She rolled her eyes, said emphatically "I am a scientist and you don't understand. If you don't say yes, we will kick you out of the practice." My wife had not even asked not to give the vaccines, she'd asked if it was possible to space them out. She had started to say that we were willing to pay extra co-pays for the extra visits. Yet the pediatrician didn't even hear her question, and assumed she wanted out of the vaccines altogether.
It was a shockingly awful response. Those who have facts and reason on their side generally are not the ones who need to resort to ad hominem attacks, appeals to authority, and threats. The above tirade, supposedly from a scientist, is equally irresponsible. Shouting down is not a very productive, or responsible, or even credible response. If the facts are on your side, state them, soberly, calmly. Build the trust with calm reason, not flippant emotional responses intended to make you feel like an idiot.
My daughter is fully vaccinated and on-schedule. My wife's position has softened, largely due to my more gentle, reasoned coaching. I don't fundamentally disagree with you that not vaccinating is irresponsible, counterproductive, harmful behavior. But I also believe that there are real, responsible people with perfectly legitimate questions that the medical establishment, and many in the pro-vax camp, do an exceptionally poor job of responding to. My own experience with our pediatrician, this "immunologist's" ZOMG SCIENCE YOU ARE A FUCKING RETARD meme, and to extent your own statements, are IMO examples of poorly worded communication that actively fan the flames, rather than extinguish them.
I don't deny that rolling my eyes and making fun of the anti-vaxxers isn't exactly going to win any converts, but I think portraying that as the only way I address the issue is a little disingenuous. Am I guilty of a lot of snark and sarcasm on the issue? Hell yes, but that's probably 75% of my FB posts, anyway, and a not-insignificant portion of my SF posts. I mean, just earlier you were commending my on my epic (and it was epic) dig on some idiot who posted about the Duck Dynasty
thing. That attitude is just a part of my personality. However, I am also more than willing to engage in thoughtful debate on the topic, and I have done so on a variety of media (including Facebook). I'm not above some eyerolling, especially when I'm for the most part preaching to the choir, but it's unfair to pretend that's the only way I approach it.
I'm also very serious with some of the statements I make that might sound like snark, particularly those that ask parents of non-vaccinated children to let me know so I can avoid them.
That said, I think the anti-vax crowd, particularly the ones who avoid the practice entirely (rather than approach it with skepticism), are deserving of a fair bit of scorn. We're not talking about people who take a measured response to an issue of great controversy. These are people who actively encourage others to engage in a practice that endangers the most vulnerable people in our society, and the only reason they're able to get away with it is because
the thing they oppose so vehemently is so effective. It's really easy to be against vaccines after decades of safe vaccination has basically rendered the threat of a whole host of serious illnesses moot, but the people who espouse and practice that position are taking advantage of the fact that they currently face very little threat of illness, even when they're not vaccinated, because of herd immunity. Plus, on top of basically exploiting the responsibility of others by parlaying herd immunity into the ultimate win-win (no risk from illness or vaccine), these people are slowly destroying that immunity, putting others (specifically those with a valid reason to not vaccinate, the immunocompromised, and pre-vaccination-age children) at the risk of contracting an illness we have the ability to destroy. So, yes, sometimes I'm a little harsh, but it's not like my anger isn't justified.
That all said, and before this post gets too (much) long(er), I don't think it's okay to dismiss out of hand those who have honest questions, and your doctor's behavior was completely unacceptable. There is room for conversation about this, but I don't think there's room for much debate. It's perfectly reasonable for a parent to ask why
their child is getting poked with a needle, any decent parent would, but the evidence in favor of the benefits of vaccination is absolutely overwhelming. So, I admit that my nastiness on the topic can be a bit harsh, but that, again, is based upon context. I am more than willing to have a civil conversation about it, especially because all of the evidence points to me being right.
Also, I have a good friend who is an MD, and he's probably the only person I know who might be more fervently pro-vax than I am. He's also very good at articulating why vaccination is a good thing. He made a FB post the other day that I thought did a good job at explaining why vaccination is so critical. I won't copy the whole thing here, but I thought one part was kind of interesting. He listed the diseases his children won't have to experience because of the success of childhood vaccination, and they are: "Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, epiglottitis, meningitis, polio, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella and chicken pox." It is insane to me that anyone would expose their children to that list of illnesses because of a 1 in 2,000,000 chance of severe side effects.