Vaccination vs. Disease: Which is worse?

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It is very reasonable for a parent to worry about vaccines. For one thing, most of them involve sticking the baby or child with a sharp object, thus making the little one cry, and it would be abnormal to not have an automatic reaction to that. For another thing, they are drugs, in a sense. When the little one is ill, and you call in to the health care facility in the hopes that there will be some useful advice, most of the time you hear “No, we no longer recommend giving [fill in the blank with a medicine you thought might work] to children under [one or two months older than your child]. But if [symptom] persists for more than [amount of time that is 12 hours longer than the symptoms ever persist], call back.”

So, on one hand, health professionals are telling us that our desire to slip the little one a little cold medicine is undesirable, but they, the health professionals, want to stick our babies with needles in order to deliver literally dozens of different concoctions. Indeed, the experience is so traumatic for the babies that the pediatricians will have nothing to do with it. Typically, if your child is seen by a pediatrician at the same visit that s/he would receive a vaccination, the pediatrician will look the child over first, then get the hell out of Dodge before the inoculations nurse shows up with the needles. This way, the child does not learn to hate the doctor. This whole experience is tough for any parent, and it must be especially tough for adults who happen to have Trypanophobia, which is not very uncommon.

When Julia (now a teenager) was an infant, her pediatrician told me that one of the reasons she liked being in that particular sub field of medicine is that, as it turns out, she did not have to see a lot of people who were suffering with terrible illnesses, and her patients, basically, never died. Children who become severely ill are seen by specialists, and such cases are more often than not some form of cancer or other non-infectious disease. But clearly that was not the case in the past in the US and other Westernized countries. Those working with ill children in some parts of the world need to become quite accustom to their deaths. I’ve had the opportunity to work with those who are ill in non-Westernized places. I’ve probably seen more babies die than Julia’s pediatrician has. A very large percentage of the babies and toddlers who contract malaria in the Congo do not survive. Well, they may survive a bout or two, but eventually, a very large percentage die before their immune system is able to handle the parasite. However, in the past, in the US, babies, toddlers and young children often died of a wide range of diseases that are now routinely treated (like infections) or routinely avoided entirely … by vaccination.

What a parent has to do when watching their baby getting poked with the needles, or when looking at the very long list of childhood vaccinations that we expect to be carried out on all infants and toddlers these days, is to relate the vaccination to what it is good for. If there is a vaccination that you can honesty, comfortably claim prevents a disease that you would not mind having your child come down with, then ask that needle-bearing vaccinations nurse if it is possible to avoid that particular one. But do make sure you are honest with yourself, and for that, you may well have to reach beyond your own immediate discomfort and look at history.

Paul Offit’s new book, Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All, does this. He begins by going into recent history to look at several cases of unvaccinated individuals picking up a disease and spreading it among other unvaccinated individuals, to cause mini epidemics that give a flavor for what would happen if vaccination was widely rejected. He looks at the history of medicine focusing on anti-vax or vaccine-fearing rhetoric and related events. Again and again, he pits fear of vaccines against the consequences of non-vaccination, and the vaccines, and the practice of vaccination, pretty much win out.

The key message of Offit’s book is that the Anti-Vaccine movement harms all of us by producing an increased number of vectors for very nasty diseases that have seemingly disappeared but really haven’t, and by decreasing herd immunity.

Offit is well known among anti-Vaxers for his earlier book (Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure). He is a highly qualified expert in the field (I know, to conspiracy loving paranoid people this makes him evil) as an actual vaccinologist and infectious disease expert. In this book, he effectively addresses claims that vaccines cause autism, cancer, and other disorders or diseases. In particular, he analyzes how parents of sick kids have been fed misinformation and developed as anti-vax crusaders by the operatives in the anti-vax movement, as well as how the entire anti-vax message is used as media fodder, and serves as a potential source of income for ambulance chasing lawyers. What makes Offit’s book especially interesting is the way in which he brings this discussion well into the past. It turns out that there has been an anti-vax sentiment of one kind or another since there have been vaccines. For instance, when the smallpox virus was first developed, the anti-vaxers of the day made the claim that, since it was derived from a cow-pox source, it would turn people into cows. (As it turns out, that didn’t happen!)

Accomodationist medical journalists and celebrities who seem to drive the anti-vax movement are roundly criticized in Offit’s book. Even Bill Maher is scathed.

In the end it is not possible for a reasonably intelligent fence sitter to read this book and honestly walk away with anything left of their anti-vax feelings.

During my kid’s pre-natal months and first several months after he was born, the whole vaccination thing came up several times. Other parents in some of the same “classes” we were in, relatives, etc. expressed either concern about vaccines or routine ignorance about things like flu immunity. If Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All was available then, I would have been handing out copies. Seriously.

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53 thoughts on “Vaccination vs. Disease: Which is worse?

  1. This is a really nice post – I like it a lot. Too often parents who really don’t know how to sort through crappy information get scared, and the rhetoric here is sometimes “those morons, they should know better.” Having a severely autistic child, born in 2000, just at the right age to have had to sort through a great deal of conflicting information, I’m aware how fortunate I was that I had the ability to read and interpret studies myself. The vast majority of people, however, simply don’t have the skill set to sort through this, and the fear of making a wrong choice for your child is very real (and something no parent is fully free from, I suspect).

    Getting out the information that the anti-vaxxers are wrong is really important, but I definitely want to be careful who gets caught up in the critique, and how, because there but for the grace of scholarship money and good luck go many of us.

    Really excellent post.


  2. After listening to the last Science Friday with Dr. Offitt, and especially the woman who called in basically accusing him of being dishonest, I’ve started to wonder if we need to adopt some of the anti-abortion crowd’s tactics. If a parent asks their pediatrician to delay or omit vaccinations from the schedule, the doctor will be required by law to show them a book with pictures of kids with measles, mumps, and all the other diseases they’re risking by not getting vaccinated. They’ll have to see statistics of the number of kids who die from lack of vaccines, and heartstring-tugging testimonials from kids who have cancer or immune disorders. “Please don’t risk my life because you don’t want to vaccinate. I don’t want to die from preventable disease.”

    If they still refuse, the doctor is allowed three whacks with a NIST-calibrated, sterile tack hammer.

  3. Sharon, thanks for that. The idea of writing this up in this way occurred to me even before Paul’s book arrived in the mail; Watching Huxley get two needles (just after the doc left the room off course) delivering six vaccines and looking at the little book of vaccines we bring to each appointment, etc. with this long list of them, I realized that it is perfectly normal to wonder about this. The combined fact that I personally predate MMR vaccines, and had M, M and R, and watched babies die in the Congo means that when I see the needle go into the child, I have relatively pleasant thoughts. But Most parents these days do not have that edge.

    Rob, well, there’s that approach as well…

  4. Greg, the nurses give the vaccinations, because it is a more efficient and cost effective use of the doctor (and nurse’s) time. In some places, they have a vaccination room, where the vaccines are all stored. The nurses who routinely give the vaccinations tend to be much better at it than the doctor, who does it occasionally. When I was a child (I also predate most of the vaccinations) we lived overseas most of my childhood. They didn’t know how long the vaccines would last, so we would have to get our tetanus, typhoid, cholera, polio, smallpox etc every 6 months, and it was given by corpsmen, some just learning. That left me with a decades long fear of needles. I remember one in the corner practicing with an orange, just before I was hauled up for him to give his first injection…and since he didn’t know what he was doing it REALLY hurt!!

  5. Greg,
    You seem very well-meaning, but you really need to research this subject area further. You read a man’s book who made a fortune out of a vaccine and that does it for you? I accept that you may be very busy in your life, but if you’re going to pontificate on a subject, you owe it to your readers to do a more thorough job, and at least see what the other side of the argument is. Believe me, there is another side to this one – and it is extensive.

    Read Harris L. Coulter, Ph.D, and Barbara Loe Fisher. Read Dr. Archie Kalokerinos. Read Dr. Russell L. Blaylock – hey, even check out Dr. Maurice Hilleman, of Merck. And on, and on, and on. Bottom line: This vaunted medical modality has vectored into the populace an epidemic of autoimmune and neurological conditions. And on top of it, there are natural substances that can treat the childhood diseases, that don’t have the damnable side effects to them that the vaccines have. But the allopathic medical profession doesn’t know about them, because that info is outwith their training, and remit. They need to look outside of the parameters of their drug-based approach to medicine, just as you need to look outside of the parameters of your current take on the matter. You are misleading the public, by giving them only one side of this issue. Not fair. Not wise.

  6. Here in France (most of the time), the pediatrician has no nurse to handle the needle for him (her). S/he will without even blinking inject the vaccine into the child’s body. As a matter of course.

    Similarly, if you want a flu shot, you buy the vaccine at a pharmacy, you get an appointment to your GP’s private office, and he injects it to you.

    I for one decided a few years back to short cut the doctor: I buy the vaccine and inject it in my arm myself.

    When I came and lived in the US a few years ago, I was really surprised how practically different medicine is done there as compared to France. The most striking difference was the price of the visit (since then, it’s been increased to 23â?¬ here).

  7. “And on top of it, there are natural substances that can treat the childhood diseases”

    Put up or shut up – data, from studies, not “my cousin rubbed apple juice on her bum and never had measles” type crap.

  8. Stan, I feel really badly that you think I would write an important post like that without at least having a PhD in a human biology related field, medical training, and considerable reading in the topic of vaccines under my belt. I’m by no means a medical professional in the field or an epidemiologist, but I am more than qualified to opine in an intelligent and informed way on this topic.

    Your comment, on the other hand, is, well, badly informed and rather nefarious. I assume readers of this blog will not be swayed by your misinformation. Do be warned, however, this blog has an anti-denialist policy. Your links, at least, will be disemvowelled because I am not a google pathway to your rhetoric.

  9. Stan, what makes you think Greg isn’t familiar with the “other side of the argument”…

    And about the nurses vs MDs giving the vaccines, I think Greg was being a bit facetious about that.

    Thanks for this post, and I hope the attempted defense isn’t too unwelcome.

    My daughter is 7 yo and I was a bit hesitant about all the vaccines she was to receive. It took only a little investigating to find out the anti vaxxers were nuts.

    The nurses at my pediatrician’s office were really good, giving injections in both my baby’s thighs at once. Perfect timing. I would just lean over my daughter holding her upper body while nuzzling and talking to her. It ended up being really easy. (of course eventually, she learned to anticipate the shots…) I, too, felt good (and still do) when she got her vaccines.

    Heck, I used to vaccinate dogs and cats for the vets I once worked for. At least all those are given subcutaneously, which seemed easier than going into muscle.

  10. And about the nurses vs MDs giving the vaccines, I think Greg was being a bit facetious about that.

    Actually, no. Nurses give vaccines in the US routinely, doctors don’t. Same with IV’s. Nothing unusual there. However, both of my offspring’s pediatricians have told me the same thing (the first one just said it … we had a chatty relationship for a number of reasons, the other after I asked about it): It is a known and widespread technique among pediatricians treating infants and toddlers to have the vaccine done last, for obvious reasons, and to bet out of Dodge before that happens to avoid an association between the pediatrician and the pain, so that she (they are both she’s) can poke and prod and palpate at a later time without the big fear reaction.

    The nurses at my pediatrician’s office were really good, giving injections in both my baby’s thighs at once. Perfect timing. I would just lean over my daughter holding her upper body while nuzzling and talking to her. It ended up being really easy. (of course eventually, she learned to anticipate the shots.

    Yeah, I think Huxley just figured it out the last round of shots. He gave the offending nurse a serious dirty look. But it will have been many weeks before the next round, so he may not remember.

  11. We laugh when parents INSIST that the doctor start IVs on their family member. We nurses do it all the time, and are typically much better, especially since we get three chances, by our policy. After that, the DOCTOR assess for a central line.
    Stan, your information is so bad, it’s ‘not even wrong’. I’ve seen kids die of rotovirus, hell, I caught it from a patient myself (don’t ask…). Having a vaccine against what has put many children into ICUs is awesome. If vaccines could close down the ICUs and put me on the unemployment line, that would be great. As it is, the Hib, pneumoccoccal, botulism, Dtap, MMR, and HepB has made a good start.

  12. My policy is to never let a doctor near my veins. I’ve had a nurse do a poor job with an IV exactly once, and she was inexperienced and it was a tricky stick. And, she eventually got in there.

    It simply isn’t the case that a doctor is a nurse plus, or for that matter, that a nurse is a technician plus (or whatever).

    Gwen, I really appreciate your in the trenches experience in the comments here. Thanks.

  13. Greg, we have a pretty good idea what would happen if people stopped using vaccines and relied on folk remedies. We did that experiment already, before vaccines were invented, and people died from communicable diseases in large numbers. I guess it is easy to forget this if you are lucky enough to live in a country where almost everyone gets vaccinated. Hardly anyone dies of whooping cough, polio, measles, so so easy to imagine that they pose no risk. They do.

  14. And now the British government has withdrawn ‘flu vaccines for under-fives and Joe Mercola is crowing that it’s to save the children!

  15. â??If there is a vaccination that you can honesty, comfortably claim prevents a disease that you would not mind having your child come down with, then ask that needle-bearing vaccinations nurse if it is possible to avoid that particular one.â?

    Sure. Screw that herd immunity bollocks. Screw the weakling vulnerable others. 🙁

  16. CherryBomb: Exactly. Or, as I mention in the post, by visiting places where there are no vaccines. I didn’t mention, by the way, how many of my friends in the Congo were afflicted with Polio during one or another epidemic of recent times.

    Phayes: Just to be sure we’re all on the same page (the snark can be misleading when the antivaxers show up, which apparently has happened): That was a rhetorical question and opting out of the routine vaccines is bad. One of the points the author makes in the book is that it is far to easy to opt out these days, legally. This is a problem.

  17. I know people who don’t see reason and vaccinate their children. Its maddening because when I ask them why they don’t vaccinate, they say ‘there’s more danger in vaccinating than not’ and offer no evidence (because there is none).

    Its bad enough when adults don’t want to vaccinate themselves but it is deeply depressing to consider that little childrens health and even their lives are being risked. Its like not putting their seat belt on in the car, and what sane and loving parent wouldn’t strap their kids in? It’s just asking for the child to be killed.

    This post was excellent – I am off to order the recommended book. Thanks.

  18. I know people who don’t see reason and vaccinate their children. Its maddening because when I ask them why they don’t vaccinate, they say ‘there’s more danger in vaccinating than not’ and offer no evidence (because there is none).

    Its bad enough when adults don’t want to vaccinate themselves but it is deeply depressing to consider that little childrens health and even their lives are being risked. Its like not putting their seat belt on in the car, and what sane and loving parent wouldn’t strap their kids in? It’s just asking for the child to be killed.

    This post was excellent – I am off to order the recommended book. Thanks.

  19. Nice post, thanks Greg.

    In the UK it is generally much better to get the nurse (or phlebotomist if you are in hospital) to do anything involving needles. They have likely had at least as much training and almost certainly have far more practice. Doctors make lots of holes but get very little blood in my experience.

  20. Pushed by ambulance chasers? Please. Pharm companies make far more than any lawyer could dream of with their drugs. Ever wonder why private companies such as Walgreen’s advertise and push their flu shot? If you think it’s because they care about public health, you’re wrong. The all-mighty dollar wins again. Scare the crap out of parents, to make another buck. An ER nurse told me that my son was “absolutely going to catch something and die by the time he was 2” because we chose not to vaccinate… that was 5 years ago, and guess what? He’s alive and well. I think it’s fantastic that I and many others are starting to question the garbage that is spoon fed to us and to our parents before us. And I mean the garbage fed to us by drug companies and doctors looking for quick fixes, not people who decide to go against the masses and seek the truth. There is evidence out there; What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Childhood Vacciantions was written by a concerned pediatrician… if people in this field are seening disturbing trends, how can we turn a blind eye to that?

  21. Amanda, yes, ambulance chasers.

    Every single large industry has it’s financial interest. Including the book-hawking anti-vaxers, and including big pharm, and including the ambulence chasers who are, by the way, the number one contributors to VAERS. Think about that for a second! If you want to connect the dots, don’t forget to connect all of the dots.

    Keep an eye on all of them, but also respect the science.

  22. The thing that makes me sad about the anti-vax movement is that it turns a thing that should be a great boon to parent’s peace of mind (Hey – Vaccination means you will never have to deal with this long list of nasty diseases that can kill your children) into a panicked crisis of indecision.

    @phayes: I think this comment was meant in the context of, can you honestly think of a disease we vaccinate against that you would be totally fine with your child getting? After reading and researching what can happen to the children who contract them?

    I think in most cases, for most parents, that answer would turn out to be no.

  23. Its scary looking at genealogical charts of my family from the 1800’s as these provide ample evidence of the changes brought by the development of vaccines. Many of my ancestors had 20 or more children, (one had 26 children), but typically only three or so might live to adulthood. Obviously antibiotics also have made a big difference in survival rates.

  24. Ursula: The thing that makes me sad about the anti-vax movement is that it turns a thing that should be a great boon to parent’s peace of mind (Hey – Vaccination means you will never have to deal with this long list of nasty diseases that can kill your children) into a panicked crisis of indecision.

    That makes sense to you and to me and a lot of other people, but to an anti vaxer such as Amanda (above) who takes the fact that her child is not dead as the only acceptable evidence of the safety and efficacy of vaccination.

    I could adopt the same criterion. My children, there are two, are vaccinated and not dead. Therefor not vaccinating them would kill them, and i made the right decision. What great Daddy Instinct I must have!!!

  25. One of Isis’ minions here. Immunization was just beginning to be widespread when I graduated from nursing school. It is one of the best and simplest preventitive measures ever. Thank you for a great post!

  26. Amanda –

    Indeed there is a great deal of evidence out there, as vaccines have been subjected rather a number of studies. While there is absolutely no question that vaccines can and on exceedingly rare occasions actually do cause injury to children, the odds are considerably higher that a non-vaccinated child will suffer permanent debilitating injury or death. And while no money can make up for the injury of a child, it is relatively easy to get very reasonable compensation for vaccine injuries – there is no such aid for those who lose a child or whose child is injured by preventable diseases, because they were deluded by folks like your concerned pediatrician.

    The biggest shame though, is that the children of parents who are so deluded are put at risk – as are children who either never developed antibodies and children who were unable to be vaccinated due to autoimmune diseases – both groups having rather elevated risk of serious complications from infectious diseases. It isn’t the people who are making the decision not to vaccinate that are at risk, even though they believe they are making the best decision for the health of little people who they are generally more concerned about than they are themselves.

  27. Stan@6,and a lot of other antivaxers do not like to admit it, but there are certain subgroups of children,diagnosed as “autistic”,whose problems are due to metabolic,or immune diseases.Mitochondrial disease obviously the best known,but there are a number of others,folate metabolism disorders,with secondary immune deficiency,which I have is another.These are children,who,if they develop autism,will do so,from a “wild” infection,just as easily as they would from a vaccine,if not moreso.People like this,or Augustine,frequent comment maker at RI,or any antivaxer of your choice,seem to assume ALL children are healthy enough to handle these diseases with no consequences,yet are somehow too fragile to handle the much weaker/attenuated doses in the vaccines.Probably because as Rob Monkey said @#2,they have never seen a severe case of a disease like measles,or rubella,can do to a medically fragile child,or adult.I suppose they think these diseases are just simple rashes,and a slight fever.Even usually mild infections like varicella/chicken pox can cause serious complications.When I had it,at age six,I had serious heart complications.

    Children and adults with metabolic diseases,immune disease, on immunosuppressive drugs,cancer,what have you need to rely on the herd immunity to avoid getting infections,that could easily be life threatening,or cause further disability.

    But the antivaxers have always been a selfish and inconsiderate bunch,which is why they spout all that blather about “personal choice”

  28. Just curious…

    Are there studies to show:

    1. How many children have autism that have been vaccinated?
    2. How many children have autism that have not been vaccinated?

    Please post with links or references to actual data.

    Thanks in advance.

  29. Amanda,

    I’ll just add that your child is getting a benefit from vaccines. It’s called herd immunity and as long as almost every child is vaccinated, then your child will probably be OK.

    Take a look (as Greg and others have suggested) at countries that don’t have vaccines at all. Take a look at that private school in California that had an outbreak of whooping cough.

    Your child is basically mooching off the rest of us to have taken care of our children. When there are enough parents like you, the herd immunity will go away, the diseases will mutate in your childs’ bodies and then the vaccines that MY children have taken will be useless.

    You are turning your children (even as they grow into adults) into breeding grounds and vectors.

    So, even if you don’t care about your own children, at least think of the rest of our society when you choose not to vaccinate your child.

  30. OgreMkV: You are basically correct, and this Amanda person is freeriding. However, Offit starts out his book with several examples of how an unvaccinated Amanda and her unvaccinated children may not be so safe even with herd immunity. The herd immunity generally works, but diseases can and do jump deep into the herd and affect the little pockets of unprotected individuals. Let’s just hope for the sake of Amanda’s children that no one in her family knows, goes to school with, or works with anyone who is or knows anyone who travels a lot, or missionaries, etc.

  31. As a shill for big pharma, it always amuses me to hear how we push vaccines because of the huge profits involved. While some vaccines are certainly profitable (I think Prevnar was the first ever to hit $1bn in annual sales) most companies just don’t want to be in this market, particularly for the tried-and-true stuff like MMR. That’s why the US government has the whole Vaccine Injury Fund thing set up–to provide an incentive for companies that would otherwise leave the business.

  32. Stacie –

    Or you can scroll to Respectful Insolence in the drop-down menu for scienceblogs in the upper right corner and enter “vaccine autism study” in his search box. An alternative to that would be to go to and perform the same search. There you will find not only links to many studies about the hypothetical autism/vaccine link, you will also find rather devastating evidence of mucking with the data and other problems related to several studies that purported to find a link between vaccines and autism.

    This isn’t an issue that has somehow been ignored by the research medical community. Indeed before Wakefield was first debunked and later discovered to have committed outright fraud, his “work” was partly responsible for the immense amount of interest in this issue.

    To sum it up very succinctly; there is a great deal of scientific evidence that would suggest there isn’t a link between autism and vaccines, while there is none that would suggest there is that hasn’t been thoroughly debunked. And even though there was no evidence to suggest that there was a link between thimerosal (the presumed culprit by anti-vaxxers) and autism, thimerosal was removed from most vaccines over a decade ago. Ultimately the autism “link” has become rather passe – now the issue is all the other icky stuff in vaccines and the general assumption that science based medicine is just plain evile.

    To pile onto the whole herd immunity issue, you might want to consider the role that infectious diseases play in the Northern world, compared to the role it played before vaccines. 65-70 years ago, infectious disease was still a serious contender for main cause of death – even in the U.S. Today infectious disease has become a statistically insignificant cause of death in the U.S. and throughout the Northern world. Unfortunately that could very well change – due entirely to people like you, people who were duped by snake-oil salesmen who have far more financial interests in keeping you from using science based medicine, than the vaccine manufacturers have in making vaccines.

    Just take a look sometime, at the market share of the alternative/complimentary remedy industry (they aren’t medicine when there isn’t evidence they work). Then take a look at the profit margins for vaccines. Keeping in mind that a relatively small percentage of the population uses non-scientifically proven remedies, while the vast majority of the population receives vaccines.

  33. How did we earn our place in this world? By proving time and time again, we are able to get sick, and fight that pathogen. It’s what are bodies were designed to do. With all these vaccinations coming out, parents face difficult decisions on what to give their children. I firmly believe you should mess with natures way. We earned our spot by getting sick and getting over it.

  34. Scott, only half or less of the population used to make it past 5 years old. Yes, those that did had pretty good immune systems, but immunization provides the same benefits without risk of death, loss of hearing, blindess, brain damage from high fevers…

  35. Scott:

    How did we earn our place in this world? By proving time and time again, we are able to get sick, and fight that pathogen.

    Not actually. It was more like having six kids and hoping two would live to adulthood. Have you ever read a history book? Or a biography of someone born before the 20th century? Have you ever checked your own genealogy and wondered why families had multiple kids with the same name (hint: only one kid in the family had that name at a time)? Do you know about the story of Balto, the sled dog who inspired the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race? What were they doing racing to Nome?

    Go look up Mary Shelley, the woman who wrote Frankenstein. How many children did she have? How many lived to become an adult? What about Mozart? How about William Shakespeare? Did you know he had a son named Halmet?

    Go watch this video showing the dynammic statistics of child mortality. Make sure to watch carefully starting at the eleven minute mark when Dr. Rosling has a dynamic chart of “Child deaths per 1000 born” versus “Children per women.”

    Scott, exactly how many children are you planning on having? Would you care if two out of five died? My grandmother had two sisters and two brothers. Only the sisters reached adulthood.

  36. For info on Balto see (Probably not the worlds most authoritative source, but otherwise what I know is from the Disney movie, which I guessing is a less good source)

    I overheard some twenty something women on the bus discussing getting their children vaccinated and they were generally opposed to the idea because of what they saw as “risk” (autism etc) except for the chicken pox vaccine.

    They had known people who got chicken pox as adults and had gotten very sick. To them that was the only childhood disease they saw a real risk because it was the only one they had seen. Polio isn’t real to them, but chicken pox is.

  37. We also had a kid book on Balto the sled dog, which was a bit better than the movie. I found another version here:

    It is a true story. I guess I am a bit more familiar since my daughter’s second grade teacher was from Anchorage, AK and always did a program on the Iditarod (even when she was teaching the deaf/hard of hearing class, where she started). So the story of how the race came to be was included, a diphtheria outbreak in Nome.

  38. Thanks for this post.

    When my little baby got injections, I used to cry too. But she had them, as I did in my childhood, and now she is 16 and healthy and an amazing addition to the world and growing in power every day.

    Oh, and Scott: get an education. Logic is a freshman-level class in college, and you’re not there; take some time to learn about the immune system in biology/medicine texts rather than health-food pamphlets, your ignorance is disgraceful; but you can start now by following the links others have provided here. Do some learning before you open your mouth. Mortality before the time you are in and the only time you are familiar with had a very, very different set of curves. You might also take a look at the lives of those now who lack the benefits of modern medicine.

    It would be a very, very lacking parent indeed who opted, in our modern world, to deprive their children of the benefits of modern medicine. There is no “difficult decision”. There are, however, ignorance and stupidity and poorly developed reasoning ability.

  39. Dear God, the anti-vax nonsense! Maybe Health classes in public school should include a history of disease prevention and epidemiology. I’m old enough that one of my close relatives was crippled by polio in childhood. We’ve eliminated smallpox in the wild; but anti-vaccine rumors have harmed the campaign to eliminate polio and it goes on crippling people in other parts of the world.

    One of my mother’s siblings died at age five of something that we routinely immunize for now. She was twelve at the time and never got over guilt at not being able to help him and gnawing fear whenever one of us had a fever. When I mentioned this to someone the other day, she said that two of her mother’s brothers died in childhood of “routine childhood diseases” that we now immunize for. We lamented young parents’ ignorance of disease history.

    Alexander Graham Bell worked at schools for the deaf. And why did we have schools for the deaf? Because it’s a common side effect of measles. The last school for the deaf in the U.S. closed last year for lack of customers.

    As for “toxins,” babies are covered in bacteria from the moment they come out of the womb. Any scratch can give them more toxin than they get from a purified, sterile injection designed to protect them from invasion by disease pathogens. And what they get now, though delivered in more needles, is about 4% of what they received in the 60s to 80s (figures, graph).

    When I went to school, classes were inoculated by a public health nurse at the recommended age. I was happy that I was being protected against diseases — at the time, only smallpox, diphtheria, and tetanus, I think. I suffered the rest of the childhood diseases, including whooping cough. If someone got measles late, e.g. in their teens, it was a very serious disease and meant possible sterility for males. I’ve also seen children born with Rubella syndrome–mute and handicapped by a silent viral infection in the womb. You don’t know when you are well off. For the love of your own children, give them what they need with a cheerful heart and a little fortitude.

  40. I think Markita hits the target. To those that think vaccinations should be a choice, what ever happened to the idea that the needs of the group (society) should be outweighed by the desires of one individual? Sounds like anarchy to me. The willingness of my (and many others on this post!) to be immunized has helped create one of the healthiest societies ever known.
    From the Centers for Disease Control:
    Public health measures are credited with much of the recent increase in life expectancy. During the 20th century, the average lifespan in the United States increased by more than 30 years, of which 25 years can be attributed to advances in public health.
    1. Vaccination (the number one reason!!!)
    Vaccination programs have resulted in the eradication of smallpox; elimination of poliomyelitis in the Americas; and control of measles, rubella, tetanus, diphtheria, Haemophilus influenzae type b, and other infectious diseases in the United States and other parts of the world.
    When was the last time you or one of your friends/neighbors/relatives had a child die from one of these diseases? Less than a hundred years ago these diseases killed more than one out of every three children.
    Public health officials aren’t alone in their drive to prevent and eliminate diseases through immunization. Veterinarians working in conjunction with public health people figured out a long time ago that the only way to control and eventually eliminate a disease is to develop an effective vaccine. That’s why you risk-taking unpasteurized dairy consumers have a miniscule chance of being infected with brucellosis (in developed counties, anyway), even though you risk exposure to numerous other pathogens with this habit. Why do you think they vaccinate that cute puppy and kitten against rabies? It’s not just to protect the pet…it’s to protect you from potential exposure to an assuredly terrible death from this disease that does end the life of over 55,000 people world-wide every year. When was the last time someone on your block died of rabies? ( Greg, it amazes me that this topic even needs to be discussed.

  41. @Scott:
    Yes, our bodies are designed to get sick, recover, and get stronger. Which is what makes vaccination work so well! It triggers the body’s reaction, making you stronger, without giving such a strong dose of the disease that your body is overwhelmed.

    If someone was about to call the police to give a tip-off about an impending bank robbery, would you disconnect their phone line to stop them, on the basis that the bank’s security should handle the threat by themselves? It’s not so very different when you block the vaccination message that could tip your body off to a threat of disease. And the threat is very real.

  42. To whom (on both sides of this prickly issue),

    I’ve wrestled with the issues related to vaccinating infants, who have immature, as yet fully formed immune systems. I’ve researched what goes into vaccines and how they are made. This information is readily available to anyone with an Internet connection. The information is put out by scientific/medical and pharmaceutical authorities with nothing to hide (Aventis/Pasteur, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck KGaA, Merck and Co., Bristol-Myers Squibb, Mitsubishi Pharma — those highly revered former makers of Zeros fighter planes from WWII– etc.).

    If you read what goes into vaccines and how they are derived (growth media, contents — i.e. adjuvants, agents that may stimulate the immune system and increase the response to a vaccine — etc.) it’s not hard to understand why the doubters and nay-sayers are up in arms).

    As mentioned, all this information is out there — on the WWW — for the reading. Just look it up and inform yourselves… before making rash decisions. after reading, you may or may not wonder, why a great many vaccines are grown in such strange growth mediums, including egg albumin. Know anyone who is allergic to eggs… even deathly allergic to eggs?

    Having said all this, doesn’t it follow that any right thinking individual (American or Canadian) would have to come to the logical conclusion that the U.S. government and the government of Québec have so much money in their coffers, ear-marked for Health, that they just don’t know what to do with it, except to enact laws to indemnify tax payers against substances (vaccines) that have no jeopardizing consequences?

    Why did the U.S. Health Administration enact in 1986, the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Compensation Act/Program? Why would this Act and Program later be updated and amended — with lengthier timelines for filing legal claims for damages directly related to several dozen named vaccines, which can cause scientifically and medically proven, vaccine-related life-long illnesses and even including death)?

    In Canada, this type of legislation only exists in the province of Québec, since 1989 (and I know of no amendments like those in the USA).

    As well, why would any pharmaceutical company agree (in the U.S and in Québec, Canada) to pay a per-dose surcharge to build up a monetary funding pool from which claims (if successful) could be drawn for indemnification?

    Why would any government, province in Canada, enact this type of legislation, if there is “nothing at all” to worry about regarding vaccines, childhood vaccines?

    Inquiring minds would love to know….

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