View From Table 9

March 21, 2008

On Vaccinations and the Greater Good

What strikes me most about this article below from the NYT is this statement:

“’I refuse to sacrifice my children for the greater good,’ said Sybil Carlson”

Blows. Me. Away.

This society we enjoy counts on, relies, even requires that we all act in relation to the Greater Good. We pay taxes for services that provide for the Greater Good – clean water, sewage treatment, trash collection, education, roadway maintenance, Police and Fire services, Free Libraries, all these things are contributed to by all for the Greater Good.

Hundreds of Thousands sacrifice their children, as they have for the entire History of the United States, so that we may live in freedom and in democracy. They did that for the Greater Good, and what that very real sacrifice demands is that others also act for the Greater Good.

Appalling really. Personally I think those who choose to not vaccinate their children from deadly communicable diseases, for religious reasons or otherwise, not be allowed under any circumstances to:

1. Enroll that child in a public school

2. Enroll that child in community daycare, unless all children in the community daycare are also not vaccinated

3. Join a public swimming pool, or a swim club, unless all the children in the club are also not vaccinated

4. Participate in public services (such as Free Library Storytime) offered for the “Greater Good”

See, the difference between most religious objectors and this group is that religious objectors, such as the Amish, do not mingle in public activities. They live separately, educate separately, do not except where necessary mingle with the “English”.

People such as Ms. Carlson want all the benefits the Greater Good contributes to without taking any of the risks. It’s an insult, truly, to those who fought & died for that same Greater Good she refuses to ‘sacrifice’ too.

Again, it has been far to many years…

March 21, 2008

Public Health Risk Seen as Parents Reject Vaccines

SAN DIEGO — In a highly unusual outbreak of measles here last month, 12 children fell ill; nine of them had not been inoculated against the virus because their parents objected, and the other three were too young to receive vaccines.The parents who objected to their children being inoculated are among a small but growing number of vaccine skeptics in California and other states who take advantage of exemptions to laws requiring vaccinations for school-age children. The exemptions have been growing since the early 1990s at a rate that many epidemiologists, public health officials and physicians find disturbing.Children who are not vaccinated are unnecessarily susceptible to serious illnesses, they say, but also present a danger to children who have had their shots — the measles vaccine, for instance, is only 95 percent effective — and to those children too young to receive certain vaccines.

Measles, almost wholly eradicated in the United States through vaccines, can cause pneumonia and brain swelling, which in rare cases can lead to death. The measles outbreak here alarmed public health officials, sickened babies and sent one child to the hospital.

Every state allows medical exemptions, and most permit exemptions based on religious practices. But an increasing number of the vaccine skeptics belong to a different group — those who object to the inoculations because of their personal beliefs, often related to an unproven notion that vaccines are linked to autism and other disorders.

Twenty states, including California, Ohio and Texas, allow some kind of personal exemption, according to a tally by the Johns Hopkins University.

“I refuse to sacrifice my children for the greater good,” said Sybil Carlson, whose 6-year-old son goes to school with several of the children hit by the measles outbreak here. The boy is immunized against some diseases but not measles, Ms. Carlson said, while his 3-year-old brother has had just one shot, protecting him against meningitis.

“When I began to read about vaccines and how they work,” she said, “I saw medical studies, not given to use by the mainstream media, connecting them with neurological disorders, asthma and immunology.”

Ms. Carlson said she understood what was at stake. “I cannot deny that my child can put someone else at risk,” she said.

In 1991, less than 1 percent of children in the states with personal-belief exemptions went without vaccines based on the exemption; by 2004, the most recent year for which data are available, the percentage had increased to 2.54 percent, said Saad B. Omer, an assistant scientist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

While nationwide over 90 percent of children old enough to receive vaccines get them, the number of exemptions worries many health officials and experts. They say that vaccines have saved countless lives, and that personal-belief exemptions are potentially dangerous and bad public policy because they are not based on sound science.

“If you have clusters of exemptions, you increase the risk of exposing everyone in the community,” said Dr. Omer, who has extensively studied disease outbreaks and vaccines.

It is the absence, or close to it, of some illnesses in the United States that keep some parents from opting for the shots. Worldwide, 242,000 children a year die from measles, but it used to be near one million. The deaths have dropped because of vaccination, a 68 percent decrease from 2000 to 2006.

“The very success of immunizations has turned out to be an Achilles’ heel,” said Dr. Mark Sawyer, a pediatrician and infectious disease specialist at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. “Most of these parents have never seen measles, and don’t realize it could be a bad disease so they turn their concerns to unfounded risks. They do not perceive risk of the disease but perceive risk of the vaccine.”

Dr. Sawyer and the vast majority of pediatricians believe strongly that vaccinations are the cornerstone of sound public health. Many doctors view the so-called exempters as parasites, of a sort, benefiting from the otherwise inoculated majority.

Most children get immunized to measles from a combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, a live virus.

While the picture of an unvaccinated child was once that of the offspring of poor and uneducated parents, “exempters” are often well educated and financially stable, and hold a host of like-minded child-rearing beliefs.

Vaccine skeptics provide differing explanations for their belief that vaccines may cause various illnesses and disorders, including autism.

Recent news that a federal vaccine court agreed to pay the family of an autistic child in Georgia who had an underlying mitochondrial disorder has led some skeptics to speculate that vaccines may worsen such conditions. Again, researchers say there is no evidence to support this thesis.

Alexandra Stewart, director of the Epidemiology of U.S. Immunization Law project at George Washington University, said many of these parents are influenced by misinformation obtained from Web sites that oppose vaccination.

“The autism debate has convinced these parents to refuse vaccines to the detriment of their own children as well as the community,” Ms. Stewart said.

While many parents meet deep resistance and even hostility from pediatricians when they choose to delay, space or reject vaccines, they are often able to find doctors who support their choice.

“I do think vaccines help with the public health and helping prevent the occasional fatality,” said Dr. Bob Sears, the son of the well-known child-care author by the same name, who practices pediatrics in San Clemente. Roughly 20 percent of his patients do not vaccinate, Dr. Sears said, and another 20 percent partially vaccinate.

“I don’t think it is such a critical public health issue that we should force parents into it,” Dr. Sears said. “I don’t lecture the parents or try to change their mind; if they flat out tell me they understand the risks I feel that I should be very respectful of their decision.”

Some parents of unvaccinated children go to great lengths to expose their children to childhood diseases to help them build natural immunities.

In the wake of last month’s outbreak, Linda Palmer considered sending her son to a measles party to contract the virus. Several years ago, the boy, now 12, contracted chicken pox when Ms. Palmer had him attend a gathering of children with that virus.

“It is a very common thing in the natural-health oriented world,” Ms. Palmer said of the parties.

She ultimately decided against the measles party for fear of having her son ostracized if he became ill.

In the late 1960s and 1970s, measles outbreaks in Alaska and California triggered strong enforcement of vaccine mandates by states, and exemption laws followed.

While the laws vary from state to state, most allow children to attend school if their parents agree to keep them home during any outbreak of illnesses prevented by vaccines. The easier it is to get an exemption — some states require barely any paperwork — the more people opt for them, according to Dr. Omer’s research, supported by other vaccine experts.

There are differences within states, too. There tend to be geographic clusters of “exempters” in certain counties or even neighborhoods or schools. According to a 2006 article in The Journal of The American Medical Association, exemption rates of 15 percent to 18 percent have been found in Ashland, Ore., and Vashon, Wash. In California, where the statewide rate is about 1.5 percent, some counties were as high as 10 percent to 19 percent of kindergartners.

In the San Diego measles outbreak, four of the cases, including the first one, came from a single charter school, and 17 children stayed home during the outbreak to avoid contracting the illness.

There is substantial evidence that communities with pools of unvaccinated clusters risk infecting a broad community that includes people who have been inoculated.

For instance, in a 2006 mumps outbreak in Iowa that infected 219 people, the majority of those sickened had been vaccinated. In a 2005 measles outbreak in Indiana, there were 34 cases, including six people who had been vaccinated.

Here in California, six pertussis outbreaks infected 24 people in 2007; only 2 of 24 were documented as having been appropriately immunized.

A surveillance program in the mid ’90s in Canada of infants and preschoolers found that cases of Hib fell to between 8 and 10 cases a year from 550 a year after a vaccine program was begun, and roughly half of those cases were among children whose vaccine failed.

Gardiner Harris contributed reporting from Washington.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

I for one am writing my State Representatives now to add requirements and restrictions around vaccination abstinence in order to preserve and protect the Greater Good whose benefits I most definitely enjoy.

P.S. Ms. Carlson, how DARE you decide that your child is more important than my child? What if your un-vaccinated child kills my vaccinated child by, say, Polio or Rubella or German Measles? Is that murder?

Yeah, I’m seeing red over that comment.

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March 13, 2008

Quite Possibly the World’s Most Perfect Food…

Filed under: Uncategorized — table9 @ 1:11 am
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One of the things I absolutely love about the Easter holiday is the candy. I actually think secular Easter does candy better than secular Halloween.  Among my favorites would be Cadbury Creme Eggs (10 gazillion calories per egg and worth every minute on the treadmill), Reese’s Easter Eggs (mmmm) and of course Chocolate Bunnies.  DH loves hard marshmallow hide-an-eggs. I think they’re one of the biggest crimes against sugar on earth.  I mean, those things can survive a nuclear blast. Ugh.

By far, my favorite Easter candy would be the illustrious Peep.  Not the Peep bunny or the Peep Jack O Lantern or the Peep Tree, those would be shoddy brand extensions.   Give me the original any day.  They are quite possibly the worlds most perfect food – simple, sweet but not overwhelming, slightly crunchy, and filling without sticking to your teeth.  Mmmm…

They are also quite hardy creatures, as seen in one of my favorite sites www.peepresearch.org.   Now here are people who respect the Peep, value the Peep, want to understand the Peep, or have entirely too much time on their hands and a warped sense of humor.  In other words, my kind of people.

🙂

March 9, 2008

Star Wars: Where Science (Doesn’t Really) Meets Imagination

Filed under: Uncategorized — table9 @ 11:16 pm
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Today we headed over to the Franklin Institute to see the Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination exhibit. DS is crazy right now about Star Wars, having recently been introduced to the story (properly, starting with Episode IV). So he was beyond excited to go.

The exhibit has timed entry, and we had to buy in advance. My first surprise was that I thought that meant that it would be less crowded. Silly me. It was packed, and since the space seemed too small to begin with, very cramped. I was almost feeling claustrophobic, and I’m not usually that way. DH, who dislikes crowds to begin with, was miserable.

My second surprise was that I thought the exhibit would somehow tie scientific concepts to movie imagination, or at least show how one engenders another. I’ve always held the belief that SciFi, especially hard SciFi, was the inspiration for technological breakthrough, or at the least that they worked in tandem to advance thought. So I was looking forward to showing DS how the two worked together. Again, silly me. Why would a science museum want to put those two together? Because they didn’t, at least not very well. Yeah, there was a hovercraft type ride, but it didn’t tie to anything, and there was a display of a Roomba and iDogs, but no tie to how Star Wars or SciFi in general tied to them. They also showed the robotic medicine in the movie but failed to tie that either to modern medicine (such as the Da Vinci surgical system or developing thoughts in nanotechnology and medicine). Mostly this was a display of costuming and modeling with a gift shop attached. Even DS and his friend became bored quite quickly and wanted to exit.

Fortunately, it appears “The Franklin” as they want to be called now still has way cool stuff for kids, like the walk-through heart & corresponding circulatory and human body exhibits; the ever popular electricity exhibits, the Mission Space type exhibit, the also perennially popular Train room and the aviation room. We spent hours in these with the boys thoroughly engaged, involved and actually grasping scientific concepts such as lift and magnetic levitation and sonar. Yay.

So for anyone considering, I’d probably skip the Star Wars exhibit (though I heard the Milennium Falcon simulator ride was cool, we couldn’t get tickets) and just do the Institute itself. You and your kids will still have a great time. Oh, and buy the light saber toy from the guy outside – way cheaper for basically the same gig.

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