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.


6 thoughts on “On Vaccinations and the Greater Good

  1. In the wake of last month’s outbreak, Linda Palmer considered sending her son to a measles party to contract the virus.

    Wow – some people would rather facilitate their children contracting a potentially fatal illness then get them vaccinated. Whether there is risk to vaccinations is still being debated, even though as far as the real science is concerned the case is closed. Vaccines are safe.

    Parents today are spoiled. They don’t remember the days when children died of these diseases by the truckload. They’re so frightened of a perceived risk of whatever the vogue illness is today that they’re willing to put all children, including theirs, at risk of an epidemic. Selfish, stupid and deserving of contempt. Blah.

  2. I could not agree more. Well put. Hundreds of millions of doses of vaccines have been given worldwide for well over 50 years now, and I don’t see any real worldwide outbreak of true profound Autism. Don’t you think someone would have *noticed* that?

    Personally, I think Autism is the Millenial version of ADD – every kid who’s introverted or shy or private or delayed in speech is Aspergers or Autism Spectrum, just like how 15 years ago every child who was energetic or exuberant “had” ADD. Not to say there are not profoundly affected children, there are, just as there are those who are truly ADD. It’s just that there are so many more who are being ‘diagnosed’ where ten years ago they would have just been the quiet kid and allowed to *be*.

    On “Parties”:

    I remember as a child being put in a room with my sisters and cousins when the first one of us got the Chicken Pox, long before Varicella. Back then they didn’t call them ‘parties’, they were viewed as practical necessities as the Chicken Pox was not considered generally deadly (though one of my cousins subsequently developed Shingles as an adult) as a child but more dangerous to contract as an adult.

    Had the vaccine been around then, my Mom would have gotten it for us in a second. She lost her cousin to Polio and remembers the fear every year when one of these killers swept through their town, the empty pools and playgrounds and being kept indoors on hot pre-A/C days. She swore we’d never have that and I swore the same for my child.


  3. This is how my son got Pertussis. We took him to the doctor for his sudden and awful cough that developed the summer after kindergarten. The doctor suggested it was an allergy developing, whooping cough was so far from their minds, then that very day I got a letter from the CDC explaining that my son, while immunized had been attending Kindergarten with several children who were not, there was an outbreak. Meanwhile we had been socializing with babies…

    No one died that I know of, but I did feel I should have been informed that the other children were not, and I did resent them making that choice for me.

  4. Great post.

    As a public school teacher, I have a huge problem with parents who choose not to vaccinate their children. The CDC recommends vaccinating on a regular schedule, and I’m sick of parents putting MY child at risk because they think their child is better than mine.

  5. “What if your un-vaccinated child kills my vaccinated child by, say, Polio or Rubella or German Measles? Is that murder?”

    If the vacs work…how could this happen?

  6. Katy,

    It’s a good question. There are a couple of ways:

    1. Viruses and bacteria ‘evolve’ – they adapt and change. A vaccine may not prepare the body to fight off a mutated strain. This is also why it’s important to finish all antibiotic medication and to only use antibiotics developed to fight a particular bacteria. Not fully innoculating a population, just like not finishing your antibiotic medication, allows a ‘window’ for the organism to mutate and become resistant.

    2. Not everyone who is vaccinated gains immunity. Some gain only partial immunity, and some are immune-resistant. You don’t know who those people are until they’re exposed again to the organism. This is why pediatricians offices’ now routinely skin-test for tuberculosis, even where there has been vaccination. TB is one of those more resilient organisms, and spreads easily and rapidly through a population. Sometimes an immune-resistant person can be re-innoculated, other times they cannot and are at-risk despite best efforts.

    It is only when an organism is *completely* innoculated and the last remaining strains die out that we are all safe – as in, for example, the case with smallpox. Smallpox now only exists in laboratory form because of a vigorous and highly complied vaccination and disease management program over many years.

    “Smallpox is believed to have emerged in human populations about 10,000 BC. The disease killed an estimated 400,000 Europeans each year during the 18th century (including five reigning monarchs), and was responsible for a third of all blindness. Between 20 and 60% of all those infected—and over 80% of infected children—died from the disease.

    During the 20th century, it is estimated that smallpox was responsible for 300–500 million deaths. As recently as 1967, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 15 million people contracted the disease and that two million died in that year. After successful vaccination campaigns throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the WHO certified the eradication of smallpox in 1979. To this day, smallpox is the only human infectious disease to have been completely eradicated from nature.”

    This is why diligent adherence is important to public safety and community health. Not innoculating leaves us all vulnerable, not just those who put their personal fears, beliefs, etc. above the common good.

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