“The CDCs (sic) mission and the purpose of vaccinations is NOT to prevent your particular child from getting ill. The purpose of the CDC and vaccinations is to prevent wide spread (sic) epidemics of diseases that were previously eradicated, but are now reemerging because people refuse to listen to scientific FACT and vaccinate their children. Believe it or not, its (sic) not all about YOUR precious children – it is about the health of the entire population. Your views are so narrow and short sighted and worst of all dangerous. If you want to make a legitimate, credible argument, you need to do it from a global perspective, not a personal one.”
The above is an actual comment we received on my most recent blog: In the Name of “Protection”. The commenter left a name, but I think I’ll just call her our Friendly-Neighborhood Commenter, or FNC for short.
That blog was about my reaction to a meme implying that children should be vaccinated by force, over the objections of their parents, for their “protection.” The upshot: Vaccination carries significant risks of damage to children’s bodies (including their brains), choosing not to vaccinate is eminently rational, and since it’s my job to “protect” my kids, forced vaccination won’t be happening to my children unless the person doing the vaccinating is prepared to do it over my dead body.
I wrote about the idea of “protection” because, FNC notwithstanding, that is a major part of how the CDC sells the vaccination program: as protection for “my precious child.”
Many, many people buy into the idea that people who don’t vaccinate are playing Russian roulette with their children’s health, when the reality is that the vast majority of people who do not vaccinate do so for sound reasons based on a great deal of “scientific FACT.” And, what’s more, despite the CDC’s stubborn refusal to study the unvaccinated, it seems that the majority of unvaccinated children enjoy better health than their fully vaccinated counterparts.
As FNC didn’t attack the blog’s content at all, but – instead – changed the subject in order to find some basis for attacking us “anti-vaccine wackos,” I guess we can assume she agrees that “my precious child,” as well as “your precious child,” is at significant risk from vaccination. As far as she’s concerned, however, that’s beside the point. She doesn’t use the word “selfish,” but that’s the gist of her comment, isn’t it? It’s “selfish” to consider the risk of damage to my child when deciding whether or not to vaccinate.
You may be surprised to find that I find FNC’s comment amusing. I can’t help it; I love unintended irony. In this blog – my response to FNC – you’re going to get a little “history of Professor” (heh, heh).
You see, I’ve always had a “global perspective.” As a youngster, I was a wide-eyed idealist, brimming with the desire to “Help”and “Make a Difference” to the world. At the tender age of 19, I applied to the Peace Corps filled with visions of administering vaccines to undernourished, at-risk children in Africa, or teaching English to eager Latin American students. It’s probably fortunate for all concerned that I wasn’t accepted to the Peace Corps program. Despite my strong academic credentials, I was pretty damned naïve about what it meant to “help” people, and I didn’t have any truly useful skills, like farming, fishing or nursing.
One thing I have learned in the – many – years since being rejected by the Peace Corps is that “help” is in the eye of the beholder: If I don’t think what you’re doing helps me, then it’s not help. Period. Should be obvious, I know, but you’d be amazed how often “helpers” get upset when “helpees” aren’t grateful for the help. Which is to say, when you’re offering help, you should be damned sure what you’re offering has value — and even if it does, you should be ready for your offer to be roundly rejected.
Michael Weller understands this well. His play Loose Ends begins as one of the main characters has just completed a very disillusioning stint in the Peace Corps. He’s spent six months in Indonesia digging latrines only to discover that the people the latrines were intended for used their feces for fertilizer. The idea of leaving that precious material in an outhouse was inconceivable to them.
When it comes to vaccines what are we offering to the world?
In essence, we are offering up the American medical model: our version of “modern medicine.”
How well does that model work? The United States has by far the highest rates of vaccination in the world. If vaccines are such a boon for the health of the “entire population,” it would seem likely that the health of the average American would be the best in the world.
Only it’s not. Not even close. A recent report put out by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine made it clear that, compared to 16 other “affluent” countries, “the United States occupies the bottom or near-bottom rung of the ladder in a number of health areas,” including infant mortality, sexually transmitted infections including HIV, drug-related deaths, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung disease, and disability.
Wow. That’s more than a bit depressing.
If you have been reading this blog at all, you already know that the health of the average American child is in steep decline. Asthma, life-threatening allergies, and ADHD are rampant, the incidence of virtually every autoimmune illness is on the rise, and lest anyone forget, the latest official numbers say that 2% of the children in this country between the ages of three and seventeen have autism spectrum disorders.
Now, I’ll grant you that “correlation does not equal causation.” In other words, it’s not clear just from the numbers whether high vaccine rates are causing high overall rates of illness and poor health, but it is pretty obvious what those high vaccine rates are not causing: good health.
You’d have to wonder, after hearing all that, how anyone could still be so arrogant about our “modern medicine” that they would insist on exporting it to other countries. Despite all our “preventive medicine,” the sheer number of pharmaceuticals available to us, and the tremendous amount of money we spend on healthcare, Americans are sicker than most of the industrialized world. Those “scientific FACTS” should give a rational person pause.
In addition to offering the American medical model, we’re offering a version that’s not good enough for us, the sickest of sixteen of the most affluent countries.
Thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative, was officially removed from most childhood vaccines used in the U.S., but we have continued to export thimerosal-laced versions to other countries. Ever since Thomas Verstraeten first ran the numbers for his supposedly “neutral” study, and even more since the secret Simpsonwood conference convened to discuss a later version of the numbers, the CDC and other government officials have known that thimerosal hurts children. Yet we still see mainstream pieces explaining why it’s important that we keep exporting vaccines that we know are harming children. We can only hope the countries on the receiving end will be so busy dealing with the damage that they won’t be able to retaliate.
FNC claims that vaccines “prevent widespread epidemics of diseases that were previously eradicated, but are now reemerging” because people refuse to vaccinate their children.
Let’s examine that statement a bit, shall we?
Technically, only one disease has ever been “eradicated” (defined as “eliminated worldwide”): smallpox.
The last case of smallpox in the United States occurred in 1949. The last case of naturally occurring smallpox in the world (meaning a case that wasn’t caused by the vaccine) happened in Somalia in 1977. That means there hasn’t been a case of naturally occurring smallpox in the world in 36 years.
Eradicated? It would seem. “Reemerging”? Definitely not.
The CDC’s recognition of this fact means that they stopped recommending routine childhood smallpox vaccination in the U.S. a long time ago, after it became obvious that while there was no possible benefit to receiving the vaccine, there was a small, but significant, risk of harm.
Three other diseases that have vaccines have been considered “eliminated” in the U.S.: polio, diphtheria and measles. The last cases of naturally occurring polio in the United States were in 1979, although since then there have been 154 cases of paralytic polio caused by the vaccine. Any “reemergence” of the disease in this country is due to people traveling from other areas of the world, and the oral polio vaccine itself, not people who don’t vaccinate.
Diphtheria is extremely rare in the United States with the most recent case being that of an elderly traveler returning from Haiti in 2003. It’s still endemic in many parts of the world where nutrition and sanitary conditions leave a lot to be desired, but it cannot be considered to be “reemerging” in any sense of the word.
That leaves measles. Measles was declared “eliminated” in the U.S. in 2000, but there have continued to be a small number of cases every year. The median number for 2000-2010 was 40 cases per year. Given that there were approximately 400,000 recorded cases in 1960 (CDC estimates the actual number of cases to be 3-4,000,00), before measles vaccination, the “elimination” of measles sounds like a tremendous achievement. But what have we bought with all those vaccines?
The number of people who died of measles in 1960 was 380. There were approximately 60 million children in the U.S. in 1960. If we assume that all of the people who died of measles were children (which is likely to be a very poor assumption because so-called “childhood diseases” tend to be far more serious in adults), then a child’s chance of being killed by measles was 380 in 60,000,000, or 0.000633% annually.
This is the “deadly disease” we are constantly being warned about in all its pre-vaccine glory. It’s pretty easy to see why measles didn’t strike fear into many parents’ hearts in those days. To add further perspective, approximately 700 children in the U.S. under 14 drown every year, many at home in their bathtubs, but no one discusses banning bathtubs, pools, or swimming because, much as we might like to, we cannot eliminate all risk from childhood.
In 2011, there were 222 cases of measles in the U.S., most of them were imported from other countries where measles is still endemic. That is a spike over previous years, but measles rates have always gone in cycles and the rate went down in 2012.
So “reemerging”? Perhaps . . . but doesn’t it seem more than a bit hysterical to beat on parents who don’t want to take the risk of catastrophic injury or death, inherent in every vaccination, in order to ensure zero cases of a not-particularly-deadly disease?
FNC, with her “global perspective” would be likely to point out that the death rate from measles is considerably higher in poverty-stricken areas. Agreed. Just as it was here in the United States before modern methods of sanitation, which significantly lowered the transmission of disease, and the “safety nets” of social security, food stamps, Medicare and Medicaid, which have significantly lowered the levels of malnutrition and starvation in the U.S. People who are healthier to begin with are more likely to survive acute illness.
Logic would indicate that incidence of vaccine injury would also be much higher in a malnourished, poverty-stricken population. Autism was rare in Africa, but it’s on the rise. Oh, goody. Let’s export the disorder that a 2006 Harvard study indicates may cost the average American family with autism $3.2 million to countries with zero autism services and no disposable income. That’s what I call a “global perspective”!
In the U.S. the costs of autism typically include evaluations, intensive speech therapy, occupational therapy, behavioral therapy, extended years of diapers (it is common for a person with autism to have difficulty, sometimes extreme difficulty, potty training), special food (many people with autism are helped by a diet that is gluten and casein-free), and special doctors and protocols (good doctors that treat children with autism are few and far between; costs of doctor visits often include airline tickets).
Much of that cost is borne by the family of the person with autism, but a significant portion of that bill will be paid by the society at large, i.e., taxpayers. Many people with autism receive Medicare benefits and social security disability benefits. Many are likely to receive those benefits for life without ever paying into the system.
As the numbers of people with autism grow higher and higher, the burden for everyone else will get greater and greater. Special education programs are already straining their tightened budgets to try to help everyone that needs help. Large numbers of autistic teens are soon to “age out” of their current programs, leaving a huge gap in available services and the people who will need them. Any assessment of the risk-to-benefit ratio of vaccines is not accurate if it doesn’t take those costs into consideration.
If we were really serious about helping people in poverty-stricken areas, we might use some of those $39 billion being spent on vaccines this year to raise the standard of living in poverty-stricken areas by investing in sanitation, nutrition, clean drinking water, microloans to enterprising people, especially women, and building schools, especially for girls. (Full disclosure: “Narrow, short-sighted, dangerous” me has been contributing to Plan International, sponsoring one or more children in third-world countries, since the late 1980s, and my daughter has a Kiva account where she administers microloans to women in similar countries.)
According to FNC, it’s not “all about my precious children.”
So what is it about? It’s about “the health of the entire population.” Ah, I see! It’s not about my precious child, it’s about everyone else’s precious children. The (considerable) risks to my child’s health from vaccinating apparently don’t count, only the (rather low and remote) risks to other people’s children from not vaccinating. It is more important that measles be “eradicated” than that my (or your) healthy child remain healthy and avoid joining the two percent of the population with autism spectrum disorders, or the ten percent with asthma, or the eleven percent with ADHD.
Only people who get “vaccine-preventable” illnesses I guess, since those are the ones our mainstream media talks about when the subject of vaccines arises. But what of the children that get hurt or even die from vaccine reactions? For all the attention that they receive you would think they’d never existed.
(Little known fact: The original Raggedy Ann doll was created for a girl who died of a reaction to a smallpox vaccine at the age of 13. As a result, Raggedy Ann became a symbol of anti-vaccine activity.)
At the AutismOne conference this year it was my great pleasure to meet Karen Kain, mother of Lorrin Danielle Kain, who was injured by a “hot lot” vaccine at six weeks of age in 1994. After a life of tremendous physical struggle, Lorrin succumbed to her injuries and died in 2009 at the age of 15.
As Karen says, if vaccine injury was so rare, shouldn’t Lorrin be considered a hero for “taking one for the team?”
Yet that’s not how Lorrin was treated at any point along the way. Everyone wanted her to “go away.” Her petition in “Vaccine Court” was hotly contested. When Karen was finally compensated by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, she was told to keep her mouth shut.
Now if Karen were a different kind of person – one with a “narrow” or “short-sighted” view of the world perhaps – she probably would have kept her mouth shut. It was too late for her daughter; why wouldn’t she just take the money and disappear? Because that’s not the kind of person Karen is. Not only does Karen care about her child, she cares about your children, too. She does what she does out of love. She doesn’t want you to have to go through the same thing she went through. So she continues to go to conferences that bring up all sorts of difficult memories, she advocates for the rights of people disabled by vaccines, and she talks about her experiences. I defy anyone to read Lorrin’s story and pretend that Lorrin’s life didn’t count.
It’s the same for us Thinking Moms (and Dad). It would be so much easier for all of us to keep quiet about our experiences. Who would voluntarily set themselves up as targets for all the “pro-vaccine wackos” in the world, some of whom — Bill Gates, vaccine manufacturers and the federal government — have very deep pockets?
I’ll tell you who, someone who cares – and cares deeply – about other people’s children as well as their own. We share our experiences and our research in an effort to improve the health of the whole population. Actually, that’s exactly what the word “Revolution” in our name means. Revolutions don’t happen on the individual level; they happen on a societal level.
If we, the Thinking Moms (and Dad), took a “narrow” view of the world, we certainly wouldn’t be using so many of our resources that could be making our own children’s lives better to start a freaking revolution. But knowing what we know, we can’t bury our heads in the sand and pretend that our children are the only ones that matter.
In the words of Harry Bosch, Michael Connelly’s iconic detective, “Everybody counts or nobody counts.”
I choose everybody.
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