Letters

Letters 8-18-2014

The Climate Clarified

Climate change isn’t an easy subject. A class I’m taking compared it to medicine in a way that was helpful for me: Climate scientists are like planetary physicians. Our understanding of medicine is incomplete, but what we know is useful...

Beware Non-Locally Grown

The article “Farm Fresh?” couldn’t be any more true than exactly stated. As an avid shopper at the local farm markets I want to know “exactly” what I am buying, from GMO free to organic or not organic, sprayed or not sprayed and with what...

Media Bias Must End

I wish to thank Joel Weberman for his letter “Seeking Balanced Israel Coverage.” The pro-Palestinian bias includes TV news coverage...

Proud of My President

The world is a mess. According to many conservative voices, it would not be in such a mess if Obama was not the president. I am finally understanding that the problem with our president is that he is too thoughtful, too rational, too realistic, too inclined to see things differently and change his mind, too compassionate to be the leader of a free world...

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The Value of Vaccinations

Rebecca Peterson - March 2nd, 2009
As a mother of four young children, I am alarmed by the current pertussis alert, which is due to low vaccination rates in our area.
Vaccination programs suffer when people romanticize nature. A few “natural but deadly” threats include: lead poisoning, polio and violent weather. Yet we protect against these. In the auto state we drive a lot. Not exactly natural. So I don’t buy the “natural” argument. Making it to age 60 is not natural. It is only thanks to nutrition, clean water, vaccines, and skilled surgeons that Americans live so long. Life expectancy in Kenya? Fifty-three. Botswana? Thirty-three.
Vaccine programs also suffer due to anti-government and anti-science sentiments, common in the extreme right and the extreme left. It is “conservative“ to privatize public health - to take this decision into one’s own hands. The issue of vaccination should not be politicized, however, because science is science and diphtheria kills people.
Some people feel that strict vaccination laws (which require public school children to vaccinate with little exception) are “socialist” and “oppressive.” What I find to be socialist and oppressive is polio. Talk about an iron fist! And let’s not forget the complementary iron lung.
In an urban area, there’s no need for conversations such as: “Is polio crippling and/or fatal?” (Yes.) or, “Is polio still endemic in six countries?” (Yes.) This is because city-dwellers are seated between people from Ghana and Peru every day on their subway commute.
Arthur Allen’s article, “Bucking the Herd,” suggests that “vaccination is a victim of its own success.” There’s a reason that diseases are less common today (at least in the U.S.). One nurse in the article explains that “when they’re real little, babies don’t whoop, they just stop breathing,” in reference to a baby who died after contracting pertussis from unvaccinated siblings. Another practitioner addresses parents who choose against vaccination: “That’s not avant-garde. That’s not enlightened.”
I find that failure to vaccinate one‘s children is myopic, not hip or natural. It is also trendy and irresponsible. Our kids are global citizens. Vaccination should be a group decision, not an individual one. The do-it-yourself attitude is dangerous when it comes to contagious disease. A truly “informed” decision must include the advice of global public health experts and epidemiologists.
Many parents base immunization decisions on anecdotes, fake science, and Internet misinformation. Look no further than Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who was recently caught manipulating data in an effort to link autism to vaccines. Notice that the billions of vaccine success “anecdotes” are ignored. Sadly, this is a polarized issue, which doesn’t help anyone in the end.
Blaming vaccines is akin to blaming seatbelts, sunscreen, or chemotherapy. Are people occasionally injured by these? Yes. Do we still use them for protection?
Why is it that occasionally even a vaccinated person contracts one of these diseases? As with any medicine, vaccines are not 100 percent effective (per individual). With claims that unvaccinated and vaccinated people are at equal risk during an outbreak, try to look at percentages, not numbers. Vaccines are effective when everyone shares the responsibility, the risk, and the benefit. It’s based on the idea that everyone is participating. Vaccination is the social contract.
Unlike Michigan, New York has very strict laws on vaccination and (lo and behold!) fewer outbreaks. Loose laws equal outbreaks. Communicable diseases prey upon unvaccinated populations. Therefore, states that have loose laws (unvaccinated pockets) see outbreaks. Unfortunately, it is strict laws and deadly outbreaks that compel people to vaccinate. Michigan has one of the highest exemptor rates (a result of loose laws).
Is there some risk in vaccinating? Sure. This is exactly why the parents who take that risk (by participating) may resent those who don’t. If polio stays at bay, then it is because the majority of us are vaccinated. Vaccinated adults and children (the herd) protect those people who cannot vaccinate - including newborns and patients with compromised immune systems.
The anti-vaccine movement asks us to “think twice” about vaccines. Listen, twice is not enough. Two is a sorry number of times to think about anything, let alone history’s greatest scientific discovery.
Myth: Contagious disease will never reach Northern Michigan. Just because I may not travel a lot, does not stop other people from visiting my area. International flights take off every minute of the day. Detroit Metro, Chicago O’Hare, Ann Arbor, Lansing, NMC, local farms -- these all have international traffic. In some areas, the migrant populations have had better immunization rates than the local, resident population. Arrogant, right? Read: “We locals don’t have to vaccinate, but, hey - can you foreigners go get your shots, por favor?”
The important focus is not on the people who break the social contract, but, rather, on the two million children who die needlessly each year of vaccine-preventable disease. Either you support the global eradication of these diseases or you don’t.
Please support your local public health department, who used your tax dollars tracking pertussis recently. Thank you for vaccinating.

 
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