Archives for posts with tag: vaccines

Humankind is a work in progress.

We’ve changed the planet we’re living on and we’ve changed ourselves.

We’ve invented the automobile and we’ve become more autonomous.
By driving we’re now able  to cover more space in less time, carrying a lot more with us.
To achieve that we’ve straddled the globe with seemingly endless ribbons of tarmac.
The changes which had appeared as a consequence of ‘automobile’ are enormous. Some conspicuously visible – the roads and our increased individual autonomy, a few less so – we’re not only more autonomous but also more ‘socially dependent’, building cars and maintaining roads depend on a lot of us ‘working together’, while ‘the jury is still out’ on yet others – global warming, for instance.

We’ve invented vaccines and we live longer and better. Small pox has disappeared, polio is likely to follow suit, being bitten by a rabid animal is no longer a death sentence and so on.
I don’t need to explain how this has changed us, right?

All these have come with some costs attached.
Thousands, if not millions, die each year in traffic accidents and many more are injured.
Children suffer side-effects after immunization.

What intrigues me is that we treat these two phenomena in two completely different manners.

We’ve introduced tough regulations when we’ve discovered that some car companies were cutting corners in their attempt to increase margins. We insist for wide-spread ‘call-backs’ whenever we hear about a batch of cars having systemic troubles. Some of us try to produce self driving cars – even if these would be somewhat ‘counter-productive’ – in our very orderly life, where many of us are reduced to following procedures, driving is one of the few areas where we still retain full responsibility.

Yet I don’t know of people dissuading their children from learning to drive or from buying a car. Even if some of them will, helas, die as a consequence of traffic accidents.

Then why so many parents refuse to vaccinate their children? Not only putting them into harm’s way but also extending a warm invitation for many diseases to make a dramatic come-back. Measles have killed tens of children in both Italy and my native Romania in the wake of recent anti-vaxxer militancy…

OK, there might be a back-lash against ‘big-pharma’. I can understand more indignation being felt against huge corporations profiteering from people being sick than against big corporations making a faster buck by selling ‘lemony’ cars… but why throw away the baby along with the bath water?

Why give away the shared safety of herd immunity instead of introducing better safety measures? Instead of cutting down to Earth the virtual monopolies which produce most of our vaccines, making it easier for the ‘safety inspectors’ to do their jobs?

One of the possible explanations being that vaccination is ‘prevention’ while learning to drive is a matter of improving one’s skills.

And prevention means paying the price up-front while having only an expectation for a possible pay-back while skills improvement is seen as something having a certain outcome.
Corroborate this with the ‘fundamental attribution error‘ and things become a lot clearer.

For those unfamiliar with this term, the whole thing boils down to how we tend to ‘apportion’ blame and praise. When something good happens to us we tend to attribute it to our skills while when something bad falls on our heads we blame the bad luck we had in that moment.
And this is only half the picture. When things happen to other people we tend to turn the tables. When something good happens to a guy we attribute it to his luck while when somebody is subjected to a misfortune we are inclined to believe that ‘he had somehow brought it upon himself’.

Hence we get sick only as a consequence of misfortune – but we consider ourselves lucky, don’t we? – while safety on the road depends exclusively on our driving skills.

In this situation blunt reason tells us to ‘let all the other children be vaccinated’, ‘constantly improve our driving skills’ and ‘check our cars often’.

Well, the same blunt reason tells the others the very same thing. That’s why they insist that all children must be vaccinated – individual ‘specifics’ must, of course, be taken into account, all drivers must be vetted and all cars checked periodically.

 

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“It is a very difficult decision for all parents because we live in a society that values profit over public health.”

“It’s more like listening to what other mothers were saying…
There was a … huge amount of evidence that it was harmful. Even if there weren’t ways that we could scientifically prove it, it was just talking from one mother to another.”

“Doctors do not do their own research, they are heavily brain-washed when they end school  with this idea that it is all good and then they do not question it much themselves”.

“A beautiful child went to have a vaccine and came back and a week later he had a tremendous fever, got very, very sick and now is autistic”

vaccine sceptic island

Well, the scope of this post goes way beyond the dispute between the vaxxers and the skeptics.

As a matter of fact, at face value all the four quotes I started with are spot on.

Most autistic children living in the so called civilized world have been immunized before having been diagnosed, both the doctors and the anti-vaxxers have been ‘brain-washed’ by their peers into holding to their current beliefs while very few of them have conducted any independent scientific research into the matter and yes, we do seem to live in a society which values profit over public health.

What next?

People are very passionate when discussing about their future and their rights.
As they should be.

Children are a very strong ‘avatar’ for our future while the rights to live and to freely dispose of our bodies two of the most important rights.

And this is where things get really complicated.

Some people advocate mandatory vaccination against the most dangerous diseases.
Some people advocate women’s absolute freedom to have an abortion – a few of them extending this right up to the last moment of the pregnancy.

Other people believe that vaccines are mostly benefiting the big pharma and choose not to immunize their children.
Other people believe in the absolute right of the fetus to live – so much so that some of them would even ban all contraceptive methods.

The ‘interesting’ thing here is how this four categories of people intersect each-other.

A lot of the people who advocate women’s right to have abortions also advocate the mandatory vaccination of children while a lot of people who consider abortion a mortal sin also consider vaccination to be inspired by the devil.

Now let me get this straight.
You have the right to ‘kill’ your baby inside the womb but you should not be allowed to let them die of a preventable infectious disease?
You are to defend a fetus, at all costs and against all consequences for the mother, as long as they inhabit the womb only to let them catch whatever preventable infectious disease might come across their path?

Consistency is over-rated?

We really need to restart using our common sense?

 
Scientific thinking gave us vaccines, planes, computers, plenty of food through higher yield crops and state of the art health care, among other things.
Most of us have decided that using computers is good, including for our children, despite the fact that many of them develop “Facebook addiction”, that planes are safe enough to transport us and our children from place to place and that antibiotics tainted beef isn’t that bad tasting after-all.
Simultaneously some of us decided, all of a sudden and after more than 200 years of successful and safe use of the method that vaccination is ‘bad for you’. No, almost none of those have yet given up the use of planes and still surf furiously on the internet in their quest to convince others of their new found truth. Some of them have indeed shifted to organic food, whenever they can afford it.
Meanwhile the Taliban have started to shoot down the health workers that work hard to immunize Pakistani kids against polio.

And all this came to be because some reckless people who should have known better started to misuse the principles of the same scientific thinking by:
– Trying to produce perfect assassins through the use of LSD,
– Building an eavesdropping net the size of the entire Planet,
– Producing so many almost poisonous food additives and by promoting almost useless but very expensive drugs that regular people have lost their faith in both big pharma and ‘regular’ food industry,
– By the CIA using a “a sham hepatitis B vaccination project to collect DNA in the neighborhood where” bin Laden was hiding in a failed attempt to find him.  (As we all know the good news are that they found him after-all, using more straightforward methods.)
The bad news are that if we don’t clear up our act people will slowly but totally loose their trust in what we now call ‘scientific attitude towards the world’.
And, in fact, the real question is not about where are science and technology headed to but what do WE use them for!

Vaccines work.
OK, there are exceptions. Some batches are botched, some people develop allergies, some viruses mutate so fast that in those cases vaccination isn’t very effective.
But as a principle vaccination works as intended.

Despite all that, some people choose to deny their children the protection offered by vaccines, without any specific reason – such as an allergy or something similar. Just because they have heard that vaccination may cause autism. Or other equivalent baloney. Against advice vehemently pressed by most doctors.

As a consequence, people have re-started to die. After contracting perfectly preventable diseases.

vaccination

I have a rather ambivalent attitude towards Ayn Rand. I admire her razor sharp mind yet I find her a little too callous for my liking.

But sometimes it’s exactly this combination of traits that helps her pin point the essence of a situation:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/01/the-new-measles/384738/

There is a intense debate going on in some circles about this subject.
Some think that vaccines are poisonous because some of them contain traces of mercury.
Some others believe that autism can appear, at least in part, as a reaction to certain vaccines.

No real proof has ever been presented for any of those assertions yet the storm is raging on.

Here is my take on this.

Basically we have two kinds of infectious diseases that can be prevented through vaccination.
Some that have high mortality rates or survivors are left with permanent damages: small pox, polio and rabies come to my mind right now.
Others that are milder or just a nuisance, for most people at least. Measles, mumps, chickenpox… Of course, there are people who develop serious consequences from having one of these, for instance mumps can be a real problem if had at an older age and chickenpox is really dangerous for pregnant women, but on the whole this second category is less dangerous than the first.
Now what I would really like to know is would anyone seriously consider not vaccinating their children for the first category of diseases IF MOST OF THE GENERAL POPULATION HADN’T ALREADY BEEN VACCINATED?

I know that there are some religious extremists who try to disrupt immunization against polio in their countries. This only fuels my dilemma: what does it really mean to be a rational human being?

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