Vail Daily column: Vaccine: Not a 4-letter word
May 1, 2014
A simple "yes" or "no" question: If you could perform an act 99.99 percent guaranteeing that your child would not die from a particular disease, would you do it?
Go ahead, take your time, it's only hypothetical.
If you answered "yes," then not only do I thank you, but your child will as well, if not verbally at least through their continued existence.
If you answered "no," not only do I publicly declare you an official American imbecile, but you should be arrested and prosecuted for potential child abuse.
Yet my opinion should be the least of your concerns.
Over the past century and a half, 200 million human beings have died from a virus known as the measles.
That's a whole lotta dead people.
When a comprehensive vaccine was introduced in the early '70s covering the three biggies — measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) — death rates plummeted in the U.S. to the point that measles were all but officially eradicated by the end of the century.
But then an unethical British quack named Andrew Wakefield published a study claiming the MMR vaccine "might" have a connection to rising numbers of autism cases.
Well-meaning parents of autistic children took notice and demanded more research be conducted, with the unfortunate side-effect being that many other parents began refusing to vaccinate their kids based upon the unsubstantiated fear, and as you can guess, the death tolls began rising all over again.
But before I continue, realize that a few years later Wakefield was found guilty of falsifying data in order to fit a desired conclusion and was stripped of his license to practice medicine. The hypothesis that MMR caused autism was declared fraudulent, and Wakefield is now living in Texas pushing homeopathic medicine (read: watered-down to the point it needs no FDA approval) to the gullible.
MEASLES ON THE RISE
And now, thanks to people for some reason listening to part-time faux celebrities like Jenny McCarthy and Alicia Silverstone, there have been more cases of measles in the first four months of 2014 than the first four months of the last 18 years combined.
Even if we overlook a few completely preventable deaths here and there (not exactly an easy thing to do), the concept known as "herd immunity"(the vaccinated, when in sufficient numbers, can help the unvaccinated from being exposed) is put to extreme risks.
There's always a few supernatural world believers who refuse to protect their kids because some mythological entity has "told" them not to, and immunizing the remaining "herd" luckily helps protect them too, but with more and more having nothing but ignorance as an excuse, all of our kids are potentially unprotected. I should also include the conspiracy theory nuts who refuse to vaccinate their children because it's all a government plot to control our brains.
Remember, no matter how many folks believe something foolish, it's still foolish.
Anyway, vaccines are not perfect, and there is always the slightest of possibilities that a disease can still be contracted, so yes, the biggest reason I want you to vaccinate your child is purely selfish. I simply don't want your unvaccinated child to threaten the health of my child or any of his friends.
Not so hypothetical after all, is it?
Richard Carnes, of Edwards, writes weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.