A reminder: denialism is not politically specific

syringeby .v1ctor.


I approve of this:

*Washington State
[Via No More Mister Nice Blog]


I approve of this:

Washington State Makes It Harder to Opt Out of Immunizations

Washington State is home to Bill and Melinda Gates, champions of childhood vaccines across the globe. Its university boasts cutting-edge vaccine research. But when it comes to getting children immunized, until recently, the state was dead last.

“You think we’re a cut above the rest,” said Dr. Maxine Hayes, state health officer for Washington’s Department of Health, “but there’s something in this culture out West. It’s a sort of defiance. A distrust of the government.”

The share of kindergartners whose parents opted out of state immunization requirements more than doubled in the decade that ended in 2008, peaking at 7.6 percent in the 2008-9 school year, according to the state’s Health Department, raising alarm among public health experts. But last year, the Legislature adopted a law that makes it harder for parents to avoid getting their children vaccinated, by requiring them to get a doctor’s signature if they wish to do so. Since then, the opt-out rate has fallen fast, by a quarter, setting an example for other states with easy policies….

It embarrasses me that so much of this resistance to vaccination comes from our side of the political ledger:

Parents who refuse vaccines tend to be more educated, and often more affluent than the average, researchers say.

Jonathan Bell, a naturopathic doctor in Washington State who encourages his patients to vaccinate their children. Those who opt out, he said, tend to distrust the public health establishment because of what they see as its unsavory connections with the pharmaceutical industry. “The argument is, ‘Oh no, I’m putting off vaccines,'” he said. “‘I’m part of a group that’s smart enough to understand the government is a pawn of big pharma.'”


I’ve written about anti-vaccine denialism for some time. It follows very much the same pattern as creationist denialism – cherry-picking, false facts, etc.

As I’ve said before, facts don’t change people’s minds. People change people’s minds.

These people are not really making a bold stand against Big Pharma because the pharmaceutical industry makes a very small return on its investment with vaccines. Not selling vaccines has little effect on their profits or their incentives.

Anti-vaxxers are hurting our community, making it much more likely that declining herd immunity will result in outbreaks of communicable disease that will kill people. People who might very well have a different view of this vaccination controversy.

There are things we do as a society that do present risks to some individuals in order to enhance the lives of all of us. Seat belts might result in the death of some people by trapping them in a burning car wreck. But  that small likelihood is vastly outweighed by the benefits of saving so many lives.

Every time we get behind the wheel of a car, we take our lives in our own hands. But we balance that with safety precautions and engineering principles that are mandated by the government to protect us all.

Because crap happens no matter how good we drive.

The mandate is worth the inconvenience because the overall reward for society is great.

Similarly, lowering the risk to us all by spreading around a small amount of individual risk so that many in our society will live is an assessment that should be an easy one to make.

Because no matter how hard we try, children and the elderly will die if we don’t reduce the incidence of communicable disease.

Sure, modern sanitation and other approaches mean that not as many people will die but those unnecessary deaths will still occur.

And not having a vaccination means that those unvaccinated children are also at enhanced chances of getting the disease when there is an outbreak, completely negating any supposed benefit.

Pertussis in infants too young to be vaccinated is almost always fatal. Over 9000 people in the US died from pertussis every year before the vaccine. Japan let vaccination reates for pertussis drop to 20%. They were met by an epidemic that left 41 people to die needlessly.

Twenty percent of those who get the measles in the US have to be hospitalized! Without a Haemophilus influenzae vaccine, 1 in 200 children less than 5 years old got sick and 600 children every year died.

Before the pneumococcal vaccine over 60,000 people a year got ill from the bacteria.  After the vaccine, not only were the numbers cut substantially, but the level of disease in those either too young or too old to be vaccinated dropped precipitously. Twenty-five percent of children who become infected with hepatitis B die from liver-related illnesses that they would not have died from  if they had not contracted the disease. Twenty-five percent!

Herd immunity not only helps those who are vaccinated but also those who are not.

Parents forgoing vaccination for personal reasons simultaneously increases not only the death rates of their own children but also the rates for the innocent children of others.

Denialism kills. Anti-vaccine denialism kills children and the elderly.