There Is No Vaccine Debate

I’ve had it with the debate over vaccines. HAD IT. By and large, vaccines are safe. Decades of scientific studies have shown us that. Polio, smallpox, diphtheria, yellow fever, tetanus, whooping cough, and measles were all but eradicated by vaccines. Since the late 1990s, whooping cough has begun to rear its head again. In fact, there are affluent areas of Los Angeles with lower vaccination rates than Sudan; there’s also a resurgence of whooping cough in those pockets of privilege. And you’d have to be living under a rock to be unaware that measles is setting out on its comeback tour.

Color Photo of the Measles Virus

Measles: The Comeback Tour, with Pertussis on Bass!

Generally, I find the anti-vaccine contingent to be willfully ignorant, although lately I find them patently dangerous. Today, in my Facebook feed, I saw a rant from a former classmate. She was going on about labeling people as anti-vaxxers because they have a family history of vaccine sensitivity or they are immune-compromised and a vaccine could prove very harmful. She couldn’t be more wrong.

Those with these concerns should be more pro-vaccine than the average person. Vaccine-sensitive and immunocompromised people rely on everyone else to be vaccinated in order to avoid these diseases. When members of a community are vaccinated, they do not spread disease, therefore the compromised are not in considerable danger of infection; this is known as Community (or Herd) Immunity. When large swaths of a community willfully refuse vaccines for junk-science, philosophical, or religious reasons, they are putting the most vulnerable in danger. In response, there are anti-vaccine advocates who are now basing arguments on the term “Herd Immunity,” because they believe it implies that their special little snowflakes are like cattle. I’m not even going to link to this ridiculousness. Rabies is nonexistent in Hawaii, and the state does not allow new animals into its borders until after a strictly-enforced quarantine period, because without it, one infected animal could be admitted and REINTRODUCE RABIES TO AN ENTIRE STATE. Hawaii is protecting its herd.

In my experience, anti-vaccine proponents are the most vocal and aggressive about pushing their views on others. I’ve also noticed that they tend to be parents. These bullies believe that if you don’t have children, then you don’t have a horse in this race. Absolutely untrue. We may not have offspring, but we do have family, friends, and loved ones who have true issues with vaccines and rely on community immunity to stay healthy (or alive), rather than basing our beliefs on a widely discredited paper, that was actually described as fraudulent. Procreation does not equal expertise, which seems to be lost on this lot. When you reproduced – as every creature from amoebas to mice do – you were not granted infinite wisdom. Sorry, but you weren’t. And siding with other parents solely because they’re parents doesn’t make you an expert – it makes you a thug. Of all people, you should think of the individuals who will be harmed by your decision; if you need a touchpoint, read Roald Dahl’s plea for vaccination, which he wrote after a childhood bout of measles killed his young daughter. For global perspective, Melinda Gates would be happy to school you (she knows a little about vaccines, as her family foundation is dedicated to making them accessible in third world countries).

Vaccination is a public health issue. They aren’t perfect, and not everyone can physically tolerate them (and so should not receive them), but the benefits greatly outweigh the risks. Those who choose to eschew it should be prepared for a backlash, and bear in mind that it was their choice. The rest of us have the right to keep ourselves and the ones we care about healthy; it doesn’t make us bullies, it makes us pragmatic.

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