Saturday, November 06, 2010

The Vaccine Wars

This is what's on my mind lately.

If you have a comment, keep it civil.


Jeannette said...

Reminds me of my sister who wont vaccinate her daughters for HPV b/c it's a sexually transmitted disease.

And you know, becomes a deadly cancer.

Dan said...

Is it only transmitted sexually or is it also transmitted sexually? If something's only transmitted sexually, I could see the logic behind not vaccinating (ie the baby's not sexually active, no need to vaccinate during critical developmental period). I think that's the prevailing logic behind the popular refusal to vaccinate against hep b.

Jeannette said...

It was my understanding that the governor of Texas said all girls need to be vaccinated to graduate high school. People were angry. You can only get the vaccine before age 25. Girls and boys can get it and it protects against cervical and anal cancers that can be brought on by sexually transmitted HPV.

My nieces are around 10, so I know my sister doesnt want them to be sexually active, so therefore thinks they shouldnt be protected. The right-wing Christians/anti-vaccine crowd in Texas is calling this a STD vaccine that kids dont need cause kids dont have sex. No one is talking about what HPV is. The reason women have to endure pap smears every year is to make sure they dont have cervical cancer from HPV.

As long as it is safe I think children should get it. And maybe some of these christian groups dont believe in it (two married virgins being monogamous cant spread STDs) and that's why the government wants to come in and force it, for the protection of the children.

I dont know how accurate the information I have on this is, it's kind of what I've pieced together through wikipedia, my sister, the news, and Dan Savage.

But you must be in a position now to have to think about whether or not to vaccinate. I say do it, especially in the USA where you arent left with six dot scars on your arm (like they still are in Japan).

Dan said...

I think it's probably a lot safer for 10 year olds than newborn babies. A lot of the concern around vaccinating babies is that their brains are in a critical development stage. By 10, the brain is largely developed I think. Some people are choosing to delay the vaccination schedule to get past the critical development stage, but that too is very unpopular with medical and governmental health establishment because of the risk of losing the herd immunity. Is the vaccine safe for you and me, yes. Is it safe for 10 year olds, yes, probably. Is it safe for infants, probably, but ... you don't want to be that one that has immune system difficulties in fighting off whatever pathogens are in the vaccine which might lead to neurodevelopmental difficulties. The reason it's not 100% east to dismiss - and it really should be considering all the science lining up behind vaccinations - is because of all the incidental evidence, the stories of people having their kids get vaccinated and then regressing developmentally. Emotionally it just hits you in that place in the guy where you're like, hmmmmmmm, man I hope that doesn't happen to my kid, and that place in the brain where you're like, the government doesn't really care about my particular kid. But then you think about how much it would suck for your kid to get whooping cough or polio. The science is pretty firmly behind vaccination. But then they hedge ever so slightly and you say "what? ... what was that last thing? ... is it safe or not?"

I'm leaning heavily towards full vaccination though. Even with a genetic predisposition to autism in my family.

Dan said...

btw, you're officially my only reader now. We can essentially treat this blog like an email portal, or "tube", as it were.

Jeannette said...

I almost thought I shouldnt write all that on a public forum, but then considered, nobody's reading this, right?

I also want to add that my sister once said to me she doesnt believe in evolution because, then why are there still monkeys? So I would always do the opposite of what she thinks is right.

Jeannette said...

Once of my students this week was sick with mumps, and I was like, I dont think we get that in America anymore.

Especially now with people traveling and NOT vaccinating, vaccinating is maybe more important. You have to look at the numbers and see does your child have more of a chance of getting autism from vaccines (unproven?) or sick from a preventable disease.

Dan said...

Yeah, don't worry about it. This is just a rough draft for the giant argument I'm going to have on facebook!

To give you an example of the extremely frustrating hedging going on in the dialogue, check out this rejection of the vaccine-autism link on the respectable source, autism speaks: (there are a lot of sketchy autism sources out there) The group's chief scientist doctor spokeswoman basically rejects the entire idea of a vaccine-autism link in this article, but then says this a couple times in the middle:

"It's important to keep in mind that the lack of a relationship between vaccines and autism in large population studies does not mean that there cannot be any relationship in some individual instances. Immunizations can, in rare cases, have adverse consequences; this is well-known. It remains scientifically plausible that the challenge to the immune system resulting from a vaccine (or other immunological challenges) could, in susceptible individuals, have adverse consequences for the developing brain."

see how that could be frustrating?

Dan said...

Your sister is Christine O'Donnell? That woman really needs to start masturbating.

Your point about traveling is totally valid. People are like, oh the mumps don't happen here, polio doesn't happen here - that's because we get vaccinated! If people travel here with mumps and big pockets of us aren't vaccinated, they're going to start getting mumps.

Dan said...

I seem to be mixing up my t's and y's when I'm typing this morning. Or should I say ytping. I think there should be a spelling vaccination. Think how much we'd save on spellcheck technology.

Jeannette said...

Dont worry, I'm back to my old drinking vodka and net surfing (circa '07) and didnt even notice the spelling mistakes.

Is it all a lot of fuss about nothing? Do autism and other disorders start showing themselves coincidentally around the time when children are first vaccinated? Did they eat a non-organic strawberry? I do think it is an important decision for a parent (if I have a kid in Japan I dont want 6 scars permanently on their arm, though), but the people who opt-out of vaccinations just come off as selfish and somehow elitists who think their child is too good for what most of the population does to keep us all plague-free.

You and I got our shots, though. And we're fine, right? Other than the drinking and spelling?

Dan said...

Oh, yeah. I guess it is vodka time over there. No saki? Too soft?

There is a good possibility that there is coincidence happening in some of these cases of developmental disabilities setting in around the same time as the vaccinations. Correlation doesn't imply causation. And the symptoms of mercury poisoning are different from the symptoms of autism. And yes, there are certain symptoms related to severe reactions to allergens that are not the same thing as autism. So, there's probably a lot of misdiagnosis going on. And there's a lot of misinformation going on. I read quite a bit anti-vaccination information on the internet and much of it keeps coming back to the same few cast of characters who have at best demonstrated a certain looseness with the data and facts and at worst have been completely discredited, had their research retracted by medical journals, and have been described as dishonest and irresponsible. Then their misinformation seems to have filtered through the minds of the likes of Jenny McCarthy, who is a celebrity best known for her tits and for picking her nose.

So, you consume all this information and misinformation, make your judgments and assessments, come to a decision, and then read a hedge like the autism speaks' scientist writes, which throws you back into uncertainty. You can call it selfish and elitist, but keep this in mind: the government and medical establishment (CDC, NIH, etc) have a singular purpose: the general health of the population. Their concern is stopping epidemics, and rightly so. But, consequently, they're not overly concerned about any side effects of the vaccinations because of the greater good calculation that they do. As a parent, your singular purpose is the health and safety of your child. I hate to be subject to the American bunker mentality, but my main concern is my child and if there are legitimate risks associated with vaccines, I'm going to be reticent to have my kid "take one for the team".

Like I said, definitely leaning vaccinate. And I do think that the autism speaks hedge may be a legal one. One could read between the lines and hear "there's no link, there's no link, there's no link, but we just have to put this disclaimer in here so we don't get sued, but there's no link." And they definitely recommend vaccination despite the hedge. But even then, there's a little more hedge, or a "punt" more accurately. Note the last sentence:

"Let me be clear: Autism Speaks fully supports childhood immunization and strongly encourages parents to vaccinate their children. Our vaccine program is one of our nation's most effective programs for preventing serious infectious diseases. If parents have concerns about the safety of vaccines, we encourage them to find a pediatrician with whom they can ask their questions and establish a trusting relationship. Working with their pediatrician, we trust that parents can make thoughtful decisions about their child's health.”

The catch is, of course, that the pediatricians are very much an element of the establishment - the mouthpiece of the CDC/NIH/etc to the majority of parents. Am I being paranoid? Maybe, maybe not. Really, I think I'm just wrapping my head around the concept of being responsible for a helpless human being. Every parent is just trying to do what's right for his/her kid. I don't think that's selfish or elitist. I think you'll find as many Don Imus listening conservative Christians in Texas not vaccinating as you will yogi hippie wheat grass drinkers in Berkeley or Cambridge.

Jeannette said...

Yeah, I think the conservative Christians dont vaccinate if it implies their child will someday be having sex. The same reason they dont teach their kid what a condom is.

The hippie wheat grass drinkers in MA dont it for the same reason they spend $3 more on organic peaches, because nothing less than perfect can touch their sweet baby's lips. (How have the common people survived all those years?)

All those babies will go out and have sex and eat McDonald's someday anyway. Maybe at the same time.

I do think youre doing a good job researching and trying to feel comfortable about whatever choice you end up making.

Next post: to circumcise or not?

Dan said...

Next up on the chopping block: circumcise or not!

yes, that's being debated as well. Not really debated. mulled. Beth has deferred to me on this issue on account of me having a penis and she not. I don't really know how I feel. I see no reason to do it and no reason to not do it. When you cut away all the religious, health, and debatable sensitivity reasoning, it may just come down to the popular argument of "a boy's penis should look like his dad's penis". Or not. I don't really know how I feel any which way you slice it. (or not)

Next up for real: Boston Public School System. As bad as they say? Worth moving?

Dan said...

Did I really just spend a paragraph talking about my penis? That's awfully non-Irish-Catholic of me.

btw, we don't know the baby's gender, so it may be a non-issue.

Jeannette said...

If it's a girl I say dont circumcise. I know it's not *hip* or *popular* but I stand by my opinion.

But can I say a lot of countries dont do it routinely (Canada, Japan, Antarctica) and you should *not* care what your son's penis looks like, but should care whether or not he has to endure a useless medical procedure in infancy.

And the woman's opinion totally counts. Women are the ones who gotta deal with it later on.

As far as Boston Public schools, wasnt there a Boston Public TV show? I say Netflix it and then make an informed decision.

Dan said...

I'm confused. Are you recommending circumcision or not? I think the argument about caring about the father and son's penis looking the same is more about the son caring, not the father. Useless? maybe. Men certainly live, love, and survive with or without it. Some suggest there are hygiene and health benefits, others downplay that. Some say there is less sensitivity, but how does anyone really know? Men orgasm either way. And what do women think? I thought surveys showed they preferred circumcision to not.

Dan said...

Here's an article that suggests it's a coin toss on a number of levels:

Jeannette said...

I dont agree with it. I was just giving you both sides. Leave the body how it is when youre born!

I think American women may be used to circumcision, so they prefer it. But I dont think it's that complicated to figure out what to do with the foreskin. Like ask Beth, "do you find it very off putting or do you not give a shit?" That may help you find the answer.

Are you waiting til the baby is born to find out the sex or is it too early? How exciting!

Dan said...

Well, one thing is for sure - I'm much less concerned about this question than the vaccination question.

We are waiting, yes. There aren't too many surprises in life and this seems like one of the best ones.