The Hollywood Reporter recently ran a video story, Hollywood Vaccination Fail: Why L.A. Schoolkids are Getting Sick. While the report gives most of its airtime to those passionately pro-vaccines, I was happy to see a bit of lip service to those with alternative opinions about vaccinations as well.
The reactions to that story, however, have been anything but balanced. Take, for example, a story that ran in The Atlantic. Even its title and subtitle show not only a deep bias but are downright inflammatory:
Wealthy L.A. Schools' Vaccination Rates Are as Low as South Sudan's – Hollywood parents say not vaccinating makes “instinctive” sense – Now their kids have whooping cough
Comparing the Los Angeles vaccination rate to that of South Sudan is a cheap shot. Notice how the subtitle puts the word instinctive in quotes, as if to say, “Look how silly these Hollywood parents are, basing their decisions on instinct rather than science.”
The folks shocked by the low vaccination rate on LA’s Westside would have you believe that these parents (probably flighty, rich starlets) are carelessly putting their children's lives (as well as the entire community) at risk. A snipit of reality: Of the 183 total pertussis cases in LA County in 2013, 8 percent were individuals who had never been vaccinated. Experts say the number is not a significant factor in the spread of pertussis. (source)
From an article on MedCityNews.com: “Many irked pediatricians describe a parent profile defined by ignorance that’s sheathed in arrogance… These parents tend to believe hours accrued researching on the Internet and engaging in urgent conversations within their social circle give them the authority to debate the legitimacy of immunization with their child’s healthcare provider.”
Well, thank you for your condescending assumptions that only doctors, public service officials, and the media can form smart opinions about their our own children's health.
Maybe because this is my stomping ground, but I find it hard to believe that these folks – many educated and successful and not all movie-stars – are really that stupid.
Putting risk in perspective
From 2000-2011 more than 9,000 children aged 12 and under died in car crashes. In 2011 alone more than 650 children 12 and under were killed in crashes, which is more than a dozen children each week (source).
Can you guess how many people died from whooping cough from 2000-2012? That figure is exactly 255 deaths, barely 3% of the number of kids who died in traffic accidents. And yes, most of those pertussis fatalities were babies under 3 months of age (source).
What’s my point? The mere act of putting a child in a car is a heck of a lot riskier than getting pertussis – not to mention other vaccinate-able diseases that have had less prominent ‘outbreaks'.
The media makes you think there’s a epidemic of whooping cough in LA, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were more kids dying in car accidents than from all vaccine-preventable diseases combined.
Freedom of choice
I don't know about you, but I'm a bit tired of the endless debate and “us versus them” mentality of pro-vaxer and anti-vaxers.
For the record, I am NOT anti-vaccine, but I believe strongly that we should have the right to choose. That’s the beautiful thing about living in a democracy, right? We have freedom of choice.
The burden of choice is that we have to take the time and effort to educate ourselves on all sides of the issue and how the issue will affect those involved. Herd immunity is one of those concepts that give me pause…
A closer look at herd immunity
When people make an informed choice about not vaccinating their children, others call them irresponsible, not just because of putting their own children at risk, but because they’re putting other people at risk as well. This is where the mantra of herd immunity comes into play, and if you really look at the facts you will see that herd immunity is highly over-rated.
Not everyone can get vaccine-induced acquired immunity including infants, the elderly and the sick. Pro-vaxers say the way to protect those people is to make sure a critical mass is vaccinated to reduce circulation of the disease to those vulnerable populations. The magic threshold is to make sure 90-95% of the population is vaccinated.
Only recently have we figured out that vaccinations wear off pretty quickly. This little fact throws the entire idea of herd immunity into myth status, because all the vaccine-preventable diseases have been in sharp decline for decades before vaccines and even after vaccines which have been ineffective in creating herd immunity.
The recent bumps in pertussis and measles outbreaks are not necessarily related to a decline in vaccination rates. You can read more in this post: Herd Immunity and Vaccines – Are You Protected?
There is also evidence out there that whooping cough rates are basically the same in both highly vaccinated populations and populations with much lower vaccination rates. This could indicate a bigger problem you certainly won’t hear about from big pharma: Many of the vaccines on the market frankly aren't particularly effective.
Read more in this post… Was the Whooping Cough Epidemic Caused By Unvaccinated Kids?
How to be smart about vaccines
My advice, when it comes to vaccinating yourself or your own children:
- Do your own research to make your own informed decision
- Avoid making important health decisions based on peer pressure, trends or fads
- Support a healthy immune system with the right foods
- Develop a strong relationship with a holistic health practitioner whose advice and skill you trust
Do you believe that you should have the right to decide about vaccines?