Vaccinations

Here is a good article about the anti-vaccination movement of late. By noting that culture, by no means do I throw my stock with the current medical establishment with its cherished infanticide money-maker. One nurse friend recently told me about an abortion performed at a local Seattle area hospital where the paper work said the baby was too inconvenient to keep. Trusty medical establishment; they’ll tell you all you need to know. But I digress already.

As of yet, no link between vaccination and autism has been shown. That first clause is likely the cause of much of the suspicion, like no one has found the cause because pharmaceutical execs have hidden the evidence beneath their piles of gold bullion. On this one, it’s better to think of the “yet” the same way they haven’t found the homosexual gene “yet.” It appears, all desperation to the contrary, that it doesn’t exist.

The question of vaccination is not whether one will take a risk but which kind. Paul Offit says it well: “The choice not to get a vaccine is not a choice to take no risk. It’s just a choice to take a different risk.” As far as we know (and a constantly changing scientific consensus ought to keep the “as far as” in there), vaccines don’t cause autism. As far as we do know, disease outbreaks do occur in the absence of certain vaccines. I cherish the fact that my wife runs an extremely low chance of dying in childbirth, and the fact that my kids are as likely to get struck by lightning as to get polio. I made that comparison up, but the fact that polio is so rare makes it plausible. And vaccination can be thanked for that. You either have be an ingrate or distractedly panicked not to be mindful of and thankful for these advances. Of course, this gratitude does not require signing up for every shot the federal government recommends. I heard Ron Paul, a politician (and doctor) I generally trust, that the last time the government handed out swine flu vaccines, twenty-something people died from the vaccine and just a few from the flu. There are good questions to ask your doctor, and any parent would be irresponsible to not ask for reasons and find out where those reasons lead.

I would love to see the government get out of the medicine business. Private industry, unhindered by their over-regulation, could no doubt do a much better job. But this doesn’t mean everything the government says is wrong, nor does the vaccine boogeyman Paul Offit appear to embrace just any vaccine. In 2002 when the war on terror was at a fever pitch and old ladies were being frisked at the airport in case they were jihadist Muslims, Offit voted down a small pox vaccine intended for thousands. Why? Because one in a million who got the vaccine would die, and outbreaks of small pox could be contained if they did occur. So the benefit of administering it were outweighed by the risks.

Most importantly, Christians ought not to make decisions based on fear, and they ought not to pretend that somehow their medical decisions are righteous. This is difficult because these topics, especially when the health of children is involved, are volatile. As I mentioned, the scientific consensus has not shown a link between autism and vaccines, but this is not to say the current consensus is ultimately correct, or that someone is an idiot for not following it. It’s more complicated than some people on both sides of these questions assume it is. What no one should do is let themselves be driven by fear and hysteria, somehow looking for ultimate peace in a medical decision. Your kid can still die no matter what you do, helmet, elbow pad, surrounding bubble and all.

2 Comments Vaccinations

  1. peterb

    While we’re on the topic, check out this article from the Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200911/brownlee-h1n1/3.

    The only thing clear to me about all this is that both sides (as presented in the Wired article) lack wisdom, the one thing necessary to make these sorts of decisions. Offit suggests that we could safely poke our kids 100,000 times. Does that seem right to anyone? And since when is modern science equated with rational thought? But then of course the picture of the guy smoking and complaining about all the toxins in the world is funny too. And ‘proving’ vaccines are related to a rise in autism would require more than anecdotes.

    I’m grateful polio has been largely eradicated, but Jerry don’t you think that article was not exactly an even shake? I mean these guys can’t ultimately prove that autism isn’t related to some vaccinations, and yet they’re so completely sure that people who want a more limited vaccine schedule are powered by fear. Isn’t the argument that “if you choose not to vaccinate your child, you are risking the health of mine” likewise fear-based and coercive? I mean, what if we discover that, say, the swine flu vaccines were actually making the problem worse and not better? If you grant that there is at least some chance a vaccine could actually harm your child, then vaccinating or not (depending on the particular vaccine and particular child) are equally scary options which both require faith. We must trust in God and not our own fallible choices.

    Looking forward to your (always insightful) response.

  2. jwowen

    Thanks Peter and sorry for the late response.

    Offit wasn’t recommending 100,000 vaccines, but was analyzing a person’s capacity, how much a body could take: “how many B cells, which make antibodies, a person has in a milliliter of blood and how many different epitopes, the part of a bacterium or virus that is recognized by the immune system, there are in a vaccine. Then, he came up with a rough estimate: a person could handle 100,000 vaccines — or up to 10,000 vaccines at once. Currently the most vaccines children receive at any one time is five.” I have not read tons about Offit, but the article shows how that ’100,000′ is taken out of context to falsely paint him as a vaccine monger. He was saying what the body could technically handle, not what anyone ought to do.

    In distancing myself from the modern medical (and scientific) establishment, I was distancing myself from this article (like its unthinking evolutionary assumptions), but the thing I agree with regarding the autism question is the placement of the burden of proof. There have been numerous studies (I’ve read a difficult few!) showing there is no link between vaccines and autism, but this, strictly, is evidence, not proof. Might it cause autism? Sure. But they’ve looked, and the link, to my knowledge, has never been nearly established. And yet there are many who won’t get many or any vaccines because it might cause autism.

    I agree entirely that fear can be used the other way, and I was trying to push against it on either side. Obama’s swine flu “pandemic” is a great example of hysteria. Parents are tempted to fear on both sides. Some want to follow whatever mainstream media or the government or the establishment says, and others are frightened and looking for anything to contradict them. Vaccines have proved a great blessing, and yet we also know there is a temptation to over medicate, and the government’s involvement should make everyone uneasy. As you say, trusting in God and making decisions in peace, not stress, is the critical thing. I suppose someone could be convinced vaccines are the path to autism and not be making decisions “in fear.”

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