Saturday, March 08, 2008

Herd immunity... to the Truth!

I was sick last week with one of the flu or cold viruses that's been going around. I didn't feel like doing much of anything besides sleep, so I found myself watching a news conference on CNN about vaccines and autism. The parents of a little girl with a rare genetic disorder had been awarded money from a fund the government set up to compensate victims of diseases caused by vaccinations.

Watching them describe how their little girl was normal and healthy until she got several vaccinations on one day, I waited for somebody to step in and provide a voice of reason.

After 20 or so minutes of parent vaccine-bashing, CNN did put on their science correspondent for 15 seconds, and he did point out that there's absolutely no evidence that vaccines cause autism. But I bet most people watching took away the message "vaccines ruined a little girl's life; vaccines are bad."

I didn't find out the child has a rare genetic disorder (her mitochondria are messed up) until I did a little research online.

I'm skeptical about a lot of things, but vaccines are not something that I'm skeptical about. Vaccines work. They work best when given to the majority of a population, so the population develops what's known as "herd immunity."

The anti-vaccination crowd are a bunch of non-scientific Luddites. They managed to get thimerosal banned from vaccines (because they claimed it caused autism) back in 2002. Did banning thimerosal (the mercury-based preservative) have any effect on the autism rate among children? No: none, zero, zilch, nada. The rate (and the increase in the rate) of autism is the same before and after the ban.

Do they give up and say "gee, sorry, I guess we were wrong about vaccines causing autism-- I guess all those scientific studies that said there is no link were right" ? Ummm, no. Like fuzzy-thinkers everywhere, they stick to their bad ideas because "it happened to my sister," or "science doesn't know everything," or "it's all a Grand Conspiracy!"

I'm generally a very tolerant person. I think the world would be a better place if everybody was rational and clear-thinking and open-minded. But if you want to believe in astrology or UFOs or ghosts, then that's OK with me; it doesn't do me any harm.

But all those people who decide not to vaccinate their children do harm me a tiny little bit-- they make it a tiny bit more likely that my kids will get sick. It's the herd immunity thing; not everybody who gets vaccinated is immune, but vaccinate a large enough percentage of the population and epidemics can't happen. I don't want your kids in school with my kids unless they're vaccinated.


Anonymous said...

The study on autism is misleading, because thimerisol is still in the vaccines. Of course autism rates haven't dropped if only a small amount of vaccines don't have thimerisol. This quote is from the cdc's own website, I am not making it up:

"Today, all routinely recommended licensed pediatric vaccines that are currently being manufactured for the U.S. market, with the exception of influenza vaccine, contain no thimerosal or only trace amounts. Thimerosal preservative-free influenza vaccines are available, but in limited quantities. The total amount of inactivated influenza vaccine available without thimerosal as a preservative will continue to increase as manufacturing capabilities are expanded."
See - it is still in most of the flu vaccine. There is a small amount made without the themerisol, and most people don't know to request it. Legally they can say the removed it, because they did from a small amount of the vaccines. Look, obviously vaccines are great in principle. However, themerisol is toxic, it can kill you in high doses. There have been no studies on the effect of giving thimerisol to humans, but ingestion of mercury leads to a lowering of I.Q.

Anonymous said...

Also - this year's vaccine wasn't a good match for the current flu strains - "This season, the vaccines missed: Of the three viruses contained in the vaccine, one did not match the actual flu virus at all, and a second matched only partly"

By the way, my kids did get the flu shots, plus all vaccines and show no ill effects. But who knows if it reduces their IQ? However, if someone choices to not go along with the "herd", that is their choice. We got whooping cough even though we were all vaccinated anyway. And, if you have your shots, what are you worried about your kids going to school with un-vaccinated folks? Or is it just your "herd" mentality?

Here's some good advice on the side: get out of the dollar. Gold is over $1000 today.

Gavin Andresen said...

"Only a small amount of vaccines don't have thimerosal?"

Do you have kids? By the time a child is 1 year old, if you give them every recommended vaccine, they've had:


I suppose you could argue that any tiny TRACE of mercury causes autism, but there's absolutely no evidence for that belief.

As for "there have been no studies on the effect of giving thimerosal to humans": there have been several large, peer-reviewed studies comparing children who got thimerosal-containing vaccines and those who didn't.

I am not an expert. For an expert debunking of the anti-vaccination crowd, see: