Thursday, April 10, 2014

Spreading the Disease

by Allison Pang

By chance I found myself in the ER this week for about five hours. There's nothing quite like a hospital to make you feel like you're in a petri dish. No matter how much antiseptic is used, you're still surrounded by carriers. (And no matter how quick I hop in the shower when I get home, it's always a given I'll pick up SOMETHING while I'm there. If I'm lucky, it's just a cold. One time I went to get my lungs checked out and two days later ended up with a staph infection in my elbow that required some severely hardcore antibiotics to clear up. Go figure.)

Anyway, I was sitting there and waiting for my turn at the triage and noticed a young mother with a child maybe about 18 months. He was clearly not feeling well - terrible wheezing and running enough of a temp that the nurses actually brought him some liquid Tylenol. At one point a nurse came out to start some paperwork with the mom and was asking if the child was up-to-date on his shots.

The mom blithely replied he'd never been vaccinated.

I thought the nurse was going to implode on the spot, but I found myself watching this unfold and wondering if maybe I was at Ground Zero.

Not that I have much to worry about - I've been vaccinated, after all. But the "herd immunity" phrase that is so often touted in vaccine arguments does depend on the idea that everyone who can be vaccinated, should be - not only to prevent yourself from getting sick, but to protect those with compromised immune systems, the very young and the very old. (The theory being that if 90% of the herd is immune to a particular disease, the other 10% who can't be vaccinated will not be as likely to contract it, simply because the rest of the herd are not carriers.)

And I get that there was a study that came out declaring vaccinations cause autism and parents want to avoid that. Except that the guy who made that study has since backtracked and the study has been retracted. And now, we're learning that signs of autism are present in the womb. But people want answers, and it's easier to blame trace amounts of mercury, I guess. But the end result is that we've now got outbreaks of diseases like measles and whooping cough that were nearly wiped out in North America decades ago.

That's really a sort of simplified explanation, of course, but it's one of my hot-button topics. Sort of like people using anti-bacterial soap all the time. It seems like a good idea, but biologically speaking, all you're doing is creating super-bugs. Evolution under a microscope, my friends - wipe out all the weak bacteria, and you're left with those few mutants who are hardier than their weak-willed friends. With a more narrow gene-pool to work with, guess what you're getting? The X-Men of the bacteria world, essentially. More immune to drugs and soaps and whatnot, so we become forced to use stronger drugs, which then starts the whole process over again.

Due to over-prescription of antibiotics, we now have diseases that can no longer be cured. Remember the "clap"? It was a lovely STD that could be treated with penicillin to the point that people didn't care all that much about getting it. Not anymore.

And don't get me started on the HPV vaccine. (I'm not actually going to touch it right now since the inherent misogyny that is used as an excuse not to give it to daughters makes my blood boil and I don't have time for that.)


Get vaccinated. Wash your hands. Use protection.

And listen to some Anthrax.


  1. Unless the vaccination will kill you because you're allergic to a component of it, it's a damn fine bet that the side-effects are a whole lot less of a problem than the disease it's meant to prevent. Now, over vaccination? Different critter. Base immunity? In everyone's best interest. Unless you want your child to suffocate because Polio paralyzed the muscles that let the kid breathe.

  2. Absolutely yes vaccinations for pretty much the same reasons only less well articulated than Allison and Marcella have done. Thanks for a pretty concise description of "what the deal is" with vaccinating or not and why.