On Vaccinations

       Hi there! Welcome to the club. You now have access to all that society has to offer—in other words, everything. You have access to our stores, our schools, our knowledge, our parks, our doctor’s offices, our infrastructure, our technology, heck—you even get to share our air. Well no, you’re not special per se—I mean, we allow virtually anyone to join. But, hey—you don’t have to carry a little card on your key ring or anything like that.

       Well, society isn’t free to join, exactly. You do have to pay for it, that’s part of the deal. (Just between you and me, a lot of people piss and moan about how much it costs, but when you think about all that comes with it—you know, like everything—it really is a pretty sweet deal.)

       Rules? Sure, there are rules. Every society has them. But there aren’t really that many—stealing isn’t cool, hurting or killing your fellow members is a big no-no—stuff like that. But really, when you get right down to it, there’s only one rule that you have to remember—you just shouldn’t do anything that isn’t good for the club. Pretty simple, right?

 

       Apparently, it’s not that simple anymore. A number of years ago, there was a scare surrounding vaccinations. A British doctor claimed there was a definitive link between the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine and autism. A minor celebrity jumped on-board, blaming the vaccination of her son for an immediate change in his behavior, and claimed he’d developed autism-like symptoms, which supported the doctor’s contention. Others told similar stories. In the span of an Internet minute, a proven, decades-old method of protecting our children was now in question. Could it instead be the cause of a sudden explosion of disorders that were actually worse than the diseases they were supposed to prevent?

       The reach was immediate and powerful, and it convinced some that a link existed. A mild mass-hysteria has been slowly simmering ever since. Never mind that the doctor has since been discredited, and his license to practice medicine revoked. Never mind that his study “sample” was a dozen kids. Never mind that he was being paid to manufacture these results for a pending lawsuit. Never mind that he was perpetuating fraud. Never mind that the aforementioned celebrity has since made millions championing her beliefs (whether real or imagined) in books and TV appearances that have cast the net of panic even wider. Now, after nearly a decade and thanks to a measles outbreak at Disneyland the pot is starting to boil over and is no longer on a back burner.

       I’ve kept my mouth shut for the most part, but my pot has been simmering too. There are those in my immediate family who are utterly convinced that the surge in autism, ADHD, ADD, cancers, mood disorders, MS, IBS (and quite possibly Ebola and spontaneous combustion) have been caused by vaccines. And despite all the evidence to the contrary, perhaps they're even right. There is something, or maybe many somethings, or many combinations of somethings that is causing a spike in these illnesses. And I’m willing to admit, as much as I doubt it, that it could be vaccines. There. I’ve said it. Are you happy now?

       I was called a “Vaccine-Injury Denier” the other day. If it was meant to hurt my feelings, it didn’t. On the contrary—I don’t deny them at all. There have been claims of injury proven in court, and compensation issued. It’s one of the Anti-Vaxxer’s favorite arguments: “Three billion dollars proves there's a problem.” Three billion dollars is the amount paid out by the pharmaceutical industry since 1988 in settlements and awards for vaccine related injuries that have gone to trial. A staggering amount, right? The pharmaceutical industry in North America made nearly $350 billion dollars last year alone. Over a twenty-six year period, that number would be in the tens of trillions. To me, three billion dollars is an incomprehensible amount of money. But to put it in perspective, their three billion is roughly the equivalent of a paperback book to someone earning $50,000 a year. Contesting these cases often doesn’t make any financial sense, so the companies involved often settle them, with little to no investigation. This doesn’t mean that they are admitting guilt; it simply means it makes more financial sense for them to buy a paperback than splurge for a hardcover.

       The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has compiled and maintained data regarding vaccine related injuries and compensation since 1988. Since then, there have been nearly 16,000 injury claims made, but it is difficult to find the total number of vaccinations that were administered during that twenty-six year period. However, a more recent data window can be used to estimate the real danger of vaccines. In the eight-year period between 2006 and 2013, 2.23 billion vaccination doses have been administered in the United States. During that same period, there have been fewer than 3000 claims of injury filed. There is an argument that number cannot be considered accurate, since many would have failed to recognize an injury caused by a vaccine, may not have reported it, or that symptoms may not yet have presented. Some estimate those 3000 claims may only represent about 10% of actual injuries suffered. Fine. Let’s multiply it by 10 then, shall we? We’ll even round up and call it 30,000 injuries. So, being generous, the danger of injury is .0013%—a touch more than one ten-thousandth of a percent, or a single claim per every 13,000 doses. Compare this to an average death rate of .1% for measles (one in every thousand), and while doing so, bear in mind that a claim does not necessarily an injury make.

       “Do a little research, there are hundreds of stories and websites out there.” Oh, wait—do you mean all of those webpages that come up when I do a Google search for vaccine injuries? Those with names like "vaccineswillkillyourkid.org" and "theboogeymanintheMMRvax.net?" You do understand that any idiot can create a webpage, right? The facts therein do not have to be checked or proven. One of my own webpages is the blog of a serial killer. And it’s fiction. As in not real. In most cases, those webmasters are no more doctors or immunologists, or scientists than I am a murderer. Most aren’t accredited, the “science” inside not peer reviewed. They borrow “facts” and stories that they’ve found on other sites that may be as factual as Winnie the Pooh. They don’t have to fact check. They are not “news” sources and are not obligated or required to provide you with anything resembling the truth.

       “Ugh, you’re one of them! You’re obviously drinking the Kool-Aid. You can’t trust the government or big-Pharma. They haven’t done any real testing of these vaccines.” I have yet to determine who “they” are, but I can only assume they’re rational, logical human beings that aren’t sent into a raving panic over the musings of a fraud and a Playboy bunny with great tits and bad makeup. But listen, I absolutely think there should be a healthy level of skepticism for the government and big-Pharma, and yes, even vaccines. I think in-depth, scientific, peer-reviewed research should be done and the results made public. If it turns out that there is a real and significant danger, then we should work toward making safer vaccines. I actually agree with Anti-Vaxxers on almost every single point except the most critical—in the meantime, you must vaccinate your children. Isn’t the devil we know far worse than a devil that might not even exist? We’ve seen the suffering of smallpox and measles and polio and mumps, and we know exactly how to prevent them. It is our obligation to do so.

       “108 children have died over the last ten years from vaccines. None have died from measles.” This may well be a factual statement. But it is also a totally irresponsible fear tactic. The MMR vaccine has so effectively eradicated measles that people aren’t getting it, and are therefore NOT dying from it. 108 kids may have died from the vaccination, but around 30,000 people didn’t die from measles because of it. Thank you for helping me to make my point.

       “Measles isn’t that bad. My granny used to have measles parties, just like chicken pox parties, then everyone’s immune!” So, you’d rather go back to a time when we intentionally exposed our children to a disease with a .1% mortality rate than take a .0013% risk that they might get autism, or ADD? You do understand how math works, right?

       “Why should you be worried about it anyway if your kid is vaccinated and therefore immune?” Vaccines are not 100% effective. “Aha!” Actually, neither is your birth control, which is unfortunate, since you should never have kids. There is a remote chance that someone that has been vaccinated will get the disease. There’s even a chance that someone that has had it will get it again. Immunity isn’t foolproof. And there are some children who, for a variety of medical reasons, cannot be vaccinated at all. Vaccinating almost everyone means that there are fewer opportunities to be exposed in the first place, creating “herd immunity”. This makes it exponentially more difficult to contract a disease by creating as few sources as possible. If there are only one or two unvaccinated kids out of a hundred, the likelihood of transmission is much smaller than if there are ten, or fifty, or ninety. Every single one of you that refuse to vaccinate your kids are not only making it more likely that your child will get sick, but you are increasing the pool of exposure that might make other kids sick in the process.

       “My only obligation is to MY child.” Well, that's not entirely true. See, as a member of that nifty club you joined called society, you agreed not to do anything that isn’t good for the club, remember? This isn’t really a “personal” choice that you are making. It’s a choice that has an impact on the entire community. That’s why there are doctors that refuse to treat your kids if they aren’t immunized. It’s also why most schools require proof of immunization before letting your kids learn cool stuff—like how in total the MMR vaccination has prevented an estimated 150 million cases of measles, and therefore 150,000 deaths. Math rocks.

       Forty-eight states currently allow parents to choose to refuse vaccination of their children for either philosophical or religious reasons. “See! You can’t make me!”  You’re right. You cannot (for the moment, anyway) be forced to vaccinate your kids. But then there is the question of whether or not you bear any legal burden for any injuries, illnesses, or damages that arise from that choice. “Hell no!” Not so fast. Consider this: you own a gun. You choose to keep that gun loaded and on a top shelf where your young child can’t reach it. You forget about it for ten years. One day little Johnny brings a friend over. They get a chair and climb up and find the gun. Johnny tragically shoots the other kid. Should you be held responsible? Absolutely. You chose to own a gun, and kept it loaded and unlocked. And though it is within your legal right to do so, your failure to take the precautions to keep your child and others safe would likely be found grossly­—if not willfully—negligent in a court of law. You could have kept the gun unloaded (read: vaccinated your child), or kept it locked safely away (read: not joined the club). The simple fact is, at some point—at this point—the prevention of the needless suffering of others must outweigh your philosophical recklessness.

       Can vaccines cause autism or death or other injuries and disorders in a group of people that might be genetically inclined toward those things? Perhaps. And maybe my IQ would have been 174 if my mother had never had me vaccinated. Maybe I would have been 7’2 and a star basketball player. Maybe I’d be dead from measles complications. We will never know. But there are hundreds of things that haven’t been thoroughly tested and investigated that might have stunted my genius or my growth. Do you use any form of medication whatsoever? Birth control, Ibuprofen, Tylenol? You are a hypocrite. Have you ever used a prescribed antibiotic to fight off an infection? Do you use herbal supplements (which aren’t regulated by the FDA and often don’t even contain the ingredients they claim to)? You’re a hypocrite. Do you know what chemicals are in your drinking water, and how the addition of chlorine and fluoride might affect your body long-term? Hypocrite. Do you eat any processed foods? Are any of them genetically modified, or have they been injected with hormones or antibiotics? Have they been sprayed with pesticides? Hypocrite. Do you fertilize your lawn? Live near a power plant? Hypocrite. Do you use a mobile phone or computer? Hypocrite. We don’t really know what the lasting effects of these things are on the human organism. What is known is that forty more kids will choke to death on their food this year than will die from a vaccine injury. Should we choose not to feed them, too? Everything we do, eat and use carries a small amount of inherent risk. Everything.

       That is the cost of living life. Yet you have chosen to champion the one battle that has the potential to unleash a host of diseases on the very society that accepted you without question. You are perpetuating a false hysteria without any real cause or proof. And in the process, you are stoking and spreading the nearly dead embers of a viral-firestorm to the very people that—in joining our little club—you agreed not to harm.

 

       So vaccinate your kids. That is a non-negotiable cost of membership.

 

       Or get the hell out.

 

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© 2014-2019, Daniel Schuette