One of Bridge’s content partners published a package on vaccination rates in Michigan last week. They are atrocious, in part because the state has one of the nation’s most lenient opt-out policies in the country. You don’t have to prove a religious or medical exemption, only philosophical. It’s as easy as signing a piece of paper, and many parents do.
What’s really surprising is where it’s happening. The more affluent the community, the more likely it is to have a higher-than-necessary opt-out for herd immunity to apply. Grosse Pointe is around 10 percent, similar communities ditto, but the jaw-dropper was Cranbrook. You political junkies may recall that’s where young Mitt Romney was educated. Nearly one-quarter of its kindergarteners are not fully vaccinated when they start school.
To be sure, the rate improves by sixth grade, suggesting many parents are following a more strung-out vaccine schedule, but still.
So it was on my mind when I read a story about a mumps outbreak in the National Hockey League, and reflected: This isn’t going to help.
Most of these players were vaccinated as children, but vaccines lose effectiveness over time:
A more complete explanation of hockey’s mumps conundrum involves something called waning immunity. Put simply, the vaccine loses strength over time. We know this because of some fascinating observational studies from the last major mumps outbreak.
In 2006, thousands of college kids in the Midwest became infected with mumps, despite the fact that most had received the vaccine. This phenomenon is called vaccine failure, and scientists divide it into two categories: primary and secondary. Primary vaccine failure occurs when the body doesn’t produce antibodies in response to the initial immunization, but this is relatively rare with the mumps vaccine. Secondary failure occurs when the body fails to maintain an adequate level of antibodies, despite having an initially strong response to the immunization. This is what we’re seeing in the NHL.
Back in 2006, researchers found that college students who came down with mumps had been immunized more than ten years earlier than roommates who didn’t contract the disease. A subsequent study confirmed this, revealing that protective antibodies were much lower in students who’d been vaccinated fifteen years earlier compared to students who’d been vaccinated just five years earlier. The takeaway here is that the mumps vaccine works, we just don’t know how long it works.
The anti-vaxxers will seize this information and use it to bolster their argument that vaccines don’t work, because see? Me, I’ll just take this as one more piece of evidence that no one trusts anyone anymore, and why would you? Ten years ago, I never would have believed my own government would set up shadowy offshore prisons where inmates were strung up and subjected to Black Sabbath music for days at a time. The sadder but wiser girl is me.
In other news at this hour, a member of the Michigan legislature slipped a bill into the lame-duck session to repeal the state’s no-fault divorce law. It won’t go anywhere, but as I expected, yes, it’s part of a national strategy:
In cooperation with the Family Research Council and the National Organization for Marriage, socially conservative politicians have been quietly trying to make it harder for couples to get divorced. In recent years, lawmakers in more than a dozen states have introduced bills imposing longer waiting periods before a divorce is granted, mandating counseling courses or limiting the reasonsa couple can formally split. States such as Arizona, Louisiana and Utah have already passed such laws, while others such as Oklahoma and Alabama are moving to do so.
The Michigan bill follows the template outlined in the story: No-fault is still available if you don’t have children, but if you do, the grounds are adultery, felony conviction, abandonment, etc. This, social conservatives believe, will help keep couples together, because no-fault divorce is “too easy.”
It so happens I know a number of people who’ve been through the no-fault divorce process, and even the amicable ones were hardly easy. The less-amicable ones were hell, and I can only imagine what they’d be like if one party was legally entitled to dig in his or her heels. When I see things like this, I wonder how many of these social conservatives are really divorce lawyers.
OK, gotta skedaddle. Happy Tuesday, all.