With Christmas comes winter, and it appears to have arrived late, but today it was 15 degrees on our morning dog walk. Wore the flannel-lined pants and it was pleasant — cold mornings frequently are, as long as there’s no wind. Wendy disagreed, and was pulling for home fairly early. When we got there, she stood in front of a heat vent, turning first one way, then the other, so both sides were toasted. And yet, she refuses to learn Down. This dog.
But it looks like it’ll be a beautiful, chilly day. Maybe I’ll put her jacket on and tramp around Belle Isle or something. I cleaned the basement yesterday, and earned some fresh air.
So. Yesterday we (Bridge, that is) ran an op-ed by an MSU professor who has made vaccines an area of study. Michigan has one of the laxest refusal laws in the country, and is starting to pay the price — a measles outbreak in Traverse City shut down a school for a week last month, and pertussis is coming back here and there. I imagine most of us here are pretty pro-science and don’t have to be persuaded of the efficacy of modern medicine, but even I’m sort of amazed by how strong vaccine refusal has become in this country, and no, I don’t think it’s because of Jenny McCarthy — the woman is a twit, and simply doesn’t have the following many imagine. But there are probably thousands who believe in organic this and natural that who don’t necessarily believe the autism link, but just “feel,” somehow, that the schedule is wrong or their little baby is too sensitive, or whatever. I see the same objections popping up in social media and on comment sites: What if you have an egg allergy? (The amount of egg protein in vaccines is infinitesimal, but if you’re so worried, have them done in a hospital, and how widespread are egg allergies, anyway?) Why are there so many vaccines, anyway? We didn’t get this many when we were kids! (Because there are more diseases that can be prevented this way — good news!) What if my child has a reaction? (They may well — my daughter did. She ran a 100 degree-ish fever for a couple hours, which I treated, bad mother that I am, with Tylenol. My point being, most vaccine reactions are very mild.)
We saw “Whiplash” a few weeks ago, and there’s an extended tight closeup of a young actress during one scene. All I could see was the chickenpox scar between her eyebrows. She’s young enough she could have gotten the vaccine; I wonder if her mother was a refuser, or took her to a chickenpox party, believing the immunity bestowed by actually getting the disease is somehow better than a shot. Well, she has a lifelong reminder that she got it the old-fashioned way.
Anyway, about the op-ed piece. This was fascinating:
Research shows that vaccine noncompliance is more common among better educated parents and among parents of higher socioeconomic status. Over the last decade their numbers have been growing. Today, nearly 40 percent of parents of young children report they have refused or delayed a vaccine that their children’s physicians have recommended, and more than 12 percent have refused or delayed one of the state-mandated vaccines. In Michigan, some of the lowest vaccination rates are found in the state’s most expensive and elite private schools.
“Education” as a remedy for parents who refuse to fully vaccinate their children is based on the belief that noncompliance is the result of misinformation or simple ignorance on the part of the parents. The best research on the subject shows that the mythbusting approach to increasing vaccine compliance often backfires.
In this month’s journal Vaccine, researchers reported that about 43 percent of Americans incorrectly believe the flu vaccine can give you the flu. After educating them to correct their misunderstanding, researchers found a significant reduction in acceptance of the myth. However, paradoxically, they found that their education campaign also significantly reduced participants’ willingness to get the flu vaccine. These findings are in line with other studies that have similarly demonstrated that correcting myths about vaccines is often not an effective approach for promoting immunization.
Teach them, and they’re less likely to get the flu shot than they were before? What’s going on here?
I think it’s a combination of things. I think, as contemporary modern life has shown us over and over that institutions, whether under threat or not, will always seek to protect themselves first — sort of an immune reaction, kind of a vaccine thing — individuals are reacting accordingly. We know big pharma, like all corporations, put profits first; why shouldn’t even a sane parent believe it’s not a factor in vaccine policy? We know the Catholic church protected pedophiles for decades; why not assume every priest is a threat until proven otherwise? And the government! Hoo-boy, once you’ve internalized the belief that the president is a pretender and your senator is a crook and all that by-the-people stuff is nonsense, can they possibly have the public good in mind when it comes to health care?
It’s an overall erosion of trust in more or less everything. Unfortunately, it will have consequences at the doctor’s office. And outside it — measles is one of the most contagious diseases known to man.
One bit of bloggage, on a similar theme: The Tragedy of the American Military, a sharp essay by James Fallows. Sample:
At the end of World War II, nearly 10 percent of the entire U.S. population was on active military duty—which meant most able-bodied men of a certain age (plus the small number of women allowed to serve). Through the decade after World War II, when so many American families had at least one member in uniform, political and journalistic references were admiring but not awestruck. Most Americans were familiar enough with the military to respect it while being sharply aware of its shortcomings, as they were with the school system, their religion, and other important and fallible institutions.
Now the American military is exotic territory to most of the American public. As a comparison: A handful of Americans live on farms, but there are many more of them than serve in all branches of the military. (Well over 4 million people live on the country’s 2.1 million farms. The U.S. military has about 1.4 million people on active duty and another 850,000 in the reserves.) The other 310 million–plus Americans “honor” their stalwart farmers, but generally don’t know them. So too with the military. Many more young Americans will study abroad this year than will enlist in the military—nearly 300,000 students overseas, versus well under 200,000 new recruits. As a country, America has been at war nonstop for the past 13 years. As a public, it has not. A total of about 2.5 million Americans, roughly three-quarters of 1 percent, served in Iraq or Afghanistan at any point in the post-9/11 years, many of them more than once.
So, the sun is blazing and I’m thinking it’s time to get a few chores out of the way, then go enjoy it. Enjoy your day, too.