#antivaxxers  #healthcare  #doublestandard  
Issue 23
April 14, 2019
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Ironic indeed that the very message Anti-vaxxers are conveying – not to vaccinate children – increases the probability of what are trying to prevent: their child being afflicted with a life-long disability or even death. - TQC

Below is a sampling of serious diseases coupled with some corresponding symptoms. All are preventable by vaccine.

Measles: Death, Pneumonia, Encephalitis (swelling of the brain).
Mumps: Deafness, Encephalitis, Meningitis (swelling of the spinal cord and brain).
Diphtheria: Death, Nerve Damage, Myocarditis (damage to the heart muscle).
Pertussis: Death, Coughing Fits.
Polio: Paralysis in the arms and or legs.

As a result of a herculean nationwide effort to inoculate children based on a scientifically managed, strict effective schedule, these and other debilitating illnesses were all but eradicated in the United States. Unfortunately, because of scaremongering and misinformation underpinned by pseudo-science spread by Anti-vaxxers, these and other serious but preventable diseases are making a comeback.

Anti-vaxxers have been particularly effective in communicating a falsehood, namely that vaccinations cause autism and other developmental problems in children. Ironic indeed that the very message Anti-vaxxers are conveying – not to vaccinate children – increases the probability of what are trying to prevent: their child being afflicted with life-long disability or even death. Despite misguided warnings, there is not a shred of credible, objective scientific evidence that depicts a causal link between vaccinating children and autism. On the flip side, however, there is exhaustive scientific evidence and hard data that demonstrate vaccines are a safe and effective means of preventing diseases that can cause permanent disabilities or even death.

Not only are anti-vaxxers being reckless with their children by not vaccinating them, they are putting entire communities at risk. Vaccinations are most effective when over 90% of people are vaccinated. “This type of protection is known as “community immunity” or “herd immunity.” When enough of the community is immunized against a contagious disease, most other members are protected from infection because there’s little opportunity for the disease to spread.” Once the number of inoculated individuals drops below 90%-95%, a vaccine becomes materially less effective. Thus, a small minority of parents are putting entire communities at risk, not just their own children. This is selfish, misguided and dangerous.

Why would any parent knowingly expose their children to these and many other serious preventable diseases that might render their child permanently disabled or dead? Let us debunk some classic arguments from an Anti-vaxxers:

Anti-vaxxer argument: “Most autistic children I know were vaccinated.”

This argument demonstrates one thing conclusively; Anti-vaxxers are confusing correlation with causation. They are making the false assumption that just because almost every autistic child they know was vaccinated, that vaccination was the cause of the autism. Just because something is correlated does not mean there is a causal relationship. Simply put, correlation = two events are related. Causation = one event caused the other event. Again, just because something is correlated, does not mean there is a causal relationship. This is an oft repeated mistake. Still scratching your head? Here is a hypothetical example to help differentiate between the two commonly confused terms. Let us assume that somebody reads a headline in a newspaper that says, “study shows that people who wake up at after 8am live on average 7.2 years shorter lives than people who wake up before 8am.” A common mistake is making a (false) assumption that waking up late causes people to live shorter lives. Of course, this is incorrect. People who wake up after 8am are less likely to go to the gym. Going to the gym and living a healthy lifestyle enable people to live longer (causation), not waking up before sunrise. Anti-vaxxers arguing that vaccines cause autism is analogous to them arguing that waking up after 8am causes people to live shorter lives. While it may be true people who wake up later have shorter lifespans (correlation), the reason they live shorter lives is not because they woke up late, it is because the later they wake up, the less time they have to work out and be healthy.

Anti-vaxxer argument: “More children are being diagnosed with autism than ever before.”

The reason more children are being diagnosed with autism does not mean that the percentage of children that are autistic is higher now than it was 10, 20, 50 or even 100 years ago. The primary reason more children are being diagnosed with autism is that up until 20 years ago, the medical community did not fully understand what autism was and often failed to diagnose or misdiagnosed children who may have been affected. Therefore, the percentage of children who are autistic now vs. decades ago is similar. The difference is that professionals can now properly identify and diagnose autism; so of course the number of children who are autistic is going to increase.

Anti-vaxxer argument: “Vaccines are not effective. Children who are vaccinated also get diseases they are vaccinated against! Therefore, there is no logic in inoculating my child since he can acquire the underlying disease anyway.”

Vaccines are effective. Let us assume there are 250 students in a kindergarten class. 230 students are vaccinated against measles, 20 are not. There is a measles outbreak. Ten students become infected. Of the infected students, one received a vaccine, nine did not. Approximately 45% of pupils who were not inoculated became infected with the measles. Less than 1% of students who were vaccinated became infected. These types of situations play out repeatedly. But misinformed Anti-vaxxers often cherry pick a static data point and argue something along the lines of, “a student who was vaccinated got the measles, so, there is no point in vaccinating my child because even if he is vaccinated, there is no guarantee he won’t get the measles too.” Of course, the facts that are left out are as follows: Over 99% of vaccinated kindergarteners were protected vs only ~55% of unvaccinated children. Put another way, 45% of students that were not vaccinated became infected. No vaccine is 100% effective. But they are extremely effective and safe.

At TQC, we believe that if a child contracts an illness and dies as a result based on a decision made by parents who chose not to vaccinate, the parents should be charged with voluntary manslaughter. If a child contracts a disease and is rendered permanently disabled, they should be charged with a lesser offense. Furthermore, because vaccines only work if the vast majority of the population is inoculated, it could be argued that parents who refuse to vaccinate their children should be charged with endangering the welfare of all children, elders and others with compromised immune systems.

In 2013, a California man was charged with vehicular manslaughter when his car rolled over and two of his daughters that were unrestrained, were killed. In 2014 The NJ Supreme Court decided that failure of a driver to force a passenger to wear a seat belt could result in that driver being charged with a crime in the event of an accident.

Seat belts save lives. Science and data also clearly demonstrate that vaccines save lives. If a parent can be charged with a crime in the event of an accident or death for not forcing a child to wear a seat belt, shouldn’t a parent be charged with a crime if their child is rendered dead or disabled as the result of them making a conscious choice to not inoculate and protect that child?

Anti-vaxxers have been phenomenal in marketing their arguments. They have celebrities among their ranks who have given credibility to their far-from-credible movement. While they are factually incorrect, they do a tremendous job spreading misinformation. The silent majority - the people who are sensible and do vaccinate their children - must band together and counter hysterics and emotion with fact. Doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers must not be passive. They have a moral and ethical obligation to speak up, be persuasive and educate the masses to counter the false assumptions that a generation of misinformed Anti-vaxxers are disseminating and thereby contributing to a public health crisis.