February 4 – Vax Populi

Today’s factismal: The fastest way to stop using vaccines is to get more people to use them.

Life is full of paradoxes. And science, even more so. For example, if you speed up while travelling in space, you’ll end up slowing down because your extra energy of motion will be turned into energy of position, moving you higher up where things take longer to complete an orbit. For another example, consider how clearing out the underbrush in a big forest will prevent small fires but create the perfect condition for larger, more destructive ones. Or think about how if we want to stop using vaccines, we have to make everyone use them.

The best example of that last paradox is smallpox. That deadly disease once killed or maimed millions of people each year; today, it is but a fading memory thanks to vaccination. This happened because of a decades-long effort to vaccinate everyone in the world who was susceptible to smallpox. When an outbreak would happen, the scientists would rush to the surrounding communities and vaccinate everyone there creating a “ring vaccination” that prevented the disease from spreading any further. And by vaccinating as many people as possible, they created a herd immunity that kept the outbreaks small and manageable. Every year, they closed the rings and the outbreaks became fewer and smaller until in 1980, smallpox was declared extinct.

A simplified view of herd immunity

A simplified view of herd immunity

But an effort like this can’t stop halfway; we can’t assume that just because a disease has been eradicated in one place that it can’t come back. As long as any place on the globe hosts a disease, it can always come back. Sweden and whooping cough (pertussis) is a terrible example of that. In 1953, Sweden began vaccinating children against whooping cough using a “whole cell pertussis vaccine”; unfortunately, after two decades, the vaccine that they were using was no longer effective and Sweden stopped vaccinating. They thought that because it was no longer found in Sweden, they were safe. They were wrong. In the ten years since the vaccination program was stopped, whooping cough roared back and some 61% of all children in Sweden came down with it – simply because they had stopped using the vaccine before the disease was extinct!

So the lesson should be clear. We can either have diseases that kill and maim millions of people each year or we can have vaccines. And if we have vaccines, then we have to use them consistently and completely and we can’t stop until the disease is history. And once that happens, we can finally stop using the vaccine. So the fastest way to stop using vaccines really is to get more people to use them.
If you’d like to get involved in the program to stop polio using the vaccine, then why not head over to Global Vaccines? They are using their profits from vaccines in countries like the USA to pay for vaccinations in poor countries:

7 thoughts on “February 4 – Vax Populi

  1. I don’t think anyone is questioning the overall benefits of vaccines or that they shouldn’t be used. It’s the stuff that’s in them that concerns people. This is what people are concerned about: A ‘clean’ vaccine for some people, and a aluminum and formaldehyde-packed vaccine for the rest of us. Anything else is just a straw-man argument. http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/second-class-medicine-germans-unhappy-with-alternative-swine-flu-vaccine-for-politicians-a-656028.html

    • Sadly, there are a lot of people here in the US who do question the effectiveness and need for vaccines. You are right that politicians should be given the same vaccines as everyone else, but that isn’t the main argument here. Here people who have forgotten that 400 children a year died from measles in the US alone think that there is no need to vaccinate and fear the vaccines because they include things to keep them sterile.

      It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

      • Are they questioning the need for vaccines? Or are they questioning what’s in the vaccines that’s causing damage? There’s no doubt that vaccines have caused permanent injury to some who take them. Case in point, the US government awarded $3 billion in damages as a result of vaccines (companies themselves can’t be sued due to special legislation). It’s right here: http://www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation/statisticsreport.pdf Keep mind mind that this is ‘passive’ reporting of problems. If someone went out to look for total damage, it would likely be much greater.

        The question concerned parents are asking is; is it worth the risk? We don’t really know what the risk is because various lobbies continue to cover up the harm and prevent parents from suing the companies themselves. We just know the risk is there and that it is significant enough for the big pharma lobby to demand blanket immunity. At this point, it’s up to parents themselves to decide whether this is a worthy risk to take, period.

      • That’s where you are flat wrong. We do know what the risks are of taking vaccines. We also know what the risks are of not taking vaccines. And the risks of not taking vaccines are much, much, much greater than the risks from taking vaccines.

        Anti-vaccination folks want the world to be safe. It can never be safe. It can only be more safe or less safe. Taking vaccines makes the world more safe. Not taking them makes it less safe. It is that simple.

        And if the only person harmed is the parent, then they have every right to take the risk for themselves. But that isn’t the case as the Disneyland outbreak shows. When people refuse vaccines, they put themselves and other people in danger. That is not acceptable in a modern, interconnected society.

        It used to be that people didn’t want to wear seat belts. They viewed it as an infringement of their personal liberty. But when people were forced to wear seat belts, a funny thing happened. Not only did more drivers survive accidents, but so did more passengers and more innocent bystanders. That’s because the seat belt helped the driver retain control of the car in an accident. The same thing is true here; being vaccinated keeps other people from suffering for your liberty.

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