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Reframing Your Anti-Vaccination Philosophy

Hey everyone, I'm sorry to take a break from your normally scheduled dose of me complaining about movies, but I figured I might as well throw in my two cents on a (pointlessly) controversial topic while it's still in the public spotlight.

America's facing a pretty serious health problem right now thanks to the anti-vaccination movement.  I don't know if we're at a stage yet where we should be calling it a "crisis," but it's definitely critical and needs urgent attention.  I'm not much of anybody - my blog barely pulls in more than a few thousand hits a month right now, and probably a third of that is referral spam, anyway - but I figured I could use this chance to briefly contribute something useful to the discussion.

Have a baby smile to make the politics go down more easily.
I'm not going to go over the numbers and facts because there's other places that can do that much better.  Go to the WHO or the CDC for good data on vaccines.  Or go to any number of scientifically-validated websites or journals to get the evidence on how safe (and important) vaccines are.  My point today isn't to make those arguments.

No, my goal is just to try to help those parents who are concerned or those individuals who view this as a political issue to reframe their thoughts a bit and hopefully help you to understand why anti-vaccination sentiment is dangerous.

My kneejerk reaction whenever somebody says something like "green our vaccines" is to get angry.  If you catch me at the wrong moment I'll go off in a little hissy fit, bitching at my wife and throwing out grade school insults.

But I don't want to freak out and yell at you if you're a parent who's thinking about not vaccinating your kid.  I understand that you're just worried about the safety of your child and you have a distrust of authority.  I totally get that.  I am also a parent, and I also distrust authority.

The thing is, this isn't a political or philosophical issue.  It's a matter of science and public health.  You can have all the opinions you want, but what vaccines do and don't do isn't a matter of opinion.  And if you will bear with me on a thought experiment, I'd like to reframe your fear of vaccines by putting them in the proper context: communicable disease.

Imagine for a minute that I've decided I want to own some Ebola.  Not a huge amount - just enough to fill a petri dish.  I'd like to have a little Ebola trophy that I can put above my fireplace.  And then, whenever guests come over, I can point at it and say, "Check out my Ebola!  Pretty groovy, huh?"

And I don't want dead Ebola, either.  It has to be alive or it's no fun.  But don't worry - I'll keep the lid on.  I promise.

Now, I don't much care for government meddling or regulations or anything like that.  I don't want to fill out any forms and I don't want any oversight.  I just want to import some Ebola, put it on my mantle, and walk away.  I might handle the petri dish with gloves or I might not.  Depends how I'm feeling that day.

By the way, did I mention that I live in the middle of a densely populated metropolitan area?  And that I frequently fly to other densely populated metropolitan areas?  Because I do.

Now suppose that I'm not actually content to just leave my Ebola at home all day.  It's my little pet.  I'm worried it'll get lonely.  I want to take the little guy with me to work.  And onto all my flights to all the various cities of the world.  I want to take it out to restaurants and put the petri dish at a place setting next to me and take pictures of me trying to feed it french fries, and then I'm going to post those pictures online.  That's just what I do with my life.

See?  It's cute.  I'll call it "Eddie."*

*Yes, I'm aware that this one is Hep C.  Spoilsport.
Hopefully by now you get my point here.  Carrying a dish of Ebola around without any oversight or regulation is just plain lunacy, right?  Our country freaked out over the slightest possibility that visitors might expose us to it that we enacted extreme measures at our airports and violated civil liberties just for the sake of protecting us from Ebola.  Certainly you wouldn't let me keep my pet, right?

Well, here's the sad truth.  Regardless of your politics and your fears, my little pet Ebola is actually going to be less dangerous to the world than your unvaccinated child.

How?  Well, Ebola is difficult to transmit.  It's not as highly contagious as the measles or the mumps, and I'm not actively swabbing it onto little kids' hands at every chance I get.  Its communicability is relatively low and our perception of its threat is so high that people will steer clear of me and my pet.  But your unvaccinated kid?  They're leaving a trail of potentially infectious materials everywhere they go, and they're doing so in the presence of other kids whose immune systems are still developing. And they're adorable, so people aren't going to view them as a contagion - we'll want to play and high-five and hug and fawn over them.

I understand that you're terrified of a risk of autism - and please remember that this risk doesn't actually exist - but you should be far more terrified of being at ground zero for an epidemic.  An unvaccinated kid is essentially a mobile version of my pet Ebola, except they've actually got a pretty good chance of infecting you.