Monday, February 2, 2015

Very Vexing Vaxxers

I have to admit, I never thought that I would have to worry about a measles outbreak in the US during my lifetime.  As a child of the 70's and 80's, mine was to be the last generation to be at risk, as the M-M-R shot (measles, mumps, rubella) had become so widespread in its use that there were hardly any kids around that might get it.  The only things my parents had to worry about me contracting at school was stomach flu, a cold and the chicken pox (I got them all).

And for better than 40-years other parents enjoyed that same peace of mind.  But then came the "Anti-vaxxer movement".  Somewhere a "scientist" tried to link the increase in autism diagnoses among children to the use of childhood vaccines (as opposed to the overwhelming desire of today's "helicopter parents" to have a "medical reason" why their child had trouble at school, was moody or had other behavioral issues).  The movement picked up steam as celebrities like Jenny McCarthy were given air time on her show The View--along with her then-boyfriend Jim Carrey--to spout their "belief" as proven fact.

Suddenly it was "cool" to be an Anti-vaxxer.  There were more celebrities bragging about how their kids were "never going to get their shots".  And that was followed by website touting "natural, holistic ways to protect your children" against the same diseases.  Immunization rates fell--but we didn't see the big outbreaks because such an overwhelming number of kids (and adults) were still immune.  But now, diseases that no child had to fear for nearly fifty years are coming back--as the growing number of illegal immigrants bring with them spotty immunization histories and expose the kids of Anti-vaxxers to the diseases for the first time. 

And don't think that this is just a "west coast" or "big city" threat.  Remember a few years back we had cases of the mumps on the UW Oshkosh campus.  And who is to know if the measles virus has mutated in such a way over the years to make the vaccinations that we got as kids less-effective against a new strain.

There is considerable debate what should be done with parents who refuse to get their kids their shots.  They claim to have the right to raise their children based upon their own beliefs.  But as we have also seen here in Wisconsin, the law doesn't always grant you that right.  You may recall a Wausau couple being sent to jail after deciding to have faith in prayer to heal their daughter's medically-treatable diabetes.  As the child lay in what had to be agonizing pain from diabetic shock--they held fast to their "beliefs"--right up until that last minute when she died.

I wonder if the Anti-vaxxers have as much faith in their beliefs to put their kids through the same ordeal.

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