Vaccination and Hippies

Owen turned four (months) recently, and he was taken to the doctor for that round of inoculations. That reminded me that when Cathy and I were doing childbirth classes we discovered that the lunatic fringe is alive and well in Melbourne. The subject was “Sleeping Soundly”, the opening minutes of which were about vaccination for no reason I could discern.

The World Health Organisation, whom the Choices for Childbirth speakers quote when lamenting (quite rightly, in my opinion) the high medical intervention rate during childbirth, is studiously ignored when talking about how one ought to explore both sides of the “debate” over immunization. The WHO says “No child should be denied immunization without serious thought about the consequences, both to the child and the community”.

Humans are terrible at estimating risk (also known as probabilities). They happily play lotteries (one in millions chance of winning), but then drive their kids to school (running a pronounced risk of a car crash and injuries vs a vanishingly small risk of a perverted old man snatching their kid and having his way with them). Humans are prejudiced machines – they decide things without knowing all the information (pre-justice, or pre-judge). They make decisions based on what they can recall on the subject. And this counterpointed by the news media, which reports news. They don’t report that millions of Aussies got out of bed, went to work and came home again, without incident. That’s not news. Someone being bitten (or better yet, taken) by a shark, that’s news – because it hardly ever happens. Things that are unusual, different, out of the ordinary and notable are part of every night’s TV viewing. A viewing night of four hours – 240 minutes – includes 30 minutes of really unusual stuff, so odd and weird that the TV station sent a film crew out to take pictures of it (ever woken to find a camera crew filming you getting out of bed? “This morning, Josh got out of bed…” No, didn’t think so). And humans think “I better be careful when I go swimming, a shark could get me. I’ve seen that happen a couple of times in the last few months. In fact, just to be safe, I won’t go swimming”. We have crime shows on every night, leading viewers to think “there’s a lot of crime out and about. I’ll drive to the shops”. The news loves a good kidnapping “little girl snatched from her bedroom”, and happily ignores the fact that almost all child abductions are performed by relatives. But we’ll drive them to school, to keep them safe (and fat). So when the Tabloid TV shows announce that a child has reacted poorly to an inoculation, immunization rates plummet, in the same way breast cancer screening rates jumped right after Kylie got it. More often than not, they use their power for evil rather than good.

These same TV shows give equal time to minority and majority opinions, in the interests of fairness. Which would be fine, except humans will go “hmmm, it seems that professional opinion on this seems to be divided down the middle, I’ll just be safe and not vaccinate my child (besides, needles hurt).” It’s dangerous and irresponsible, scaremongering amongst the vaccination decision makers – parents. And they’re being affected by it. Infectious diseases the developed world thought it had eradicated (think whooping cough, which was almost wiped out – ) are resurfacing as a result of the crazy hippies who reckon that this vaccination thing is all a money making scam by the multinational pharmaceutical companies.

Vaccines don’t always work. They are not 100% effective. You can get a disease after being vaccinated against it – the vaccine may not provoke an immune response. And that doesn’t have to matter.

Needles hurt. Vaccines have an inherent level of danger. Injecting pathogens into your body isn’t something it’s really designed for, and keeping vaccines viable for an acceptable time means there’s stuff in them that some bodies will not react well to. Some immune systems go ape shit when they see the disease. Some people die. I’d like to point out how badly the bodies of these people will react when they get the real, live, unattenuated, unadulterated, honest-to-God virulent form of the disease – exceptionally poorly. But none the less, there is a potential cost associated with being vaccinated.

I’m going to talk about Herd immunity and the free loader effect. A certain level of non-vaccinated members of the population is acceptable, but varies from disease to disease – the immunization you’re given may not invoke an immune response in you, but at the same time, if about 90% of the population is immune, generally an infectious disease is not going to become pandemic. Which is fine, and everyone’s happy. Until God damn hippies start running around not getting immunised, becoming free loaders on those of the population who have run the risk of reacting horribly. With enough people unimmunised, eventually the herd immunity effect breaks down, and the kids of the hippies end up getting diseases that we thought no one got anymore. And, no doubt, the hippies whinge about it, but refuse to take the blame for the kids of responsible parents who got the disease despite being vaccinated against it – because their bodies failed to produce an immune response. And those responsible parents will be too grief stricken to blame the hippies for killing their child.

The Australian federal government’s Immunisation Myths and Realities booklet talks about the complaints that hippies put forward. Myths such as the MMR vaccination causing autism.

The adverse reactions a vaccination may produce are mild compared to what would happen if they actually got the disease. The only elevated risk is to those intolerant of egg products.

Let’s have a look at what these diseases do. Because, if you were against immunizing against them, they can’t be that bad, insofar as diseases go, right? Because you’re happy to run the risk of your child catching and living with (and dying from) these diseases, verus the risk of your child having “something happen to them” as a result of being vaccinated.

From the Australian National immunisation program schedule of immunisations, things that you’re innoculated against:

  • At the moment of birth: hemorrhaging. Normally Vitamin K is produced by bacteria in the intestines, and dietary deficiency is extremely rare unless the intestines are heavily damaged. But newborns are nearly sterile – if the embryonic sack is intact, they are sterile. Thus, no bacteria, and no Vitamin K, which is needed for the posttranslational modification of certain proteins, mostly required for blood coagulation.
  • Polio, check out photos of polio victims. The virus invades the nervous system, and the onset of paralysis can occur in a matter of hours. Polio can spread widely before physicians detect the first signs of a polio outbreak – so forget pulling your child from school when someone is noticed with polio, this is not a prophylactic method with any level of success.
  • Diphtheria, check out photos of children with Diptheria, a bacterial infection. Long-term effects include cardiomyopathy (the heart wastes away) and peripheral neuropathy (ie, paralysis).
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  • Pertussis or whooping cough. Doesn’t sound so bad, a bit of a cough. Check out the photos of babies with a bit of a cough. Complications of the disease include pneumonia, encephalitis, pulmonary hypertension, and secondary bacterial superinfection.
  • Rubella, a relatively mild disease (photos) unless it’s caught by a developing fetus. Lifelong disability results. But I guess that’s the fetus’ problem, not yours.
  • Mumps usually causes painful enlargement of the salivary or parotid glands. Orchitis (swelling of the testes) occurs in 10-20% of infected males, but sterility only rarely ensues; a viral meningitis occurs in about 5% of those infected. In older people, other organs may become involved including the central nervous system, the pancreas, the prostate, the breasts, and other organs. The incubation period is usually 12 to 24 days (again, don’t bother pulling your kids from school – they’ve already got it). Mumps is generally a mild illness in children in developed countries. So your child should get it.
  • Hepatitis B – Over one-third of the world’s population has been or is actively infected by hepatitis B virus, so it can’t be all that bad. Hepatitis B infection may lead to a chronic inflammation of the liver, leading to cirrhosis. This type of infection dramatically increases the incidence of liver cancer. Only 5% of neonates that acquire the infection from their mother at birth will clear the infection. Seventy percent of those infected between the age of one to six will clear the infection. When the infection is not cleared, one becomes a chronic carrier of the virus.

There are other diseases, but I’ve only got so much time. Read the Australian federal government’s Immunisation Myths and Realities booklet. And for the love of all that’s right in the world, get your children immunised.

Just because you don’t understand statistics, science or even simple logical reasoning, doesn’t make vaccinating your children a bad thing. Perhaps, if you don’t understand any of these things, you should leave the decision making on vaccination to the professionals?

8 thoughts on “Vaccination and Hippies

  1. daniel

    Worth noting that most schools and kindergartens (at least in Victoria) won’t accept enrolments from kids who haven’t been immunised. But then, some of the people who object to the immunisation might also be objecting to the standard of education, and/or be wanting to do it themselves.

  2. Philip

    Very good points, all well made and should be read to all people at various times in their lives. It would help if the Federal Government’s immunisation allowance (which is supposedly a reward for immunising children, even though it costs the parents nothing to get them immunised) was not available to people who refused to immunise their children. It is available to those people.

    And also for the love of all that is good, please use the spell checker, a dictionary, and a proof-reader!

  3. elfspice

    I just thought, since I bumped into this site searching for information about how to modify the operating system software in my nb5 modem, that some correction needs to be made.

    Vaccinations do not *cause* autism, however, when given to a child with an already weakened immune system, it can cause long term small infections in certain parts of the body, especially in the digestive system, and malfunctions in digestion that result can cause severe nutrient deficiencies which result in cognitive problems.

    And don’t forget that they spice MMR and several other vaccines with thimersal which contains mercury. In case you didn’t realise, mercury is well known to cause neurological malfunction, the mad hatter of Alice in Wonderland, and many hatters at the time of the writing of that book, were suffering from mercury poisoning.

    There actually is good information with quite decent amounts of science backing the assertions up, work done by researchers in immunology. The solution has to do with nutritional support, one of the major problems that occurs is the membranes of the intestine become permeable, glutamine specifically is missing and the membrane permits the ingress of incompletely decomposed peptides from wheat and milk proteins which, when in the blood, behave like opiod peptides, causing quite a number of the typical autism behaviors such as irritability and social withdrawal. I believe it can also contribute to excessive daytime sleepiness, cataplexy and sleep hallucinations too.

  4. elfspice

    Just to clarify, in case I came off sounding like a hippy anti-immunisationist… I am not against immunisations, I just think that children with weakened immune systems should not be getting shots, and should be given nutrients to strengthen their immune system before they are innoculated. Specifically, zinc and vitamin c, zinc improves HCl production and the synthesis of secretin, a vital protein decomposition enzyme, and vitamin C shifts the immune system’s balance from inflammatory type reactions to antibody/killer reactions to virii and bacterial attacks.

  5. josh Post author

    Standard medical practice is to not immunise children who are unwell in anyway, as the immune system is already busy fighting off one disease and the resistance conferred by an immunisation will be weaker that when the immune system’s full attention is paid to it.

    Thimerosal contains trace amounts of mercury. More mercury can be found in a tin of tuna. The WHO states that “tolerable” mercury exposure is 140 micrograms/day for a 70 kg person. Most thiomersal containing vaccines contain no more than 25 micrograms of ethyl mercury. Adjust for the smaller mass of a baby, and you are looking at about double the tolerable daily dose, per innoculation. However, none of the vaccines used in the U.S. to protect preschool children against 12 infectious diseases contain thimerosal as a preservative.

    It is generally held that MMR does not cause, or even relate to, Autism. But that’s only on the basis on studies of hundreds of thousands of subjects, laterally and longitudinally across time. They might be wrong. Dozens of studies. Wrong.

    There’s a study underway led by Arthur Krigsman of New York University School of Medicine which seems to show evidence that the measles virus causes Autism. So, best not to take the MMR vacine, because that… vacinates you… against… measles…

  6. Jayne

    “Just because you don’t understand statistics, science or even simple logical reasoning, doesn’t make vaccinating your children a bad thing.”

    My child dying is not a bad thing eh?

    Maybe if you sat in a hospital bed holding your sick child, who would die within days, you would think before making such a statement.

  7. josh Post author


    Read my post. Some individuals are going to react poorly to immunisation. Statistically, it’s highly unlikely; highly unlikely but possible. Governments don’t mandate immunisation because they want to kill people; it’s because it helps almost everybody. If you want to protect your child against a statistically likely risk, let them walk to school rather than driving them. Vaccinate them. The likelihood and magnitude of negative outcomes from being unvaccinated are much higher than likelihood and magnitude of negative outcomes from vaccination.

    If Owen reacts badly to a vaccination and dies, that’s a risk Cathy and I are willing to take because it is such a vanishingly small risk. The horrible diseases he’s being protected against are well worth that risk.

    With your grasp of statistics, I’m willing to bet you buy lottery tickets.

  8. Michelle

    Have you actually sat next to a child thats reacted badly to a vaccine? Or are you just saying that to be argumentative?

    AND if you have ever sat next to a child while it suffers for MONTHS as it slowly coughs itself to death, then you would not have written what you wrote.

    I for one, would rather know that I did all that I could for my children.

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