Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Saturday, January 31st, 2015.


Inaction and Consequences

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Health Care, Obama Administration

There are measles epidemics breaking out around the country, and plenty of people are plenty mad at anti-vaxxers who have weakened our herd immunity and allowed this to happen by not getting their kids immunized. Apparently upscale crunchy suburban parenting requires abstention from vaccines, or else one is a bad parent allowing toxins into children’s bodies. These are college educated people who have persuaded themselves that the risks of the vaccines are greater than the risks from the diseases. I understanding not feeling warm and fuzzy toward the pharmaceutical industry, but this is ridiculous.

I ran into a guy the other day raving about vaccines being a violation of personal sovereignty. To which I thought, how did we get to be such a nation of whiny hothouse orchids that vaccinations are a violation of personal sovereignty? I can understand the small number of people with genuine religious objections, but most anti-vaxxers are objecting on pseudo-science grounds. The long-discredited link between vaccines and autism is still believed, and the link is still being promoted on a lot of websites. Plus there are new scientifically unsupported theories about how the number of vaccines kids are getting is overloading their immune systems, or something.

If vaccines were a brand new thing this fear might be more understandable, but if you’re alive today you probably were vaccinated as a child. Not counting the original, primitive smallpox vaccine of the 1790s — which really was risky — people have been getting vaccinated for all kinds of diseases since the late 19th century. The U.S. issued regulations of recommended vaccine schedules for children and adults in the 1940s. It must have been a state program, but in the 1950s in my public elementary school, the school nurse from time to time lined up everyone in class in alphabetical order and give us our shots right there in school. Nobody was excused.  When I enrolled my kids in public school in the 1980s I had to send their immunization record to the school.

However, after all these years, a substantial number of people have decided that immunizations are (choose as many as apply) a government plot, a scam by the pharmaceutical industry, a threat to our health that for some reason nobody but some celebrities on teevee take seriously, or a harbinger of the One World Order, This is just weird.

Health fads aren’t new at all, but fads about diets have gotten so prevalent they’ve spawned a new term — orthorexia. Suddenly gluten is bad. Suddenly people have to de-tox. Like we didn’t have livers for that. Not that I’m exactly a role model of sensible eating, but I do run into people who are absolutely obsessed with only eating certain foods from a few trusted, and out of the way, sources. It’s like anything sold in a chain grocery store might cause sudden death.

My working theory for at least some of this craziness is that food and health fads have taken the place of religion for some people as a means for protecting themselves and their loved ones for the scary things out there. Prayer has been replaced by colon cleanses.

The measles outbreaks also reminds us that the things we do, or don’t do, really do affect other people in myriad ways. We can go around pretending that our personal choices are just our business, but it’s not always that simple.

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