21 September 2013

My Vaccination Obsession

My paternal Great-Grandmother lost three of her seven children to Diphtheria. Two babies and a seven year old. Could you imagine that? Helplessly trying to keep your babies comfortable, while they writhed, gasped for air through their swollen throats and died in the throes of febrile misery? It would be like having to watch your child be murdered before your eyes and there would be nothing you could do about it.

My maternal Great-Aunt had a photo album from our family around the turn of the century. Well, she had a few, but there is one in particular that I remember above all. You know what it had in it? Dead babies. To be fair, some were children. Let that sink in for a second: A WHOLE photo album dedicated to infants and children who perished. I do not personally know one person who lost a child due to disease. I know two friends-of-friends who have lost kids due to freak viral infections. But that's it. I'd be pretty hard-pressed to go filling up a photo album with dead babies.

As my Grandpa (middle son in the foreground) said, "The cemetery was a regular part of
life for everyone back then."
This wasn't something everyone accepted, "ho-hum, that's why we have eleventy dozen kids"-style. Parents lived with the gripping fear their child could die anytime a communicable disease rolled through. I mean, why do we say "God bless you" when someone sneezes? Surely not because our rugged ancestors thought God needed to be bothered by every case of the sniffles. Because sickness was no f-ing joke. Could be a cold, could be black death. 

Now that we live in an age where we are spoiled from having to fill photo albums up with pictures of dead kids, we forget the agony and terror of disease. Some people have made up fantasies that our bodies are pure and we only get disease when we sully our temples with "toxins." They forget (or have no idea) that the human race is born, lives and dies in a soup of chemicals, microbes, viruses (speaking of, our DNA is chock-full of virus), antigens, bacteria, radiation (hello, sun!) and complex competing systems and elements that both sustain us and kill us and compete with us and through us for survival. Life is anything but pristine and it would freak you the F out to look at it through "see everything" glasses. 

Tuberculosis was a nightmare. Polio was a monster. Diphtheria was a mass-murderer. Chances are your grandparents knew a few people with the scars of childhood disease, paralysis, deafness, mental impairment from a prolonged fever, pock-marked skin, lungs filled with scar tissue. Chances are they lost a brother or a sister. My grandfather lost three. And now antivaccinationists want to take us back there. Over what? Beliefs. Not facts. Not evidence.

Anti-vaxxers believe an array of things. Some that vaccines cause autism or auto-immune disorders and every case of "this child just didn't come out quite right for whatever reason in the complex process of life, genetics and development." In short, they want a reason. Some want "health freedom" because no uppity medical professional or gub'mint campaign is going to tell them what to do, 'buncha socialists. Some are conspiracy theorists so wrapped up in their NWO fantasies that they forget how many people would have to be in on the big secret (people much smarter and more driven than they) for whatever grand cover up they have cooked up to work. Some see a natural lifestyle as religion, the holy grail being our bodies having been designed for lifespans of 100+ years, if only we flush out "toxins." Coincidentally, those types always have something to sell. 

But evidence and scientific research supports none of those beliefs. NONE. Evidence and study after repeated study tells us the risk of vaccination is far, far, far smaller than the risk of disease. No reputable study can find a link between vaccines and autism. In fact, studies prove vaccines have no effect on autism rates. Evidence also suggests our bodies have a shelf life of about 60-something, but since modern medicine has taken us out of the barbarism our forefathers and mothers had to deal with, we are graced with time to possibly meet our great-grandchildren. (And not lose them to the pox a week later.) The facts are people who are anti-vaccine know little to nothing about how science works, or posses intermediate math skills. 

We are a global village now. Your choices affect not only you and your child but me and mine. If you choose not to vaccinate you are putting all of us at risk, including immunosuppressed people. I don't want to rely on your "common sense" to survive. I want to rely on the people who know what the hell they are talking about and in the trenches with biology, chemistry, virology and immunology every day. You know, the people actually saving lives, not waxing on about mythological "toxins." It is because of this movement that we have to deal with the largest outbreaks of measles and pertussis that we've seen in recent history. It's put the first page in many parent's "dead baby" photo albums. 

My Great-Grandmother would slap me if I told her vaccinations were a scam. There are so many ways to die: cancer, heart disease, accidents, mass shootings, and the like. I'll be damned if me or one of my kids die from some old resurrected plague that no one needs to suffer.  If you're on the fence, get off and get your shots. We ALL depend on it.

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