Measles on the rise in Australia and Switzerland, too

By Phil Plait | February 9, 2009 7:11 am

At what point do we start to hold antivaxxers responsible? I ask, because we’re on the verge of a record year for measles in Australia: in Victoria, 11 cases have been reported in 2009 so far. That’s far more more than in 2006 and 2007 combined, and under extrapolation is as bad as an outbreak in 1999 where over 100 cases were reported.

As if that weren’t enough, Switzerland has had 22 cases reported in two days.

Is antivax rhetoric to blame here? The Australian article doesn’t say how many of these people were not vaccinated; several were adults, so they should have been vaccinated well before this craze of linking vaccines to health problems started up. But some kids were on that list, and I wonder if they were vaccinated, and if not, why not.

However, for the outbreak in Switzerland, it does look like antivaccination insanity is to blame:

Switzerland has been affected by measles outbreaks more than other European countries in recent years because of the relatively low level of vaccinations and the presence of educational and religious communities that decline vaccination.

The outbreak described here indicates that anthroposophic communities are an at-risk group, because many parents in these groups choose not to vaccinate their children with the MMR [measles, mumps, rubella] vaccine. Anthroposophy, based on the writings of the social philosopher Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), combines human development with an investigation of the divine spark found in all of nature. Anthroposophical doctors emphasize nature-based therapies that
support the body’s innate healing wisdom.

Antivaxxers. For whatever reasons they believe what they do, they’re wrong. A previously healthy 12-year-old girl died of measles-induced encephalitis in a Geneva hospital last week. In 2008, a child in Minnesota died due to a disease that was preventable through a vaccine. Measles is on the rise in the UK. And some people are all too happy to spread the lie that the vaccines are causing all sorts of health problems, when it’s been shown pretty conclusively that they aren’t.

This pernicious bit of antiscience has a body count. Kids are dying. And they will continue to do so unless we make ourselves heard. Vaccines do have a health risk, but it’s minuscule compared to the very real threat of measles, rubella, mumps, Hib, and many others.

Talk to your doctors. Do the research. Jenny McCarthy and her followers are wrong. How many children will get sick, how many will die, before everyone understands that?

Thanks to Cristiana Senni for the update about Switzerland.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Science

Comments (70)

  1. IVAN3MAN

    I think that those anti-vaxxers ought to live in their own communities like the Amish.

  2. T_U_T

    vaccines are unnatural and thus evil.
    but…. low child mortality is unnatural too,

  3. David D

    And I thought those Europeans were so much more enlightened than us.

  4. Ken

    And to boot, The London Times is reporting (Feb 8) that the “Doctor” who started this whole thing, Andrew Wakefield, FAKED his data. All of this is the result of his one study. Shame greatly on him.

  5. The current outbreak in Switzerland occurred almost entirely in one school where very few children have been vaccinated, so the coverage there is way below the rate in the region (92%) where the school is located. But then their brothers and sisters, who go to four other schools, came down with the measles and bingo, you’ve got it spreading. One of the big problems is that many people have little kids vaccinated, then forget about the followup shots. We’ll probably do a followup story in a week or two depending on whether the cantonal doctor (public health dept.) and his team are able to contain the outbreak.

  6. Tomas

    @IVAN3MAN: that wouldn’t really help the children, would it. I’d suggest that child services get involved and parents of every unvaccinated child that gets sick to be prosecuted.

    @T_U_T: I’m wondering whether the dinosaurs thought it to be unnatural to prevent that piece of junk a few miles across from impact (had they had the mean, of course)…

    … i guess that’s sort of the point … we are (or supposed to be) smarter than that … but sometimes I’m in an awe at how humanity managed to survive, while deliberately acting against survival instincts – any other species would be long gone

  7. Just stick ‘em all on an island, unleash a few choice diseases and let god sort ‘em out. After all they have nothing to fear as obviously the diseases are less harmful than the vaccines…

  8. Antivaxxers of Australia is known as Australian Vaccination Network: http://avn.org.au/library/

    They are not as rabid as their .eu, .uk, or .us counter-parts, and their antivaxx message is carefully hidden behind the “freedom of choice when it comes to medical procedures” and presenting “both sides of the issue”.

  9. CS

    I am sorry, here is the correct
    link

  10. George

    @ David D: Keep in mind, many of your crackpots came from Europe. But we still have plenty of the left – and there’s a crackpot born every minute, to almost quote PTB.

  11. George

    “them left” that is…

  12. CryoTank

    @David D
    Sorry, unfortunately we Europeans fall prey to the same stupidities as everyone else.

    @T_U_T
    …no, I’m not even gonna comment on this brainless post of yours…

    I have this strange feeling that these tw*ts (feel free to replace the ‘*’ with whatever you see fit) don’t really care how many people get hurt in their “righteous” fight. Whatever happens, they will always blame medicine, never their twisted stupidity.

    Sorry, I’m rather grumpy.

  13. Wes

    I get the feeling that T_U_T was being sarcastic, guys.

    Another example of Poe’s law, I guess.

  14. Peptron

    To T_U_T:
    But if we add mercury (a natural product) in the vaccines, will they become good again? Or at least lose some of their inherent evil?

  15. Peptron

    There is something I have an hard time understanding about the anti-vaccination movement. What are they trying to accomplish? I guess it has to do with stopping vaccinations altogether, but why would anybody want that? What is the actual goal being pursued there?

  16. CryoTank

    @Wes
    Yes, perhaps, but there are ways to indicate that. Especially if it’s about a topic like this and and the supposedly sarcastic comment is phrased in a pretty tasteless way.
    If it was sarcastic, I hereby apologise to T_U_T.

    I said I was grumpy ;-)

  17. CryoTank

    @Peptron
    Precisely. I can’t come up with a rational reason either but I might just be too “closed minded”.

  18. Jason Dick

    I’m pretty sure T_U_T was being facetious. The second line makes this pretty clear.

  19. CryoTank

    @Jason Dick
    I guess you’re right. After running these two lines through my head a 100 times, even I got it :-)

  20. Peptron

    To CryoTank:
    Yeah, but I “really” fail to see what they are up to. To me it’s like waking up a morning with the goal to get wheels banned. Getting hyper-emotional about anything wheel related, and flaming people that try to rationally explain that wheels are really important in our technological society and that it would be rather uninformed to get that banned. Add to that a good proportion of people that join the anti-wheels movement not even knowing what a wheel is, what is its purpose, and why you cannot just ban it like that.

    To me it’s so random that I just cannot see what the point is. And besides, I can safely say that more people die from wheels than people that get autism from vaccines.

  21. Becca Stareyes

    Anthroposophical doctors emphasize nature-based therapies that support the body’s innate healing wisdom.

    You think they’d be all over vaccines like white on rice, since the concept behind them is to teach the body how to fight disease by introducing something enough like the disease (dead germs, weakened germs, germ protein, etc.) that the immune system response is the same. I mean, it’s using the same thing that keeps you from getting measles twice, only in a way that makes your first bout of ‘measles’ very unlikely to show symptoms and impossible to spread to others.

  22. Daniel J. Andrews

    Both sides of the debate use the “think of the children” argument, and toss out the death anecdotes. Not to sound too cold-hearted, but are there any documented numbers in terms of deaths/1000 or something similar from a reliable source (e.g. CDC)? I’d like to know…

    …How many children die or suffer serious complications from measles, mumps, rubella that could have been prevented by a vaccination?

    …How many children die or suffer serious complications from the MMR vaccination?

    The deaths/complications from non-vaccination should greatly outweigh the deaths/complications from vaccinations, otherwise we wouldn’t be still doing vaccinations (I don’t subscribe to vast conspiracy theories). If I had a child of vaccination age I’d still want to know how the risks compare though.

  23. Reader5000

    Regarding their goal, I think it’s to sell more of their non-scientific products. Look at Wakefield’s funding sources. They also get to promote themselves as “Galileos” and seek publicity, which is to sell themselves.

    Some of it may also be guilt at not being able to prevent problems like autism. If it’s somebody’s fault it’s more encouraging than if it’s nobody’s fault. They’ll latch onto anything that let’s them blame someone and play the hero at the same time. McCarthy is an example of this.

    Another part of it seems to be cultural/subcultural/ideological. This is especially difficult when a dangerously anti-scientific belief is part of a tightly-woven package of various beliefs and practices (some of which might not be harmful by themselves). The grouping of ideas is not inevitable, much of it is historical accident, but associations often have some compatibility.

    There remain many people who believe in non-scientific explanations for how the human body functions. They are committed to those beliefs, and anyone who disagrees is wrong or malicious. Since the true believers are right, they’re trying to overthrow the false belief. For the children, of course.

    The challenge is isolating and neutralizing the dangerous belief without coming off as someone who wants to completely challenge the subject’s identity. Challenge their anti-vaxxer notions, without appearing to challenge their support for solar power, even though the subject thinks of these two things as part of a package. That’s hard to do, and it takes time.

    I want to know if there are good ways to explain germ theory and vaccination to people without scientific backgrounds or (worse) with pseudoscientific backgrounds. AND do so in ways that they will listen to. Suggestions?

  24. Grump

    @Daniel J. Andrews
    I think this one is a lot trickier than just comparing the two numbers. After all, it’s quite probable that, right now, there are more severe complications from taking vaccines than there are from preventable diseases! But that’s because the vast majority of children are still getting vaccinated, so they don’t succumb to those diseases. But if anti-vax hysteria gets worse, expect a sharp rise in the latter even before you see a significant drop in the former.

    What you really want is the number of childhood deaths that would have occurred if no-one got any vaccines at all. This number is obviously much harder to get – You can look at death rates from 50 or 100 years ago, or in very poor countries right now. But you can counter that by saying that modern, developed countries have higher standards of cleanliness (so less infection) and better antibiotics, so fewer complications arise.

    My guess, going on how quickly the incidence of these diseases is rising, despite the fact that only a minority of children haven’t been vaccinated, is that it will be terrible. Maybe not as bad as 100 years ago, but still carnage on a heartbreaking scale.

    Remember that incidences will rise geometrically with reduced vaccination numbers, as more and more children will become infected by other children.

  25. Cheyenne

    I wish more people would Digg articles like this. It’s so important. I was only the third one!

  26. T_U_T was making the perfectly cogent argument that “natural” has no inherent preference over “unnatural” when it comes to health care.

  27. harshpotatoes

    sorry, but where is the evidence that less people are using vaccines now a days? The group in switzerland is following the beliefs of a man who lived during the 19th century, I don’t think the modern antivax movement has had any affect on them. thusly, i would like to see evidence that jenny mccarthy actually affects what some people believe.

  28. ccpetersen

    Let’s take this one step further and I’ll relate an anecdote to make the point — what about the pregnant women who are exposed to diseases carried by the children of these people who don’t vaccinate? The reason I ask is that the unborn child has NO choice about what the mother is exposed to, and a mother is at risk when parents don’t vax their kids.

    This is a problem how? Well, consider my friend “Liz” ( a teacher) who was pregnant and got exposed to a child with rubella. Even though she herself had had measles, she was in her first trimester — and the unborn child faced certain known and documented dangers from the exposure to rubella.

    At the very least, thoughtless parents could and should be held responsible for the damage their children do by exposing others to preventable diseases. But I doubt they think of that. They only care about their own children and not those (born or unborn) of other people. Is a lawsuit waiting to happen over this? Probably so.

  29. RG

    Even adults can be effected by antivaxers when the herd immunity is weakened. I wasn’t able to get my full round of shots due to allergic reactions. Jenny McCarthy is my mortal enemy.

  30. nichole

    Let’s make a new improved natural vaccine out of arsenic and feed it to Jenny McCarthy.

    It’s not a numbers game. If one child dies from measles because s/he wasn’t vaxxed, that’s too goddamn many. The parents shouldn’t be sued, they should be taken behind the shed.

    My, I’m grouchy today.

  31. nichole

    Huh, this topic is in the zeitgeist today

    http://www.theness.com/neurologicablog/

    <3steve<3

  32. Amred

    I think these Anti-vaaxxers are nuts. But, there are plenty of people trying to combat them! I got to a Denver Public School, and they – and, I think, all of the DPS schools, but don’t hold me to that – require students to have certain vaccines, including MMR. And I recently got an acceptance letter to University of Wyoming – down at the end, under all the stuff about financial aid, was a note saying that all students must send their vaccination records to the school, and that if they haven’t already, must get the MMR shot.

  33. @BA “For whatever reasons they believe what they do, they’re wrong. A previously healthy 12-year-old girl died of measles-induced encephalitis in a Geneva hospital last week. In 2008, a child in Minnesota died due to a disease that was preventable through a vaccine. Measles is on the rise in the UK. And some people are all too happy to spread the lie that the vaccines are causing all sorts of health problems, when it’s been shown pretty conclusively that they aren’t. This pernicious bit of antiscience has a body count.”

    Hmmm, I guess I’d like the total body count being laid at the door of the antivaxxers. Is that too much to ask for given that this is probably Phil’s 50th post on this topic? One would hope that it would be more than the other body count:

    In 2007 there were 74 deaths reported in the VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System): 39 deaths of infants less than 6 months, 11 deaths for infants from 6 to 11 months, etc. There’s a nifty little web site called:

    http://wonder.cdc.gov/vaers.html

    that allows you to run all sorts of queries against the VAERS database. I suggest some of you make use of it.

    “Kids are dying.”

    Yes, indeed they are.

    @nichole “If one child dies from measles because s/he wasn’t vaxxed, that’s too goddamn many. The parents shouldn’t be sued, they should be taken behind the shed.”

    And who should be taken behind the shed for the deaths contained in the VAERS database? The pediatricians? The pharmaceutical companies? Who exactly?

  34. Cindy

    There’s another problem with measles is that the measles vaccine that I got as a kid in the late 60’s/early 70’s didn’t last as long as doctors originally thought. There was a big measles outbreak in colleges just after I graduated in 1989. I had to get a booster to enter grad school in 1994, but if it wasn’t for that, I may not have gotten a booster.

    So there is a segment of the adult population that may be at risk for measles despite being vaccinated as a kid if they didn’t get a booster. I wonder how what fraction of the cases are in that category in Australia and Switzerland.

  35. Daniel J. Andrews

    @Grump…quite right, it isn’t so simple to come up with those numbers. In looking around though I did find what I was looking for. Here are just a couple of pdfs with comparison numbers.

    http://www.um.edu.mt/umms/mmj/17_02_5.pdf

    http://www.sehb.ie/search/publications/mmr/mmr_q1.pdf

    Quick example: Measles 1/3,000 deaths in developed countries. Up to 1/5 in developing countries. It seems people who think measles isn’t that serious are saying this from the comfort of a developed nation.

    @Nicole. I agree with your sentiment about even one child is too many. But I will disagree with you and say it is (and has to be) a numbers game. Otherwise, how would we know what is more effective in preventing deaths. Vaccine A may kill 1/100,000, but will we pull the vaccine (i.e. one death is too many) if the numbers show that the disease kills 1/5,000?

  36. Reader5000

    Cindy,

    I’m about the same age as you and also got that shot in the early 70’s. Where can I find out more about this shorter effectiveness?

    Thanks.

  37. Andrew

    I’ve got a newborn and she’s getting all her vaccines. Shes already had hep B, and will get Measles, Mumps and Rubella when shes older. Some basic study of immunology and cellular biology is all you need to understand how important this is.

    It really amazes me how much influence these celebrity types can have over the gullible general public. Its totally bizarre the way they are looked on as royalty and worshipped almost.

    Is a 4 week old too young to have Carl Sagan – “The Demon Haunted World” read to her? Or am I attempting to initiate her into the hive-overmind and brain-wash her with science, reason and rational thinking at such a young age?

  38. Jo

    @ccpetersen: It’s my understanding that an unborn child is protected by its mother’s immune system — so if she herself had been vaccinated, her child would be protected, no?

  39. As a Libertarian, I’d say that people have the right not to be vaccinated if they don’t want to. However, the “my nose” part (as in “your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins”) is that you don’t have the right to infect me. I’d say that if folks want to revert to 19th Century disease control, then health departments should be given back the right to quarantine people with infectious diseases. And their families. That’s the consequence on not being vaccinated.

    – Jack

  40. Chris

    Daniel J. Andrews said “…How many children die or suffer serious complications from measles, mumps, rubella that could have been prevented by a vaccination?

    …How many children die or suffer serious complications from the MMR vaccination? ”

    That information is readily available in easy to read form! It is included in all the Vaccine Information Sheets:
    http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/default.htm

    Just click on them and read them. You can also find the information on PubMed and the CDC’s weekly Mortality and Morbidity reports.

  41. molly

    i heard a story on TAL about an outbreak in san diego caused by some one traveling from switzerland. Some babies too young to have had MMR yet did get measles and were very very sick. They didn’t interview the actual parents of patient zero but a friend of theirs designated to speak for them indicated that they weren’t sorry and would do it all the same again. That’s where I got super mad. not even SORRY? what a lousy person.

  42. Stark

    Jack – Health Officers do still have the right to impose a quarantine on people (well, in California at least)- but it is rarely used. It’s not like the old days though — back when Health Officers carried badges and were regularly photographed outside of some house or other with a shotgun enforcing a quarantine. Now it’s a much more gentle process starting with voluntary in-home quarantine ending up with forced quarantine in a medical facility if necessary. I work for a Health Department in CA and we quarantine a couple of TB cases a year on average – we haven’t had to do the forced version in the 10 years I’ve been here though as most folks are pretty reasonable about it once you explain the danger they pose to others.

    Still, there is something to be said for the old days – folks didn’t often argue with a shotgun toting doctor.

  43. john raguso

    Let more people get good and angry. That should put a stop to this.

  44. Mu

    The WHO published numbers that measles related death worldwide dropped 3/4 , from 900k to 200k annually since the introduction of the MMR vaccine. There don’t seem to be a corresponding 700k deaths annually from measles vaccine to put this reduction of child mortality into question.
    Of course, to the anti-vax crowd, the autism diagnosis is worse than death. What they think of massive brain damage by measles induced encephalitis, I don’t know. Probably just a big pharma scare tactic to keep the masses suppressed.

  45. Chris

    Had a link in my last comment. I pointed to the Vaccine Information stuff given out at each immunization.

    Basically, the risk of injury and/or death from measles, mumps and rubella is over 1 in 1000. The risk from the vaccine is several orders of magnitude less than that (most of the “injuries” are crying and fever, there are cases of severe injury that are very very rare — like in the one in several million range).

  46. Cairnos

    T_U_T said “vaccines are unnatural and thus evil”

    Ooh I always get so annoyed when I hear someone trying to argue (seriously that is) from this position with regard to anything medical. I mean for crying out loud, in our local news a meat worker had his hand cut off and the doctors are trying to save it. This wasn’t front page news. They are trying to re-atttach a freaking severed limb and it’s an interest piece. Anyone really want’s natural they can go live in a cave for all I care. I personally like our current, thoroughly unnatural, world where if they can get you to a hoospital in time they can darn well rebuild you. They have the technology (and being in NZ I don’t even need to stump up $1,000,000) ;-)

  47. haiku

    The little girl who died in Geneva was French,living in French, close to the Swiss border. No so far from where I live…
    Here in France, measles cases were up to 566 in 2008, compared to 40 in 2007 and 44 in 2006…Medias had ring the bell these past few weeks, reminding parents that vaccines (and especially MMR, or ROR as it is called here) are the only efficient way to prevent measles.
    I haven’t been able to find out if this measles cases were somehow related to the Switzerland outbreak (geographically speaking at least)

  48. Daniel J. Andrew

    Thanks Chris! That’s just what I was looking for. Much better than what I found.

  49. Stark Says: “Health Officers do still have the right to impose a quarantine on people (well, in California at least)- but it is rarely used.”

    Thanks for the update. I had no idea that power still existed, expecially here in PDRC. That’s actually quite comforting.

    – Jack

  50. Na

    Funnily enough, taking my sister back home from getting her HPV jab – in Victoria, Australia – I told her how I’d been reading about vaccines and autism. Before I could even mention that there’s no link, she immediately got anxious and worried about having the jab. I reassured her that there was no link, but it did make one thing clear: people do jump to conclusions without hearing all the evidence first. Frankly, neither of us have ever heard of people not getting vaccines. I’m amazed anyone in Australia wouldn’t be getting them done, we don’t have as much anti-vax stuff going on as elsewhere in the world (I’d never even heard of an anti-vax Aussie until I started reading stuff here on this site). I’m hoping the outbreak was caused by an unlucky group of people who simply can’t get vaccinated for medical reasons and not some sort of anti-vax thing.

  51. TheBlackCat

    If your sister is old enough to even understand what autism is she is too old to get it anyway.

  52. jrpowell

    ” Anthroposophical doctors emphasize nature-based therapies that
    support the body’s innate healing wisdom. ”

    WHICH IS EXACTLY WHAT VACCINES DO!

    The dead (natural) viruses stimulate the production of our own (natural) antibodies, creating a (natural) defense against live viruses we may be exposed to later.

  53. James

    ==Peptron Says:
    Yeah, but I “really” fail to see what they are up to. To me it’s like waking up a morning with the goal to get wheels banned. Getting hyper-emotional about anything wheel related, and flaming people that try to rationally explain that wheels are really important in our technological society and that it would be rather uninformed to get that banned. Add to that a good proportion of people that join the anti-wheels movement not even knowing what a wheel is, what is its purpose, and why you cannot just ban it like that.

    To me it’s so random that I just cannot see what the point is. And besides, I can safely say that more people die from wheels than people that get autism from vaccines.==

    Clearly you’ve never met militant greens :) I do know some people that are that jundiced about technology… not the wheel, but all non-mucle/solar bassed technology.

    As to how you get sucked into this stuff? Ignorance and a lie that grew wings in the retelling. It’s not as if there was any scientific evidence in the first place, this is not an idea that can be discredited because it never had any credibility in the first place. People, by and large, are quite dumb really.

  54. Measles on the rise in Australia — yet “High take-up rates of the infant measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine has led to the elimination of the endemic measles virus in Australia”. The news report (see link) says this statement is based on research by the University of Sydney, published in a WHO journal. A second study predicts Australia will retain its non-endemic (?) status until at least 2012.

    To quote Buffy: “Splainy?”

  55. dbm

    There is definitely a straying from the scientific going on in this thread, and perhaps rightly so. This divergence is an entirely understandable one, but it can be dangerous when we assume that the science we have is irrefutable and that it is justifiable to use that data to force a certain behavior from others.
    Public health decisions are, by their very nature, not interested in the health of the individual. So it may well be within the normal responsibilities of a public health policy to ask an individual to do something that may harm themselves (or their child in this instance). The question in this instance is the extent of the individuals right to decide for themselves (or their children) even though that decision may put a greater public at risk. In this light it is not a scientific debate but one of rights and responsibilities.
    Some would argue that this is a moot situation because there is no risk of harm from vaccines; but that absolute term is not true. I am not espousing a vaccine/autism link, but there is documented potential, however slight, that a vaccine can harm a child. While the data may show that this risk is far less than the risk associated with not vaccinating that does not mean that the right to decide should be taken away from the parent.
    Public costs incurred by the decisions of parents may be cited as a reason for removing the right to decide about vaccinations; but the health costs incurred by the actions of parents stray far beyond diseases, even those we can vaccinate for (think obesity, diabetes, not wearing a bike helmet, etc..).
    So my argument would be not for or against vaccinations; but for the right of the parent to decide whether or not to vaccinate. The data and the science supporting vaccination, no matter how valid, are not reason enough to revoke the right of the parent to determine an appropriate level of risk for their child.

  56. JB of Brisbane

    @dbm –
    “…it can be dangerous when we assume that the science we have is irrefutable” – such as the position taken by antivaxers.

    “…so it may well be within the normal responsibilities of a public health policy to ask an individual to do something that may harm themselves (or their child in this instance)” – you don’t seriously believe this, do you? Give us an example other than childhood jabs.

    Is it expedient to treat the decision whether to vax or not as a “right of the parent” when the result could be a jail term for culpable neglect?

  57. Greg in Austin

    dbm said,

    “I am not espousing a vaccine/autism link, but there is documented potential, however slight, that a vaccine can harm a child. While the data may show that this risk is far less than the risk associated with not vaccinating that does not mean that the right to decide should be taken away from the parent.”

    In what way, other than the risks already posted on all vaccination information pamphlets, could a vaccine possibly harm a child? What documentation do you have? The right to decide is already, by law, taken from the parent. With the exception of certain religious grounds, any child in the US must be vaccinated before entering any public school system. This is not for the one child’s protection, but for the protection of everybody, children and adults.

    “The data and the science supporting vaccination, no matter how valid, are not reason enough to revoke the right of the parent to determine an appropriate level of risk for their child.”

    Again, with few exceptions, parents already do not have that right.

    “but the health costs incurred by the actions of parents stray far beyond diseases, even those we can vaccinate for (think obesity, diabetes, not wearing a bike helmet, etc..).
    So my argument would be not for or against vaccinations; but for the right of the parent to decide whether or not to vaccinate.”

    You do understand the difference between parental neglect (obesity, bike helmets) and communicable diseases, right? Again, not vaccinating a child endangers other people’s lives. So, from my point of view, a parent does not have the right to risk me getting measles from their child because they didn’t vaccinate them.

    8)

  58. dbm

    @JB
    I would most certainly not say the position taken by those against vaccinations is irrefutable; but then again neither is the the science behind those for vaccinations beyond all measure of doubt, harmless.

    “you don’t seriously believe this, do you? Give us an example other than childhood jabs.” I think by childhood jabs you are referring to the vaccines (if I am missing a reference please correct me) but no other example is needed. The essence of a public good is that it serves a the public as a whole, sometimes at the expense of an individual. Much like the classic lighthouse example in economics, but that the lighthouse is in someone’s way…

    Is it expedient to treat the decision whether to vax or not as a “right of the parent” when the result could be a jail term for culpable neglect?

    I am not concerned with it being expedient, but with it being right.

    @Greg

    “In what way, other than the risks already posted on all vaccination information pamphlets, could a vaccine possibly harm a child?”

    The pamphlets you mention detail enough risk, I am not arguing that the risk of vaccinating is equal to or greater than not vaccinating. I would indeed argue the opposite; but there is a chance of harm to the individual, from either choice.

    “The right to decide is already, by law, taken from the parent. With the exception of certain religious grounds, any child in the US must be vaccinated before entering any public school system.”

    The right has not been taken from the parent, legally or otherwise. Children are not required by law to attend public school, nor to receive vaccines. Again, regardless of whether or not the choice is good for the public health, the parent, under the current system has the right to choose for their child.

  59. dbm

    @ Greg
    “Again, not vaccinating a child endangers other people’s lives. So, from my point of view, a parent does not have the right to risk me getting measles from their child because they didn’t vaccinate them.”

    It seems that you feel that parents should not have the right, or that they should not decline vaccinations; but in the US they do have the legal right to refuse.

  60. Greg in Austin

    dbm said,

    “I would indeed argue the opposite; but there is a chance of harm to the individual, from either choice.”

    There is a greater chance one will get hit by a car than suffer a side effect of any vaccination, but I don’t hear people saying we should not drive cars.

    “It seems that you feel that parents should not have the right, or that they should not decline vaccinations; but in the US they do have the legal right to refuse.”

    I don’t recall saying how I felt, only how I interpreted the reason for requiring vaccinations to all school children.

    8)

  61. Greg in Austin

    Parents do have the right to refuse vaccinations in Texas,

    Exemptions to Immunization Requirements:

    Chapter §97.62 of the Texas Administrative Code (TAC) describes the conditions under which individuals can seek exemptions from Texas immunization requirements. Exclusions from compliance are allowable on an individual basis for medical contraindications, reasons of conscience, including a religious belief, and active duty with the armed forces of the United States.

    TITLE 25
    PART 1
    CHAPTER 97
    SUBCHAPTER B
    RULE §97.62

    HEALTH SERVICES
    DEPARTMENT OF STATE HEALTH SERVICES
    COMMUNICABLE DISEASES
    IMMUNIZATION REQUIREMENTS IN TEXAS ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY SCHOOLS AND INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION
    Exclusions from Compliance

    Exclusions from compliance are allowable on an individual basis for medical contraindications, reasons of conscience, including a religious belief, and active duty with the armed forces of the United States. Children and students in these categories must submit evidence for exclusion from compliance as specified in the Health and Safety Code, §161.004(d), Health and Safety Code, §161.0041, Education Code, Chapter 38, Education Code, Chapter 51, and the Human Resources Code, Chapter 42.

    (1) To claim an exclusion for medical reasons, the child or student must present a statement signed by the child’s physician (M.D. or D.O.), duly registered and licensed to practice medicine in the United States who has examined the child, in which it is stated that, in the physician’s opinion, the vaccine required is medically contraindicated or poses a significant risk to the health and well-being of the child or any member of the child’s household. Unless it is written in the statement that a lifelong condition exists, the exemption statement is valid for only one year from the date signed by the physician.

    (2) To claim an exclusion for reasons of conscience, including a religious belief, a signed affidavit must be presented by the child’s parent or legal guardian, stating that the child’s parent or legal guardian declines vaccinations for reasons of conscience, including because of the person’s religious beliefs. The affidavit will be valid for a two-year period. The child, who has not received the required immunizations for reasons of conscience, including religious beliefs, may be excluded from school in times of emergency or epidemic declared by the commissioner of public health.

    (3) To claim an exclusion for armed forces, persons who can prove that they are serving on active duty with the armed forces of the United States are exempted from the requirements in these sections.

    In other words, all children in public schools are required to be immunized, unless parents apply for an official exemption every 2 years.

    8)

  62. Na

    # TheBlackCat Says:
    February 10th, 2009 at 8:45 am

    “If your sister is old enough to even understand what autism is she is too old to get it anyway.”

    Yes, but my point was that it is quite easy to alarm people about vaccines simply because we have taken them for granted and many people wouldn’t research risks of vaccines even in the natural course of taking them. Or if they did research it, they might come across sites which were incorrect (like the anti-vax stuff) and not know where or how to look for scientific studies; or even how to distinguish between the science stuff and the non-science stuff.

    In my case, simply putting the words “vaccine” and “autism” in the same sentence was enough to cause alarm in someone who doesn’t know a lot about medicine, but old enough to make her own decisions (like the decision to take the HPV jab in the first place). It’s a literal example of how easy it is for anti-vax ideas to spread, without counteracting it with proper information about the real science.

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