Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Anti-Vaxxers Are Child Abusers of Their Own Children and Ours

This article comes from HuffPost and is by Dr. Sanjeev K. Sriram, thank you for putting into words my feelings on the matter.

It angers me when people make bad
 decisions that threaten the health and 
safety of other people. Whether you're 
driving drunk, parading loaded firearms 
in public, or choosing to not vaccinate 
your child (exceptions for children with 
health conditions that contraindicate 
vaccinations), you are a danger to your
 own health and to the health of others 
-- and I am fed up with the ignorance 
and arrogance behind these decisions.

To be fair, I have to briefly clarify my 
frustration with drunk driving. Knowing
 what we now know about the 
interactions between genetics, 
neurobiology and the social variables of
 alcoholism and substance abuse, I can 
wrap a little compassion around those 
drunk drivers who are struggling with 
addiction. By no means will I condone 
or pardon drunk driving, but there is 
some tiny fragment of that 
phenomenon that eventually warrants 
patience and understanding.

Anti-vaxxers, on the other hand, are no
 longer deserving of my patience and 
compassion. People who purposely 
choose not to vaccinate themselves or 
their children against diseases like
 measles, whooping cough, rubella, and
 so on are endangering the lives of 
others. In the current measles 
that started in Disneyland,
of these babies are younger than 1 year
 old, which is the age at which the first

 MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) 
is done. These infants were counting on
 us, their herd, to provide them with 
community immunity until they were
 old enough to get vaccinated. It is not
 science's fault that these children, our
 fellow Americans, caught the measles.
 It is not their parents' fault. It is the 
fault of the anti-vaxxers, the vaccine 

Let's all stop calling anti-vaxxers
 "vaccine skeptics" because it is unfair
 to genuine skepticism. As a
 pediatrician, I have seen the difference
 between skeptical parents and cynical 
parents. Skeptics are driven by
 curiosity, and they make it clear that
 health care providers have to earn 
their trust -- but it can be earned. As a 
health care provider, I do not assume 
anyone's trust and appreciate the 
opportunity to earn and maintain the
 trust of my patients and their families.
 Whether we are talking about
 vaccinations, medications, imaging
 studies, or surgical procedures, the 
skeptical parents of my patients want to
 have their concerns acknowledged and
 their questions answered. I am happy
 to oblige. My conversations with them
 are informative and even enjoyable 
because these are transparent 
exchanges about what priorities shape 
our perspectives, where we get our 
information, and how to contend with
 risk. Genuine skepticism can transform
 the doctor-patient relationship from
 patriarchy to partnership, and we ne
ed this now more than ever in modern
Anti-vaxxers are mostly cynics, and 
they are a whole other phenomenon. I
 am fortunate to have only experienced 
cynical parents outside of my direct 
clinical work. Cynics are not driven by curiosity but by an ugly mix of 
ignorance and arrogance. After 
dumpster diving on the Internet for 
pseudo-science, anti-vaxxers have 
decided that their contempt for public 
health guidelines and their distrust of 
modern medicine somehow makes them

more "informed."

As a pediatrician and public health
 policy wonk, the cynical anti-vaxxers

 frustrate me on several levels. First, 
there is no amount of expensive
 scientific research that will assure anti-
vaxxers about the safety, efficacy and
 necessity of vaccines. Where genuine
 skeptics ask questions in order to 
learn, cynics ask questions in order to
 scorn. Presenting legitimate peer-

reviewed scientific data to anti-vaxxers 
does not persuade them because they 
already reached a verdict based on their

fears and contempt. The scientific 
community has diverted so much
 funding and resources towards
 disproving any causal relationship
 between vaccines and autism, but to
 what end? Those who get vaccinated
 don't really need the additional proof,
 and anti-vaxxers don't really care
 about the real work of the scientific
 method. As a result, millions of dollars
 that could have been used to research
 the real causes of autism or to study
 the real toxins in our environment are
 wasted proving what has already been
 proven repeatedly: Vaccines are safe,
 effective, and necessary for public
It frustrates me that anti-vaxxers
 benefit from herd immunity but refuse
 to contribute to it. Those of us who get
 vaccines are improving our own
 individual lives as well as those around
 us because vaccinated bodies do not 
give dangerous viruses and bacteria 
opportunities to start an infection,
 reproduce, and pass on to others. This 
is exactly how the United States 
declared itself free of measles 15 years
 ago. Regardless of whether the anti-
vaxxers admit it or not, they benefit
 from herd immunity. But anti-vaxxers 
are not the ones for whom herd 
immunity is intended. As a pediatrician, I see infants who are too young to 
receive certain vaccines. I see patients 
whose immune systems are impaired
 because they have organ transplants

they are undergoing treatments for 
cancer. All of these children are part of
 our herd, our community, and they are
 depending on the rest of us who are

healthy enough to get vaccines to do
 our part in maintaining our collective
Getting vaccinated involves an element 
of social responsibility. The strength of 
our public health is reliant on a web of 
mutuality. When we drive sober and at
 the speed limit, or when we ban 
smoking in public places, we are doing 
the basic but important work of keeping
 each other safe and healthy. 
Vaccinations are an integral part of that

process, and no one should have to 
suffer from preventable diseases. As 
much as anti-vaxxers may think they
 are exercising their right to choose, 
they do not have the right to put others

at risk. It took tough laws against drunk

driving to keep people safe, and there
 has been a slow but welcome cultural 
shift against driving under the 
influence. Similarly, we must urge anti-
vaxxers to look beyond their egos and
 show some responsibility toward public



Monday, February 2, 2015