Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Jim Carrey's not a doctor! Or a parent!

I've been reading a lot lately about the vaccination debate, and I have some pretty strong opinions (shocking!) on the subject. If refusing to vaccinate your child only affected your child, I wouldn't care who did or didn't get any shots at all. But not all vaccines take, and by refusing to vaccinate your kids at all, you put others who were vaccinated at risk too.

Say you have an elementary school with 1000 kids, and 70 of them aren't immune to measles because their vaccines didn't work. If a fifth grader gets measles from a vacation to someplace with an epidemic, there's a chance that it won't spread far - the odds are that that one child won't come into contact with all 69 other vulnerable kids. But if there are 200 other kids who weren't immunized in the first place, the odds go up that all 70 kids will get measles, plus any babies they might come into contact with too young to have gotten their shots yet. It's called herd immunity. Smallpox was wiped out because of vaccines. Polio is on its way too. But if I were to ever lose a child to these or any other vaccine-available diseases just because some idiot chose to get their medical information from Ace Ventura and a Playboy model, I'd be arrested for murder 1.

If you don't want to immunize your kids, then fine. But they shouldn't be allowed in public schools. It's your parental privilege to make that choice, but for the common good that choice should have consequences.

For another thing, I wonder about all this autism in the first place. "Autism rates are skyrocketing!" Are we sure abotu that? Or is it just as likely (or more) that autism diagnoses are skyrocketing. It's a lot like the SIDS rate, but in reverse.* Jenny MCarthy's son (from what I understand from reading articles she herself has written) was diagnosed with autism because he flapped his arms when agitages and refused to make eye contact. He is now considered to be high functioning because he can speak, listen, and follow directions. Twenty years ago this would have been a kid with eccentricities and a nervous habit, but now he's autistic. My daughter was almost diagnosed with Asperger's once because she is painfully shy and over-sensitive to criticism. If you even raised your voice to her she would cringe. Now that she's getting a little of that adolescent attitude she's less likely to cringe than to roll her eyes though, so I guess estrogen is the new cure for Asperger's, huh. Asperger's had, until recently, very strict diagnostic criteria. A patient had to present a certain number of symptoms in order to be considered a candidate for an Asperger's diagnosis, just like any other illness or syndrome. But now it's just tossed around like ADHD was five or ten years ago. Brown is the new black.

I feel for the parent who takes their normal, smiling, talking child to the doctor for shots one day and wakes up the next with an unresponsive stranger who would rather rock in a corner than look at them and who doesn't talk or hug them anymore. But it's coincidental. Autism presents very suddenly around the first birthday, which is also one of the times kids get shots. To link the two is no more factual than to say that birthday cake causes autism. I'm sorry, but it's not.

*SIDS rates are falling, but suffocation rates are rising. The "Back To Sleep" campaign lowered SIDS rates by 40%, but only because now every baby who dies in the crib while on his belly gets an automatic suffocation diagnosis, same with co-sleeping. Infant mortality remains the same while "SIDS" kills less kids every year.

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