They cite websites skeptical about immunizations

Michigan has a dangerously low vaccination rate.

That’s the warning from public health experts as more and more schoolchildren are not getting basic vaccinations to protect them — and all of us — from preventable disease.

Michigan makes it easy to avoid immunization and after years of increasing public concerns over side effects and government intervention, the rate of those going unvaccinated is dangerously high.

After millions of years of being vulnerable to infectious diseases, the moderately clever humans engineered a way to avoid many of them. What a boon to humanity! And now, we’ve gone the next stage, and become so pseudo-clever that we deliberately and knowingly reject that engineered fix, so that we can have more infectious diseases again.

How fucking stupid are we.

A recent outbreak in Traverse City shut down a 1,200-student charter school for a week, infected students at 14 other school buildings in the region, and has sickened dozens of people and forced hundreds into quarantine.

The culprit was pertussis — also known as whooping cough — a disease once thought to be nearly eradicated.

But Grand Traverse County has an undervaccination rate six times the national average. And nearly 1 in 5 of the kindergarteners (17 percent) at the charter school, Grand Traverse Academy, had parents who signed waivers exempting the children from required vaccinations.

Whooping cough. That’s a horrible disease.

Last week, the other shoe dropped in Grand Traverse: Two residents were diagnosed with measles, the most contagious disease known to man and one that can have serious complications.

It happened in Traverse City. It could easily happen in communities throughout Michigan.

Michigan has one of the highest vaccine-waiver rates for kindergartners in the country, three times the national median, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the number of kindergartners getting vaccine waivers is growing. In five years, it’s increased 23 percent, the CDC says.

Not clever.

The CDC warns outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases are most likely to occur where “unvaccinated persons cluster in schools and communities.”

Such clusters exist in a third of Michigan public and private schools housing kindergartners — that’s more than 800 school buildings scattered across 68 of the state’s 83 counties, according to the MLive analysis.

Many of those clusters are in affluent and well-educated communities, such as Traverse City, Troy, Grosse Pointe and Clarkston.

Well-educated enough to read woo about medical subjects but not well-educated enough to realize they’re bullshit.

Those opting out of vaccines tend to be health-conscious families who buy organic food, give their children health supplements and are drawn to alternatives to Western medicine. They cite internet websites skeptical about immunizations and worry the risk of vaccines outweigh the benefits.

Yeah that kind. The Prince Charles kind. They’re “health-conscious” so they buy into bullshit.

“Michigan is one of the worst states in the country” in terms of vaccine-waiver rates, and communities with high waiver rates should be “very concerned,” said Dr. Paul Offit, a leading authority on vaccinations in the United States and chief of the infectious diseases division at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“When you have a fairly large number of people who are choosing not to vaccinate, that puts not only their own children at risk, but also everyone else’s,” Offit said.

A little learning is a dangerous thing.


  1. says

    Make the opt-out parents watch video of a little kid whoop-coughing before they can get a waiver. 15 seconds was all I could take and I wish I had never seen that horror.

  2. Jean says

    Something that’s not related to Michigan but likely to low vaccination rates is the numerous mumps cases in the NHL. Maybe that will be a more visible case that could help some people wake up (but I’m not hopeful).

  3. quixote says

    About the partially-well-educated orthorexics and antivaxxers: I live near another nest of them in Malibu – Santa Monica. I think it was on some CDC website a few weeks ago. They showed a national map highlighting the areas with the lowest vaccination rates, and there’s Beverly Hills (which is contiguous with Santa Monica). And, yes, we do have whooping cough here in increasing numbers.

    Somehow, when their kids get whooping cough, I see them suing the school system for negligence. Just a hunch.

  4. Blanche Quizno says

    You know what they say: Those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it. Or something. Where these diseases run rampant, getting immunized is a sign of status. It’s proudly declared. It’s here, where we DON’T routinely see people scarred or crippled by these diseases, where we’ve never seen anyone with whooping cough or mumps or even chicken pox, that people regard them as no longer an issue and, thus, immunizations are no longer “worth it.”

    I’ll tell you something. I moved out to So. CA in 2001. My kids were 2 and 4. They were up to date on all their immunizations. When my younger child was an infant, I’d gladly accepted the new rotavirus immunization for her, only to see it withdrawn from the market shortly thereafter for being implicated in too many babies being injured (2 died). That alarmed me – I started thinking perhaps I shouldn’t sign my children up to be on the “bleeding edge” of new immunization rollouts.

    Before we moved, there was that recommendation that women start getting annual mammograms at age 40 – remember that? I read all the papers (my husband was in grad school, so I had access to the journals then), and, on the basis of the research I read, decided that I’d definitely wait until my 50s at the earliest. I was 40, but still nursing my baby then, too. Since then, that recommendation has been modified – now it’s not recommended in most cases before age 50, and then only every other year.

    Once in So. CA, I started running into people who claimed that their children or grandchildren had been harmed by immunizations – including the mother of my son’s two favorite friends. It’s one thing to simply read about strange irrationally panicked persons; it’s quite another to KNOW people who insist that THEIR CHILD, whom you know, is now considered “special needs” (with an IEP – special-needs individual educational plan) (though he seems perfectly *FINE* to you), and to hear about how *different* he was, how happy, how smart, how clever, how precocious he was until that fateful immunization, after which he started crying uncontrollably for hours on end, he became withdrawn, his development stalled, and he was forever changed. This boy’s mother had a teaching degree and his father was in a tech company, so it wasn’t like they were hillbillies or something. Another woman who told me her grandchild had been similarly “injured” – I knew her well enough to trust that she sincerely believed what she was telling me, but I never met her grandchild, so I could have discounted her report (she wasn’t particularly well-educated, perhaps high-school graduate at most) if not for my son’s friend.

    So I stopped immunizing. This was before that British researcher Andrew Wakefield’s famous paper was so thoroughly debunked and retracted by Lancet – that didn’t happen until early 2010. I carefully followed these developments; I also read of a special insurance fund set up for some children who had been injured from immunizations:

    One girl received $4.7 million. She’s forever disabled and at a 2-month-old’s state of mental function. That’s terrifying for a parent. Why would there be such an enormous fund if injuries from immunizations didn’t happen? Probabilities aren’t as comforting as you might think, because your child’s experience is 100%. If your child has a bad reaction, it makes no difference how many other children didn’t. Your child DID.

    When it came time to enroll my son in the high school he’d chosen, though, I sat both my children down and explained immunizations to them, what they were for (to protect your friends’ families, too, not just your own), how these diseases weren’t seen much at all any more thanks to immunizations, how they worked, how they were administered. Since my children didn’t remember getting shots, they did not share my lifelong fear of needles or my deep-seated panic at having this *DONE* to me as if I were a prisoner being tortured. They both opted in, and I decided I’d get a DPT (tetanus booster) at the same time, for solidarity. I think it was hardest on me.

    Since then, I’ve explained every other available immunization (like the HPV), and they’ve both chosen to have them. They’re smart kids. And I’m glad that they were at the stage of development that I could simply explain it to them and give them the option of choosing. Neither of them has the slightest fear of needles, and their friends who have been forced to have the immunizations invariably report that the injection is a far more painful experience than my children report it to be – now that they can decide for themselves, being smart, they have always chosen the immunization, and because they have chosen it, they don’t fear it.

    Sorry that ended up being long – to summarize, I’m glad we’re back on board with immunizations, it turned out well for us as a family in the end (fortunately), and I hope this has helped you understand why some of the more-intelligent, more-educated parents are leery of immunizations. As far as degrees go, I hold a BA, a BS, and a Master’s, personally.

  5. Blanche Quizno says

    One more thing – this is funny – when my husband came down with shingles at age, like, 38 or so (yeah, it’s actually really common among highly-stressed younger professionals, not just old folks), that mom I mentioned above and one other actually called me and asked if their children could come over to play with my husband!

    NO! Your children CAN’T come over and play with my husband! He’s SICK!!

    Weird being involved in a homeschooling community. Let me leave it at that.

  6. lorn says

    It is one of the classic stories of trauma, response, forgetting, and vulnerability.

    There is a monster in the woods, every year it kills. The people of the village search for a way to hold the monster at bay and find one. They fight hard with this weapon. They learn that with effort and discipline they can keep the monster away. For a few years nobody dies. People start to wonder if the monster has gone away, if perhaps the monster wasn’t as bad as the old stories say. The effort to keep the monster away are abandoned. The monster returns and people start dying.

    Humans, once surrounded by dead bodies, are quick to vigorously respond to a crisis. Once the crisis has passed we tend to forget the horror of the crisis and abandon any effort to prevent any further crisis. We suck at long term management.

    I used to know a doctor that had a video tape of pertussis. In B&W it shows a young child in a crib crying and coughing, and coughing, and coughing, and gasping for air … it goes on for what seems like a very long time. He would show it to parents resistant to vaccines and describe in detail the possible medical consequences. Or he did until a hospital administrator told him to stop.

    Evidently introducing parents to reality of what might happen is considered ‘coercive’. The feelings of people who put their kid, and everyone around you kid, at risk have to be protected.

  7. says

    That may be one of the videos I blogged about a few months ago when it was all-pertussis for a couple of days around here. The one Kamaka mentioned was a small child, and there was another that was an infant. Both excruciating to watch, and necessary for people who think they should skip the vaccine.

  8. mildlymagnificent says

    It’s here, where we DON’T routinely see people scarred or crippled by these diseases, where we’ve never seen anyone with whooping cough or mumps or even chicken pox, that people regard them as no longer an issue and, thus, immunizations are no longer “worth it.”

    It’s not just the sick kids we don’t see any more.

    We also no longer have those large facilities for kids and adults made deaf or blind from themselves contracting measles or their mothers having rubella before they were born. Nor do we have large numbers of residents of facilities for people who were brain injured by infectious diseases of several kinds.

  9. Katydid says

    It was thanks to your hosting the whooping cough videos that my spouse and I got DTaP boosters (we were both overdue). Herd immunity is real.

  10. Blanche Quizno says

    I know. It’s a really good thing. But it’s also got a down side, so few people being injured by these immunizable diseases. Even though we’re better off as a whole. Once the threat appears distant, we become complacent, even lackadaisical. And then it’s back to square one, or probably more like square 3 or 4. At least we have better treatments for SOME of these.

    And in other news, it was just in 2010 that Dr. Arnall Patz died. He’s the ophthalmologist who one of “the great medical mysteries of the postwar era”, that concentrated oxygen was causing premature babies’ blindness. He had to borrow money from his family to fund the study he needed to demonstrate this, but thanks to him, the epidemic of neonatal blindness was halted. Music legend Stevie Wonder was one of the babies affected before Dr. Patz figured it out.

  11. Trebuchet says

    Those opting out of vaccines tend to be health-conscious families

    This is an oxymoron.

    Not really. They’re concious, but ignorant. Willfully ignorant, at that.

    They cite internet websites skeptical about immunizations and worry the risk of vaccines outweigh the benefits.

    Those sites, of course, aren’t skeptical at all, just effing idiotic.

  12. lorn says

    When I was in elementary school there were still one or two kids in school wearing leg braces because of the effects of polio. I don’t remember anyone opting out of polio vaccination. Everyone understood the connection and everyone made the logical choice.

    Now, the only kid most people have seen in leg braced was Forest Gump in a movie, and he magically ran out of them. Polio is not gone. Cases are still common in Afghanistan and Nigeria with occasional cases in Pakistan, Somalia, and recently Syria. None of those places is over 24 hours away by air.

    Humans like to comfort ourselves by imagining we live in a relatively safe and fair world where staying healthy and aware is enough and there are no monsters out there waiting to cripple the conscientiously healthy and the gratuitously unhealthy alike.

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