A pediatrics resident wrote an excellent op-ed on vaccination in the LA Times. LA has seen its first outbreak of measles in four years there, and it’s something to worry about.
A study published in the April issue of Pediatrics examined a 2008 measles outbreak in San Diego. The index case was a 7-year-old unvaccinated child who was exposed to the virus while abroad. This case resulted in 839 exposed persons, 11 actual cases (all in unvaccinated children) and the hospitalization of an infant too young to be vaccinated. In total, the outbreak cost the public more than $175,000, which would have covered the costs of measles vaccinations for almost 180,000 children.
You skip out on giving your kids a cheap, easy, routine shot, and this is what you can do: harm hundreds. Measles is also the kind of disease people can die of, too, so there’s an even greater risk than making a lot of people miserable.
But this next bit was the most compelling part of the story. How can smart people be so stupid?
And yet, many parents continue not to vaccinate their children. I see such children frequently. Last fall, when I entered an examination room, a 5-year-old patient loudly yelled “Get out!” Her mother apologized, then explained. “Sorry, she’s never gotten S-H-O-T-S before.”
Confused, I looked down at the chart to confirm that the patient was in for H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines. Seeing that she was, I seized the opportunity to offer her catch-up vaccines as well, but her mother declined. She explained matter-of-factly that it was because the flu was “going around” whereas the other vaccine-preventable diseases, she said, were no longer a threat.
She went on to tell me that she was a lawyer who had grown up in a country where measles is still endemic. Since moving to the U.S., she had never known anyone to suffer from measles, but she did know several children who had autism. So, while she understood that vaccinations had not been definitively shown to cause autism, she felt that, here in America, the risk of autism was a bigger threat than that of vaccine-preventable diseases.
No longer a threat? That’s awfully short-sighted. This clever lawyer moved to this country from a place where the disease was endemic…does she think there is a super-duper barrier around America now so no more people and diseases can move here from her native country? And there is no risk of autism from vaccinations that has ever been demonstrated.
I suppose I could make a few jokes about selfish lawyers here, but since there are lawyers reading the blog, I’ll wait until they leave the room. Ask me later, kids. Or invent your own!