October 18, 2007

Crazy Hippies Pose As Jesusfreaks To Avoid Vaccinating Their Kids

And we'll all get freakin' polio as a result. Thanks a lot.

From the AP:

Twenty-eight states, including Florida, Massachusetts and New York, allow parents to opt out for medical or religious reasons only. Twenty other states, among them California, Pennsylvania, Texas and Ohio, also allow parents to cite personal or philosophical reasons. Mississippi and West Virginia allow exemptions for medical reasons only.

From 2003 to 2007, religious exemptions for kindergartners increased, in some cases doubled or tripled, in 20 of the 28 states that allow only medical or religious exemptions, the AP found. Religious exemptions decreased in three of these states — Nebraska, Wyoming, South Carolina — and were unchanged in five others.

On the other hand, pharma-funded think tank wingnuts say the real problem is baseless lawsuits by money-grubbing autistic kids. Either way, you just know the issue is screwed up when Mississippi and West Virginia come off sounding like the reasonable ones.

Parents Use Religion to Avoid Vaccines [ap/google via dt reader mark]
On Vaccines, Immune To Reason [washingtonpost]


God! How can you be so selfish as to think about the health of third world children, when my kid has a percentage of percentage of a chance of contracting some horrible disease or autism! God!

First I was just getting bored with your design fetish, but now I'm plain annoyed. Do a little research and you'll find that incidences of polio had already started going down by the time the vaccine was introduced. I don't think it makes one a hippie or Jesusfreak to question why the (heavily lobbied by Big Pharm dollars) government recently sped through approval and requirement of Gardasil even though it doesn't protect against all strains of cervical cancer, hasn't been thoroughly tested and may be dangerous besides. Never mind the presence of mercury in many vaccines, and the increased incidences of autism since our national vaccine fetish really took hold. Also consider just how bad are some of these diseases compared with the cases of bad reactions or deaths caused by the vaccines they're supposed to prevent? We've been conditioned to blindly believe that vaccine=good and I don't think questioning and researching that assertion is a bad thing. I hate to be cliche and say you've lost yourself a reader, but there it is.

[funny, I've been bored with the "design fetish", too, which is why you have to look to one of the fifty thousand escapist baby eye candy blogs for 95+ percent of the press release photos that come down the line.

As for the hippie/jesusfreak axis, it was--or should have been--an obvious critique of the over-zealous polarization and demonization that seems to characterize the vaccine/thimerosal/autism debate. If you have a more apt description for someone who dodges vaccinations by lying about having a religious objection to them, don't be shy. Meanwhile, I thought I'd hear whines first from the pharma-loving rightwingers trying to turn the whole issue into a tort reform windfall, but I guess I was wrong.

The Thimerosal risks and the FDA's inept, incestuous handling of it has gotten plenty of coverage here on DT before. But my understanding--and I'll welcome something besides namecalling if I'm wrong--is that Thimerosal is not an ingredient in vaccines now, and it hasn't been for years. Berating someone based on your general skepticism of vaccines, however, seems particularly pointless. Obviously, commonly held medical belief and practice can change (cf. formula in the 50's-70's, no facedown sleeping, the infant cold medicine mess we're experiencing right now). But please frag the vaccine paradigm with data or links. At least AP--and I, too, I guess--could have fronted the fact that we're still only talking about a couple hundred people in the entire US seeking exemptions. So people might hold their noses at the stench of big pharma, but they still vaccinate their kid like everyone else.

sorry to see you go, though I hope your supercarrier kid doesn't end up in my kid's preschool class. -ed.]

There isn't any more mercury in vaccines for kids.

The autism link has been disproved time and time again, and the original research was by a very questionable source.

Josh is right, everyone should feel free to do indepth research regarding vaccinations. And if they choose to rely upon Dr. Viera Scheibner, the author of one of the more prominent anti-vaccine books, they might be led to believe that vaccinations are not only ineffective but more dangerous than helpful. But they should be aware the Scheibner, like most anti-vaccinators, is not qualified to making those accusations. She never finished her medical training, was primarily a paleontologist, and did not have her "findings" verified by peer-review. I prefer to follow the overwhelming evidence in favor of vaccinations that has been peer-reviewed by doctors of the AAP. And, while the initial batches of the polio vaccine were sometimes dangerous, the ones that are given out today are quite different (same goes for the mercury accusation). I'd encourage anyone interested in the vaccine debate to read Dr. Sears' decidedly balanced and well-researched approach to the issue, which includes the option to delay or modify the vaccine schedule, but strongly recommends against eliminating it.

[i picked polio out of a hat, btw. It's MMR that has been variously linked to autism spectrum disorder. -ed.]

Josh, I think (going by the last paragraph) dt's post is a little more balanced than that. But being as you're not reading any more, I guess you'll never find out what I think.

Anyways, only thing that occurred to me is to wonder whether the same thing works for avoiding taxes?

I love the logical conclusion of the anti-vaccinators that there is some wide-spread conspiracy of pediatricians to harm our children. You honestly think thousands of highly trained people who went through years of school so they could care for children are just pawns of "big-pharma"? It is just lunacy.
The anti-vaccinators also have no idea what a luxury it is for them to be "against" something so fundamentally beneficial. It's a lot easier to be against immunizing when you don't have to see children dying of entirely preventable disease.

I hate to try to make an argument for reasoned thought and personal responsibility here, but from my point of view, it's sensible to consider any need for vaccinations carefully and deliberately -- just the way everyone should be considering any medical treatment options.

Personally, I'm just fine with polio, MMR and pertussis. But I went mano-a-mano with my child's pediatrician over what was at the time a new immunization recommended -- strongly -- for kids back when day care was becoming more common. The argument for? Day cares are dirty and carers don't always wash their hands adequately when traveling between diapers, soiled panties and food. As the kid didn't attend day care and spent every minute with a parent who knew something about hygiene, it made no sense at all to inoculate her against something she wasn't going to be exposed to.

When I pointed this out, her (otherwise excellent) pediatrician hit the roof, claiming that "every" child needed this vaccination. But "every child" in this case didn't include kids who didn't attend day care -- a distinction that somehow escaped my pediatrician, who was unable to apply broad recommendations accurately to specific, individual situations.

When anybody tells me that "everyone" needs to do something, I like a little more data, and I definitely want to know how, and if, it applies to the situation at hand.

There's a lot to be said for evaluating governmental (and pharmaceutical) advice as carefully as possible. For example, except in specific, vulnerable, populations, flu shots may do nothing more than contribute to weakening immune systems. Kind of like the way the cultural passion for antibiotics has contributed to the rise in MRSA and the use of anti-bacterial soaps to resistant viruses. Over-use of these powerful tools can be quite dangerous.

I agree, Greg, that some of these anti-vaccine people/groups are just plain nuts. On the other hand, letting a government that is largely owned by special interests determine your health care isn't much less nutty. Seen the food pyramid lately?

[pharma, it's what's for dinner. and I'm all for voice of reason on these matters But even as a religious guy myself, I can't fathom the idea of religiously based objections to vaccines to begin with, so people pretending to have religious objections just seems even less rational to me. All that said, crazy hippies and Jesusfreaks still come out on top of dissembling, manipulative, power- and-money-worshipping think tank monkeys out to twist our government to their financial ends, so they've got that going for them. Now what were we talking about? Oh yeah, reasoned thought... -ed.]

I would think that if YOUR child is vaccinated, you shouldn't be so worried about my un/partially vaccinated child in her preschool class. I mean, why else are you vaccinating then? Don't you think it works?

Also, plenty of people choose to go the religious exemption route simply because certain states won't allow a philosophical exemption. I argue that because I don't suscribe to an organized religion, my deeply held philosophies ARE my religion.

Lastly, people don't not vaccinate solely because of the thimerisol issue. Certain diseases (chickenpox?) I would prefer my children to catch, and have in fact purposely exposed them to so that they have true immunity. Other objections include the government telling me what to do, the other ingredients in vaccines, and the fact that too many vaccines shot into a little body at once is a crazy crazy practice, designed to fit into all those 1st year well baby visits.

Our family delays vaccines, and spaces them and omits certain ones. But miraculously, we do not have cooties. And true enough, we ride the herds immunity. In the US, I wouldn't feel the need to vaccinate against anything. Since we travel to various foreign lands, where there are certain diseases that haven't been irradicated and I worry about, so we vaccinate against those.

Anyway, we all parent the way we think best. I've stated before (perhaps not in the nicest way, and it'll sound that way again I'm afraid), you're a snob, and a new parent. Since you asked, I read your blog because you have interesting design snob information (which makes me a snob too?) I guess the difference is I've been parenting for 12 plus years, and I'm not quite as naive that something plastic and tacky will "ruin" my children. They're going to be their own people, regardless of whether the trains are Thomas or Ikea faceless.

and with that, I'm off to prepare my three kids for a 16 hour flight to Asia tomorrow. Solo.

(I really did mean congratulations you know, it was the other posters that got my ire up re: girls superior to boys)

[nail on the head: every time I feel like I've really accomplished something by soloing with the kid, a mom with gets on wearing twins followed by a 3-yo pulling a wheelie. Meanwhile, as I sit here and talk with my wife about this whole thing I find out that 1) several people we know and work with are opposed to vaccines, people I hadn't imagined; and 2) that both the parents who choose to vaccinate and the ones who avoid it are doing it because they think it's the best for their kids. So it's all relative. Wait, NO.

Wait, trick question because there is no chicken pox vaccine, and I thought everyone knew it was better to get it younger. Rubella, scarlet fever, polio, though: not so great. As for the snob thing, again: nail, head. -ed.]

On the subject of Mercury, a vaccine is the least of your worries. There is more Mercury in the air that you breathe and the water that you drink than there ever was in a vaccine. Plus they stopped using thimerosal quite a few years ago, and the Autism rate has not gone down. In fact, it's gone up.

Late to the party, as ever...

To the commenter implying that those of us who immunize our children "shouldn't" have fears re. those children who aren't immunized if we have faith in the immunizations:

Nice try.

I'd like to thank you for the 6 monhs I spent coughing with whooping cough last year, oh, and the hearing loss. My asthmatic son would also like to say a special thanks; he really enjoyed the extra courses of steroids. My husband, too, is pretty grateful; coughing until one blacks out really is conducive to a good semester's work. Our two year old got off the lightest-afterall, she was the most recently immunized. She only had to go to the ER a few times, and, heck, she got good at the vomitting.

Vaccines aren't only about your kids' health, they're about everyone's. And, frankly, while you are second guessing the recommendations for your child, and riding in the lee of other people's responsibility, I don't think you are giving much thought to the neighbor's children. Or the other people on the bus. Or whoever pushes that grocery cart next. For some of us, the decision to let our kids get chicken pox is a lunacy; the imuno-suppressed, the steroid dependent, we're all around you, so thanks. Thanks a bunch. I hope your little reasoned experiment goes well. And I hope for your own peace of mind, you never have to know how badly you might have hurt someone else.

I don't avoid immunizations for my kids because of thimerosal. I avoid them because I think most diseases are not life-threatening if treated properly, and in fact would help their immune systems develop in a more natural and beneficial way. I understand that for most people it's not an option to stay home with sick kids for several weeks, and that for some (newborns and pertussis, for example) there is additional risk.

I also have some beliefs about disease that don't even fit into the vaccination paradigm -- such as that not everyone who is exposed to what is considered the "cause" of a disease (virus, bacteria, etc.) will come down with that disease. And that sometimes the healthy members of the population are just as susceptible to disease (e.g., the predominance of mortality among young adults during the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918) as opposed to the elderly or infirm. So telling me that I'm "putting others at risk" doesn't even make sense to me.

I am also a bit disgusted at the thought that if my kids go to public school, I will be forced to submit a "religious" waiver that does not necessarily reflect my true views and beliefs, because my state does not have a philosophical exemption. If I didn't have to, I wouldn't bring God into the conversation at all. I'm not trying to lie, I just can't necessarily afford to send my kids to a private school that doesn't require immunizations.

"Certain diseases (chickenpox?) I would prefer my children to catch, and have in fact purposely exposed them to so that they have true immunity"

Umm, no. Ever heard of shingles? It's what happens where your immune system weakens with age, and those latent varicella zoster genes (aka chicken pox) that integrated into your nerve cells' DNA re-emerge and cause fantastically painful sores. And god help you if you're immuno-suppressed for some reason. I've treated these people and they're miserable.

But more to the point, herd immunity is critical to public health. The previous poster's discussion of whooping cough (pertusis) is illustrative.

But far be it from me, the anonymous blog poster, to tell you what to do. Examine the data. But make sure it's real peer reviewed data, not a heart-breaking anecdote.

I admit, I am one of those non-vaccinating loonies. Our reasons are simple and personal and have nothing to do with religion, philosophy or a conspiracy that Big Pharma is using mind control. Luckily, I live in Canada where we don't have to justify our reasons to anyone.

I can, however, answer the "why would someone refuse to vaccinate based on an actual religious belief?", as I have a close friend who did just that. Reason is, certain vaccines, notably Rubella are made with human diploid cells AKA: cells from an aborted fetus.
Also, several vaccines contain human blood products, and are a no-no for JWs.

[aha, I see the light. Canadians: is there anything they CAN'T do? -ed.]

Vaccination - the hidden truth on Google Video

some other vaccination documentary on Google Video

an unattributed article on Gardasil from newsinferno.com

long FDA info page on thimerosal

[I added descriptions to your raw links, which I assume are meant to show that vaccines are dangerous and the government and medical establishment know it; the recent ram-through of the HPV vaccine Gardasil shows how the FDA bends over backwards to help pharma poison us with untested drugs; and the FDA is talking down the whole Thimerosal thing, no big deal, so it MUST be a big deal.

the Dr Scheibner in the first vid is the non-peer-reviewed paleontologist whose credibility and expertise on medical issues was criticized in an earlier comment. In the ensuing 10 years since that documentary was made, though, there should be plenty of new information and research and revelations refuting or fleshing out the claims made in it. The second one starts out looking like an infomercial; I didn't watch it. The Gardasil fiasco is just that, and points to the FDA's dire need for reform, but remember that Merck was blitzing state-by-state on that, too. It's a scientific/medical/political disaster that I have to think can only happen under the current administration, i.e., it's not related to current infant/child vaccine questions. Lastly, Thimerosal is not a current vaccine question, afaik. For the rare vaccines where it's still used, thimerosal-free variants are available. Unless the FDA is flatout lying about a readily demonstrable fact, but even I don't think the FDA's gotten that ridiculous yet. -ed.]

hmm, I missed the party yesterday, darn life. Yes there is a chicken pox vaccine (it's mandated for school attendance in many states), no it doesn't protect against the shingles because a live virus is used in the vax. So your vaxxed kids have it hanging around in their dna just like mine that have had the wild virus.

Yes there is still thermerisol in vaccines. It's suppose to have been eliminated from children's vaccines, but it is still common in the flu vaccine. The CDC changed it's flu vax recommendations to include all children under 5, however there are a limited number of thermerisol free flu shots produced every year... and it's not nearly enough to vax every kid under 5. So either some kids get the mercury or some kids skip the shot.

And as for herd immunity, are the self-righteous masses out there aware that their kids shed viral material after getting some of their shots and do you take precautions to keep your kids from infecting the immune suppressed? All the cases of polio that have occurred in this country since sometime in the mid 1970's have been traced back to the vaccine. They changed the recommended vaccine from a live virus vax to one using only dead material in order to prevent that. But there are other live virus vaccines out there, including those nasal-spray flu vaccines they like to push on people in big box stores. All those people shedding the flu virus all over the place, I bet they're not told they should stay home and keep away from tiny infants, old people, and the immune compromised. Chicken pox vaccine, same thing, were you told by your doctor to keep your kid home?

Well really I didn't intend to write a book here, so I'll stop. (Oh by the way, there is no vaccine for Scarlet Fever, antibiotics will usually clear that up, it's a type of strep throat.)

[CDC FAQ on Varicella/chicken pox vaccine: Well whaddya know, times sure are changing. It came out in 1995, and was incorporated into the MMR shot, now MMRV, in 2005. Also, Scarlet Fever? I guess I just consider it dangerous because it severely disabled my great aunt. must remember: poignant anecdote is not the same as wide-scale medical research. -ed.]

I just wanted to make a comment on Gardasil and why it's being rushed. Have any of you ever known a woman with cervical cancer? I have. It's not something you want and many women die from it at an early age. The girl I knew was in college.

Don't think it can't happen to your daughter.

And to say it's being rushed is absurd. The research that lead to the development of the vaccine began in the 1980s. 20 years is not rushing it.

[I mean rushed politically. It flared up almost instantly in state legislatures across the country, fueled, it turned out, by a Merck-funded, state-by-state, stealth lobbying and public awareness campaign. I've lived near cancer several times, and it's no light-hearted matter. And I haven't dug into the Gardasil issue deeply, but it does not feel like a proud FDA moment to me. -ed.]

Okay, ignore the alarmist ranting, and absolutely consider the source, but do take a gander at the chart in this ad. As far as I can tell from cross referencing, the chart is accurate: http://www.generationrescue.org/pdf/070626.pdf

I absolutely do not want my impending offspring to get any kind of flu shot, rotavirus shot, chicken pox shot, and all these other latest greatest things. The research I have read indicates dubious value, with many of the vaccinated winding up with the disease anyway. Previous posters made the medical facts of the chicken pox shot clear, so I don't need to!

I am still researching the benefits/costs of doing delayed vaccination, but so far it seems like a good idea. Infancy + all these omnibus shots = unknown.

I am absolutely sure after doing the research my damn self (hint, there are footnotes involved if you're reading a real study) that anyone who doesn't vaccinate against polio, pertussis, and the rest of the original cohort is a dangerous crackpot I wouldn't want anywhere near ME, let alone my offspring. Sorry, but there it is.

Research is a little more involved than ten minutes, Google, and sites by uncredentialed wackos.

[note to self: update personal definition of "research" -ed.]

Yikes! Hope you didn't think I was ranting at you, Greg, when I was bitching about research and how one conducts it. As I said, I'm expecting my first, and I've got serious brain fatigue from people who Google a pregnancy/baby question and believe the top result without question.

The vaccination issue is particularly touchy among my friends at the moment. The problem is that people don't habitually check sources. Scheibner in particular is most often cited on the "alternative" board I go to, and it drives me insane.

Why is someone as science oriented as I am on an alternative parenting site? Because the research (that WORD again) shows that if you *can* give birth without drugs, you should, and I can't find any support for this point of view outside the alternative community. If more people did the hard research, then maybe we could start sorting out the tinfoil afficionados from the legitimate concerned adult who no longer entirely trusts the FDA.

Aaaaand... I'm ranting. Sorry.

P.S. I come here *because* you're a design snob, a local boy, and you save my husband and I a hell of a lot of Ebay scanning for awesome toys. ;)


There are more than a couple of hundred kids a year nationwide seeking exemption. Here are the numbers for Vermont, which allows a "philosophical" exemption: 298 for medical reasons, 196 for religious ones and 1,722 whose parents objected to vaccines for philosophical reasons -- a total of 2,207 or 2.21 percent of the State's public school population for the 06-07 school year.


So much for herd immunity.

I personally don't think that kids should be allowed to attend public school without the required immunizations, except for medical reasons. There are so many ways that it is dangerous for the other families. For example, a student with a pre-immunization infant at home, could bring a potentially lethal infection back to their sibling. It’s a personal choice not to immunize your child, but don’t endanger others. Either honor the social contract that you have entered into by accepting a free education from the State, or home school.

[wow, those numbers compare to the Florida numbers in the AP article, but in FL, it's only 0.5% of the school population. -ed.]

Eliza, that actually happened at the preschool I used to teach at. A child got the chickenpox and it spread around to all the children who didn't have the immunization shot.

It ended up also being transfered by clothing and a boy who did have the shot didn't get sick, but his infant sister at home got violently ill.

I swear, inability to assess risk will be this nation's downfall. If the choice between MMR and nothing were available, I'm sure we'd all go with nothing. But that's not the choice: it's between MMR and the infinitessimally small chance of contracting measles, mumps, or rubella. Multiply the risk by the cost, and the MMR shot starts to look like a goddamn Haagen-Dazs bar. Even if the Haagen-Dazs comes with a chocolate-autism shell (which, according to our friend the scientific method, it doesn't) it still looks ok. The MMR can't be good for your kid, but it's better than no MMR.
And I'm sorry, Greg, but you're pulling your Jesus-freak punch when you should be throwing it haymaker-style. The willingness to entertain "junk-science" is ten-fold among those who think the Earth is

[I don't disagree any less with people making religious objections to medicine; it's just now I recognize what some of them are. -ed.]

As a new parent i find this issue very confusing. Arguements on both sides seem to have merit. in the end i have vaccinated my baby. but i just think people should do what they feel is right and other people should accept that. And I think blaming someone else because someone in your family is sick is just ridiculuos. People get sick, it's part of life.

no surprise that once a parent makes a decision re immunizations, they pretty much have to defend that decision and demonize the alternative, b/c the "hippies" and the law abiding "herd" can't both be correct.

my son's 13 months old. back when the debate would have been academic to me (i.e., before he got any immunizations), i would have researched, ranted, cited and linked my ass off. not any more.

now i have all the empirical evidence i need: my son's violent febrile (104+) reaction to both of his first two (DPT) shots. so guess who's got a religious objection and won't be getting her son vaxed any time soon? call me names. blame me if your kid gets sick. i could care less. i am taking care of my own, and taking responsibility to sequester him if he's the tiniest bit under the weather. once he's past his 2nd birthday, i'll revisit the issue. until then my position is that i believe it is a "sin" to intentionally subject my son to further immunizations that i know for certain will make him very ill. and god forbid he develops autism, i won't have to wonder "what if"?

i do what i think is right for my son.

i don't care about being "right" about the vax debate.

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