The 2012-2013 flu season is beginning to wind down from a moderately severe season. Sadly, according to the CDC, 105 children died this season from the flu. And a preliminary review of the data by the CDC found that 90% of those children who died were not vaccinated for this season’s flu. In case that wasn’t clear, over 90 children died from influenza, a vaccine-preventable disease.
This review by the CDC indicated that 60 percent of deaths occurred in children who were at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications, but 40 percent of the children, who had died, had no recognized chronic health problems. The proportions of pediatric deaths occurring in children who were unvaccinated and those who had high-risk conditions are similar to what the CDC has observed in previous flu seasons.
Many of us who discuss medicine know that every medical procedure involves a risk and a benefit. With the flu vaccine, there are few risks, and even those are minor. But the benefit is immense for children. Saving lives. And in my view of the world, saving even one life, one child, is worth it. Parents who don’t give the flu vaccine to their children put them at a small, but significant risk of severe complications to the flu, up to and including death. Maybe next year someone will read this article, and think, “I want to save my child’s life.” I can only hope.
Although I rarely state it on these pages, I am an atheist. As a scientist, I’ve examined the evidence for a god (any god), and found it lacking. I think religion, especially in the USA, can be dangerous. Religious fundamentalism is behind the attack on teaching of real science, such as evolution and global warming. Although some may argue that trying to block the teaching of evolution, in favor of creationism, is innocuous (though absolutely unconstitutional), most would argue that since evolution is the basis of all biology (and therefore, medicine), it is harmful.
It’s when fundamentalist religion gets involved in medicine, whether it’s therapeutic abortions, vaccines, or stem-cell research, that it’s clear that religion becomes dangerous to human lives. I just want to focus on one tiny corner of the medical world, where religious beliefs block good medicine–HPV vaccinations.
I get lots of email about my articles that are published here. Sometimes, it’s about grammar or spelling (and the grammar KGB can be uncivil at times). Sometimes, it’s compliments or questions about what I’ve written. Rarely, they’re rude and usually include quite immature comments about the location of my head. However, I recently received an email that is more or less polite, but is filled with so many errors and logical fallacies, that I thought it should be critiqued publicly.
Here are my point-by-point comments about the email:
I stumbled across your blog and could not believe what I was reading about the safety of Gardasil. As a mother of a Gardasil injured daughter, your profuse endorsement made me skeptical. I want to begin by saying I am not anti-vaccine; I am anti-Gardasil. Continue reading “I get an email about Gardasil”
A recently published study in Pediatrics evaluates reports of increased rates of pertussis in the six years after receipt of the fifth (of five) DTaP doses. These reports suggest that waning of immunity to pertussis from DTaP is occurring before the recommended booster age of 11 to 12 years. The researchers tracked more than 400,000 Minnesota and Oregon children using immunization records and state health department whooping cough data. All of those children were born between 1998 and 2003 and received the recommended series of five DTaP shots, the final one usually given at 4-6 years old. Continue reading “Waning whooping cough immunity after DTaP–a new analysis”
According to a recent article in the Arizona Republic, the Arizona Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee has cleared a bill, SB 1108, that would allow parents, whose children aren’t fully immunized, an exemption to still get licensed to be allowed to care for foster children. There is an identical bill in the Arizona House, HB 2348, that is being heard in the House Reform and Human Services Committee.
Both proposed laws would eliminate any liability for the foster parents.
But wait! What would happen if these foster parents’ non-immunized children infected foster children who were not properly immunized? Or babies who are too young to be vaccinated, and who are protected from diseases like pertussis through cocooning, which is the strategy of protecting the baby from these diseases by vaccinating those individuals who are in close contact with them.
Am I missing something? Are we putting innocent children, those who are placed in the foster care system because of any number of problems, almost always not of their own fault, in harm’s way just to placate the antivaccination true believers? Even those parents whose children are exempt from vaccination for medical reasons do not have some inalienable right to caring for foster children, no matter how wonderful of parents they may be. I am empathetic to these parents who cannot vaccinate their children because of some medical reason (which is very rare), and who are willing to be foster parents, but why risk passing a disease to the foster child?
As I’ve said before, philosophical exemptions should be ended, they are being abused by individuals who are clueless about what vaccines do or don’t do. Religious exemptions should be ended, since there are but a handful of mainstream religions that are opposed to vaccinations. Vaccine exemptions are merely a method for vaccine denialists to get their way to not vaccinate their children using their misguided anti-science beliefs, and in the case of this law in Arizona, potentially harming innocent foster children.
Although there has been a slight drop-off in ILI visits over the past couple of weeks since the peak in early January, the CDC continues to identify this season as a “moderately severe” one, and supplies in some areas have tight supplies of the flu vaccine. Continue reading “Tamiflu-does it work”