Anti-vaxxers, the real welfare queens

Anti vax welfare queen

Oops, my bad!

Until recently I would have told you that welfare queens were a figment of the right wing (and often racist) imagination, but I’ve learned that they are real. They’re not women of color on welfare, though, they are white, relatively well off anti-vaxxers.

What is a welfare queen?

According to this piece on National Public Radio (NPR):

In the popular imagination, the stereotype of the “welfare queen” is thoroughly raced — she’s an indolent black woman, living off the largesse of taxpayers.

In other words, a welfare queen is an entitled person who expects the benefits of working (money) without the burdens (doing the actual work).

As NPR notes:

The term is seen by many as a dogwhistle, a way to play on racial anxieties without summoning them directly.

Hence the reference to welfare queens far exceeds the actual number of people who meet the definition.

The REAL welfare queens in our society are almost exclusively white and relatively well off; they are the anti-vaxxers.

Why are they welfare queens?

They are entitled people who expect the benefits of vaccination (herd immunity) without the burdens (vaccinating their own children). Simply put, they don’t bother to vaccinate; they just depend on everyone else to protect them.

But how can those who don’t vaccinate expect to get the benefits? And why are there any burdens to those parents who do vaccinate their children?

Both questions are answered by understanding how vaccines work. Contrary to popular belief, vaccine do NOT work by conferring 100% immunity on 100% of people who are vaccinated. They work by reducing the ability of the bacteria or virus in question to spread from person to person. Imagine that little Ainsley comes in close contact with 10 children per day. Now imagine that Ainsley develops diphtheria. Who is likely to catch diphtheria from Ainsley? If 99% of children are vaccinated and the vaccine is 95% effective, the odds are low that any of the 10 children she comes in contract with could get diphtheria. Thus, the outbreak of diphtheria ends with Ainsley (though it may end poor Ainsley’s life).

Now imagine that only 50% of children are vaccinated against diphtheria. That means that half the children are likely to be susceptible, and therefore diphtheria is almost certain to be transmitted. And since the children who catch diphtheria from Ainsley are going to expose additional children who aren’t vaccinated, the disease begins to spread like wild fire.

In other words, in 2015 if Ainsley’s mother doesn’t vaccinate her against diphtheria and she never gets diphtheria, it’s NOT because she was breastfed, eats organic food and has a strong immune system. It’s because herd immunity ensures that she’s never exposed to diphtheria.

Why are there burdens for those who do vaccinate their children? Because vaccines have risks. Doctors, scientists and public health officials have always been honest about these risks and they are quite dire. They include the risk of permanent brain damage and even the risk of death. That’s why the idea that doctors or Big Pharma are hiding the risk of vaccine caused autism is so absurd. They tell you that vaccines could KILL your child; why would they lie about autism?

The risk of brain damage and death from vaccines is tiny, but it is real and it DOES happen. We continue vaccinating our children because the risk of not vaccinating them dwarfs the risks of vaccinating them by 1000X or more.

Vaccinating your children is like going to work. Sure it has benefits (money), but it also has burdens (risks to your children). Anti-vaxxers are entitled free-riders. They enjoy the benefits of herd immunity, but leave the burdens to everyone else.

If that’s not a welfare queen, I don’t know what is.