Why do anti-vaxxers think “nature intended” for them to survive?

image

See? Now he has natural immunity, just like nature intended!

The above is a picture of an infant with smallpox. I searched high and low for a picture that would convey the severity of the disease without being too distressing to view. You can imagine the impact of this infection on the baby’s face and the subsequent scarring he endured … if he survived. It’s that image, the image of his hideously scarred face that illustrates one of the central conceits of the anti-vax movement.

The conceit is that “nature intended” for people to survive vaccine preventable illnesses and to survive them unscathed.

Listen to this Australian anti-vaxxer justify her decision to let her son get measles:

Bacteria and viruses are predators and children are prey.

The woman, an administrator of the closed Facebook group Anti-Vaccination Australia, said her son was sick for five days with a fever and a rash, but: “it’s not deadly”.

Fellow anti-vaccination activists agreed it was nothing to be worried about.

“And now that he’s had measles he’s getting a stronger immune system. The way nature intended,” one woman wrote.

But measles IS deadly. It is a leading killer of children, though not children in industrialized countries like Australia. Why? Not because “nature intended” that children should survive measles, but because of vaccination.

In reality nature doesn’t “intend” anything. Nature doesn’t “intend” the sun to shine; it shines because nuclear fusion is occurring inside it. Nature doesn’t “intend” the tides to rise and fall; it happens because of the moon’s gravity acting on the oceans. Nature doesn’t intend for people to survive or succumb to infectious diseases; it happens because bacteria and viruses attack people in order to feed and reproduce themselves.

Nature no more “intends” for people to survive infectious diseases than it “intends” for people to survive having a limb bitten off by a tiger. True, your survival might be aided by blood clotting factors that staunch the bleeding and antibodies that combat infection, but it’s equally likely that you’ll die in spite of your body’s defenses against traumatic injury and hemorrhage.

Bacteria and viruses are predators and human beings are prey. It’s just that simple. Refusing vaccination is like petting a tiger. You might survive the experience but you might not. Human beings learned very early on not to pet tigers. The people who petted tigers died at a much higher rate than those who avoided them, placing an evolutionary premium on wariness of prey animals. Human beings who weren’t afraid of tigers died out while those who avoided tigers survived.

Human beings learned very early on to avoid people with communicable diseases although their understanding of both disease and communicability was imperfect. Yes, they had immune systems, but just like people can’t always outrun tigers, their immune systems can’t always outrun bacteria and viruses.

Humans searched desperately for substances in their environment (herbs, foods, bizarre concoctions involving animal parts and urine among other things) that might ameliorate and prevent disease. Ultimately we found antibiotics, substances created by plants and molds to protect themselves against biological attack that we could use to protect ourselves against similar biological attacks.

Nature didn’t “intend” for antibiotics to help us battle disease. We used technology to coax plants and molds to make the antibiotics that protect them and then took their protection for ourselves.

Ultimately, we created vaccination, harnessing the body’s innate immune system to hold off an attack by bacteria and viruses instead of waiting until we had been attacked to start fighting back. It isn’t any more of a subversion of nature than using antibiotics or using the herbs that contain them. It’s technology allowing us to protect ourselves from the fact that nature doesn’t care who wins the battle, the human beings or the microorganisms.

Anti-vaxxers live in a fantasy world made possible by vaccines. They grew up without being infected by vaccine preventable pathogens and imagined that nature “intended” infectious disease to be mild, self-limited, easily vanquished and gifted us with natural immunity after the battle. That’s like growing up in a world without tiger attacks and heading to the zoo to pet the tigers because nature intended tigers to be gentle. It’s foolish … and deadly.

Only the conceited believe that nature pays particular attention to them and their wellbeing. Nature did not “intend” for the baby above to get smallpox and it didn’t care a whit whether the baby lived, died or survived with hideous scarring. The smallpox virus attacked the baby and engaged it in a mortal struggle. Smallpox has now been eradicated, not because nature “intended” that it disappear but because we created a vaccine to prevent it from spreading and reproducing.

Infectious diseases are predators and we are prey. The only question for anti-vaxxers is whether they think it is better to protect themselves from predators or try to save their children and themselves after the pathogens have taken the first bite.

  • Hey, your article on the extraordinary conceitedness of being an anti-vaxxer won’t load.

    “Fatal error: Unknown: Cannot use output buffering in output buffering display handlers in Unknown on line 0”

    http://www.skepticalob.com/2015/05/the-extraordinary-conceitedness-of-being-an-anti-vaxxer.html

    (Does that mean anything to you?)

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      It means that there were too many comments on the thread and disqus broke. I think. I haven’t been able to access it for days. Possibly it is intermittently available.

    • demodocus

      Same thing happens everytime we go above a certain comment count.

  • Busbus

    I love this post. “Infectious diseases are predators and we are prey.” Well said.

    • Petanque

      Infectious disease don’t care – reminds me of the Honeybadger!

      • sdsures

        One of my favourite beasties!

  • Delius

    The anti-vaxers’ language of intention highlights a key point, that this is a religion thing for them. Nature is God, and the human institutions of government and industry are Satan — both powerful beings who are driving shadowy, unknown agendas, one for good and one for evil.

    Listen to any of them talk about “Big Pharma” like it was some greedy, slobbering ogre, or about Bill Gates’ “depopulation agenda” and it becomes very clear that they view all sources of human authority as actively being opposed to their well-being. Anything produced by the CDC is viewed with complete distrust and dismissed as “in the pocket of big business”. Conversely, the opinions of anyone who says “the government is lying to you” are instantly accepted as, well, gospel.

    There is a certain kind of mindset that requires that there be larger forces operating behind the curtain; even if they are evil, at least someone is in charge. They can’t accept that the universe is largely made up of random events. Some of these people turn to religion, and some to conspiracy theories (and some to both). But the driving force behind both is the same.

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    Self-Serving OT: If you haven’t been following the progress on the Dr Seuss Tournament I mentioned the other day, now would be a good time to check in!

    http://www.chem.purdue.edu/wenthold/bge/DrSeuss.htm

    Daily commentary by Yertle the Turtle.

    • Erin

      Disappointed “My Many Coloured Days” didn’t do better, it’s one of my absolute favourites.
      Thanks for reminding me I need to dig out the “Sleep Book” and see if all the yawning encourages the littlest member of our family to go to sleep.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        My Many Colored Days is highly acclaimed, I know, but I’m not familiar with it. That’s why I was glad to have it on the list, though.

        We are discovering that the shorter books are typically doing better than the longer ones.

        I just updated some results from today, but I am still missing some (my source did not get a complete update).

        Thanks for visiting!

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        BTW, The Sleep Book lost to The Cat in the Hat 21 – 0.

        • Erin

          It’s got me rethinking which ones I read to my son as most of my favourites have lost out. I like them as bed time stories but since he’s still too small to voice an opinion, I’ve been picking. Might gave to give the Cat in the Hat more of a go.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            We did a similar tournament at our house last year, but it included pretty much everything we could find – 62 books total. It ended up dragging on for a long time, but we finally finished, with I Wish I Had Duck Feet winning.

  • Elisabetta Aurora
  • Christopher Hickie

    “Human beings who weren’t afraid of tigers died out while those who avoided tigers survived.” Also worth noting that those who avoided tigers needed to teach their children to avoid tigers as well. This generation of anti-vaxxers is 2 generations removed from seeing most of the diseases vaccines prevent. They’ve been told they need to vaccinate, but, sadly, they don’t fear the tiger–and their children pay the price. I’d like to think we’re smarter than needing to be bitten by the tiger again, but maybe we’re not.

  • DaisyGrrl

    OT: Midwife pleads guilty to “endangering the welfare of a child” after presiding over a homebirth gone very, very bad: http://www.news-leader.com/story/news/crime/2016/02/24/midwife-pleads-guilty-after-springfield-baby-dies-following-delivery/80870080/

    Five years probation. She refused the family’s requests to transfer to hospital, allowed the mother to labour for 48 hours, and the baby ultimately died. Six years after the fact, she got five years probation. I guess it’s better than nothing, but that baby and that family deserved so much better.

    • Charybdis

      Okay, I have a question: How can a midwife (CPM here in the US, or other bogus birth attendant) REFUSE to transfer a mother to the hospital? Because they aren’t keeping real medical records or anything…what’s stopping the mother/father from telling her to stuff it and head to the hospital when they *finally* realize the midwife is not doing a damn thing to help them?

      • Amy M

        There was that one woman whose CPM literally physically barred her from leaving the house. And took her cell phone. What was her name? She’s on Hurt by Homebirth.

        I think someone here had a midwife who parked her car in the way of parents’ car, so they had to drive across the lawn to get to the hospital.

        I guess, also, many laboring women wouldn’t be able to drive themselves, so if they had no partner around with a car, they would be reliant on the midwife. And if they were reluctant to call an ambulance because of the expense or fear of repercussions, maybe?

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          There was that one woman whose CPM literally physically barred her
          from leaving the house. And took her cell phone. What was her name?
          She’s on Hurt by Homebirth.

          I think someone here had a midwife who
          parked her car in the way of parents’ car, so they had to drive across
          the lawn to get to the hospital.

          That’s just the midwives being “with women” and supporting their choices.

          In all seriousness, that is exactly what I thought when I read this story. I thought midwives were all about supporting women’s choices?

        • Dr Kitty

          I think that was Margaruta Sheikh, her son Shahzad died and her MWs were Darby Partner and Laura Tanner.

      • Who?

        ‘Birth hobbyist’ is what you’re grasping for.

      • Amazed

        I’ve wondered the same thing since it seems to happen regularly. My answer is that all those long, hour-long appointment midwives assume greater authority than any doctor whose authority women fear in the first place. They place themselves in this “I know it all and I know what’s best for you” position. What emerges as a result is that parents who go to the hospital over midwife’s objection do it in a kind of AMA, only it’s the midwife here who gives the medical advice. My guess is that when birth comes, midwife has long ago established herself as the domineering mother figure and parents are those stupid children who fear darkness and malicious elves, aka problems in birth that, as we all know, don’t exist. If they’re brainwashed enough, they won’t dare go against the will of the woman who simply KNOWS BEST.

        • DaisyGrrl

          I would add that the midwife has brainwashed the woman into thinking that birth complications (and thus transports) are rare, and the midwife will – of course! – transfer at the first sign of something wrong. So when the mother starts expressing a desire to transfer to hospital during labour, the midwife reassuringly says that it’s not necessary. The woman, utterly duped into thinking the midwife has her best interests at heart, listens and believes that the midwife will transfer at the appropriate point. Rinse and repeat until early warning signs have gone by, yellow lights have flashed, and now a big red light is flashing the word DANGER so obviously that anyone can tell. This process can easily take several hours. The problem is that by the time parents are ready to insist on going to the hospital, the baby can be beyond saving.

    • Sandy Perlmutter

      Everybody should watch the British TV series “Call the Midwife”. It shows the symbiosis of midwifery with medicine, and also the progress in the medical system generally, including vaccination. The latest episodes featured a thalidomide baby, born in the Fifties.

  • Ethan

    Nature

    • Ethan

      Wait sorry that messed up. Nature doesn’t give two shits about you.

  • Shelley

    Brava! “As nature intended” is one of my least favourite phrases.

    • Sue

      “As nature intended” – even of “nature” were capable of intention – would see us nursing our sick children in caves, and talking about it person to person – not over the internet.

    • LibrarianSarah

      Yeah it’s on the list with “last acceptable prejudice” and “political correctness.”

    • Sandy Perlmutter

      That and “sincerely held belief”.

  • DennyCraneEsq

    One should not take medical advice from anyone whose main claim to fame is having posed in Playboy.

    • Linden

      I have no problem where people pose.
      The great majority of antivaxxers are not posing in Playboy, and what puts them on the scale from woefully uninformed to despicably dangerous are their antivaxx opinions. Not how much of their bodies they reveal.
      Some of these people are *gasp* men! Who can have stupid opinions too.

      • kellymbray

        I for one am glad that Meryl Dorey is not in Playboy.

    • BeatriceC

      Ad hominem attacks are no better coming from our side than from theirs. She’s an unreliable source not because she posed nude, but because she isn’t educated in the field.

  • Amy

    I was under the impression that nature intended us to use our brains to develop technology. After all, we have very large brains relative to our size. We’ve already used our brains as a species to allow ourselves to live in just about any climate and eat a much wider variety of foods. Technology includes modern medicine, too.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      Agree. People say things like, “Humans are the only animal to…(give birth in a hospital, feed their young formula, leave their babies with others, etc)” as though it were, necessarily a bad thing. But why not look at it as “humans have this crazy unique adaptation that allows them to do lots of things other animals don’t, like using the internet and surviving obstructed labor”. It’s no more “unnatural” for us to be using our adaptation than it is “unnatural” for pandas to eat bamboo. Unlike most other animals. Except humans.

      • Tom G.

        What distinguishes humans most is our practice of domesticating fire. Many other animals live in packs with coordinated activities and social protocols. Ants & bees, with far less intelligence, build complex “cities” and impart culture to future generations. Some animals use tools. Several other animals have language; whales communicate over long distances.

        Only humans build controlled fires. That practice enables us to smelt metals, make concrete & pavement, generate electricity, and vastly expand our food supply by making more things edible: meat, grain, beans and tubers that are otherwise indigestible, and so on.

        • kellymbray

          “Only humans build controlled fires. ”

          I hate to break it to you.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMbWDRzqNhc

          • Tom G.

            Good show. Thanks. When a bonobo teaches a human, or a seal designs his own beach ball, I’ll consider it wholly believable.

  • guest

    I don’t really care what nature intended for my children. As their parent, *I* intend for them to grow up healthy and strong. And that means using scientifically-backed preventative treatments.

  • Madtowngirl

    The fact that smallpox is on the “potential bioterrorism agent” list should be enough one needs to realize how awful it can be, and its eradication is a testament to vaccine efficacy. If it were to come back, I sure as hell don’t want “natural immunity.”

    • demodocus

      and the damn thing doesn’t even need to be a superbug; its normal status is bad enough.

    • Christopher Hickie

      I believe if a case of smallpox appeared anywhere in the world, it would be considered bioterrorism until shown otherwise.

  • Gatita
    • AirPlant

      There are actually no words for how smug I feel each and every time something like this is published.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      From a large-scale public health perspective, breastfeeding has well-documented benefits. But on an individual basis, breastfeeding is just one of many factors that affect a child’s health, and it probably won’t make much of a difference in an individual child’s life in the long run. There’s no medical justification for shaming new moms who can’t breastfeed for whatever reason.

      “We need to make sure it is made clear to new moms that breastfeeding is the best choice, but only if we are talking about all babies,” Howe-Heyman said. “When it comes to individuals, hospitals should help them figure out if it is the best choice for them and give them the support they need either way.”

      Yep. As someone very wise has said, “All else equal, breastfeeding is better. But all else is never equal.”

      • Who?

        Who was that wise person?

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          I read it here somewhere….

        • Sue

          The identity of the source is a little obscure, but it’s now known as “Bofa’s Principle”.

      • StephanieA

        Does breastfeeding really have large scale public health benefits? Not being snarky, just curious. I think France has low breastfeeding rates, but they’re just as healthy as any other developed country (correct me if I’m wrong on that).

        • Daleth

          The French are actually healthier and longer-lived than most. A few links:

          France has second-lowest rate of cardiovascular death in the world, right up there with Japan and South Korea:
          http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/cause-of-death/coronary-heart-disease/by-country/

          France has great life expectancy (78.7 years for men, 85.2 for women–vs. 76.4 men/81.1 women in the US):
          http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/country-health-profile/france

          France has much lower rates of overweight and obesity than the US (49% of French people and 66% of Americans are overweight; 16.9% of the French are obese vs. 33.9% of Americans):
          http://obesity.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=004371#V

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          Does breastfeeding really have large scale public health benefits?

          Yes, there are some minor benefits (so minor that they can only really be detected on the “large scale”), especially in the short term (like in the first 6 months). Pretty much all the benefit can be attributed to the presence of general antibodies (IGa). Long term, no.

      • swbarnes2

        But the way that’s phrased makes no sense. If they mean “breastfeeding is a big help for small sub-populations” (like preventing NEC in premies) they should just say that. If they mean “Breastfeeding has statistically significant effects, but they are very very small”, they should say that. What they said doesn’t make much mathematical sense.

        I think the gist of the article is good, but after the hash they made of non-invasive screening tests, Slate writers and editors just don’t understand math at all.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      Actually, there is something in there that is interesting. For example, the author of the piece asked the author of the article what hospitals could be doing instead? One of her suggestions was to allow fathers to room in for free.

      I can say that we actually had that, in our “non-Baby friendly certified” hospital. I even had free meals delivered to our room. One of those cases where the non-BFHI hospital had far more insight than a BFHI.

      Oh, and we also had access to the baby nursery.

      • This of course assumes that Father isn’t needed at home to care for the other children.

        • Monkey Professor for a Head

          And that Father has job security which enables him to take off work on short notice.

      • Old Lady

        Father being allowed to “room” in is standard around here and my hospital recently went baby friendly. Of course I live in an area where we have some of the best healthcare in the U.S. And many hospitals to choose from. Birth centers are how the hospitals gain “customers” so they’re all quite nice, many have just been renovated. Reading about other people’s experiences has made me so thankful to raise my children here. I’ve been especially horrified by standard practices they have over in England given how people complain about how bad our healthcare is.

        • sdsures

          I live in England but am originally from Canada. No complaints here.

          • Old Lady

            I didn’t mean to say that everyone has a horrible experience in England. Here there is a sort of philosophy among some progressives that (northern) Europeans do things better so I was surprised that some common practices there were not as nice as my own health care experiences. I already knew that I had it good compared to some others within my own country. Room sharing seems pretty horrible to me, it never even occurred to me that I wouldn’t get my own room at any of the hospitals here.

          • sdsures

            I’ve been in and out of hospital my entire life, so I’m used to it.

  • tariqata

    The analogy I like to use is that vaccination is like attending class regularly and periodic reviews of the material to prepare for the final exam. Acquiring ‘natural immunity’ is like cramming for the final the day before and hoping for the best. I was lucky enough to get by, mostly, with a day-before cramming session but I know which approach resulted in better grades.

    • Chi

      Or it’s like your body is a nightclub and your immune system is the bouncer. Normally that bouncer is pretty good at identifying undesirables and kicking them to the curb.

      Vaccines are like giving that bouncer photo ID of those undesirables so that they’re even BETTER at spotting them and keeping them out. Sometimes it doesn’t work cos sometimes the club is crowded or there’s an emergency (immunocompromised) but for the most part, giving your bouncer that photo ID is the best protection.

  • Angharad

    Even leaving aside the possibility of death, why would you want your child to be miserable and ill for days or weeks on end? I can’t think of a single illness that was “worth it” to me. Everything from the chicken pox at age 4 (all I remember is being horrified that I had blood on my fingers from scratching so hard) to strep throat as an adult (so much pain) is something I wouldn’t wish on a child if it’s avoidable. I try not to dramatize things too much when my daughter gets sick (which is all the time because she’s in daycare), but I’m honestly so glad that we can skip weeks of high fevers and body aches for a day of a sore leg and a low-grade fever.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      I’ve said it before:
      Chicken pox: 10 – 14 days of a nasty rash with incessant itch. Usually starts with a day or two of fever. Full quarantine the whole time. 1/20 000 chance of death. Pretty much unavoidable for non-vaccinated.

      Chicken pox vaccine: about 1/3 will experience redness and swelling at the injection site for a day. Fewer still will have a fever. No one has died. You can get ice cream immediately after, no quarantine.

      Only a monster would choose the actual disease.

      I always like the “it can be mild” argument. Meaning it only lasts for a week, and the itching isn’t that bad. In contrast, the “it can be mild” version of the vaccine? It’s over by the time you leave the doctor’s office.

      • Are you nuts

        I somehow missed chicken pox as a kid. I remember my aunt getting it as an adult and she had pox inside her eyelids and all sorts of other horrifying places. She also transmitted it to her baby. You better believe i was first in line for the vaccine. I was in college at the time and I drove myself to the clinic to get it, which is funny now that I think about it.

      • Roadstergal

        I had ‘mild’ chicken pox. The vaccine, had it been available at the time, would have been SO much nicer, even if I had reacted. I got the full schedule at the time, so it pleases me to think my parents would have spared me that, too, if they could have.

        • BeatriceC

          I also had “mild” chicken pox and thought I was going to die and nobody could possibly suffer any more than I was. Then a couple weeks later my sister came down with a non-mild case. I quit complaining. Poor thing got pox on the inside of her eyelids and every other unimaginable place you can think of. She couldn’t even go pee without excruciating pain.

          • Megan

            I still vividly remember having the chickenpox in my genital area. It was horrible. I just missed the vaccine by a few years. I’m so thankful my children will not have to go through that.

          • BeatriceC

            I can only sympathize with my memories of my sister going through it. It honestly looked to me like she actually was going through the worst pain conceivable, unlike my pre-teen drama skewed perspective of my own case a few weeks prior.

          • moto_librarian

            Yup. I had them there too. Utter misery.

          • Angharad

            My younger sister got the chicken pox at the same time as I did, but she was only three months old at the time. She had pox inside her eyelids, as well as inside her mouth and inside her ears, and probably other places that my mother leaves out of the story when she tells it. The vaccine was available by the time my next sister was born, and she was the only one of the five of us who didn’t have to suffer for weeks to get immunity.

        • BridgetD

          I was one year, maybe two, away from the vaccine when I had chicken pox. It wasn’t a “mild” case, at least not according to my parents. I was only 1-2 years old at the time, so my memory is hazy. I do remember how painful it was to wear clothes. I remember vaguely being at the doctor and looking at my hands and arms, which were absolutely covered in spots. And I remember my twin sister and I sitting on my parents’ bed while they put some form of medicine on us, absolutely miserable and crying. Not my idea of a fun time.

      • guest

        Yeah, I have a *mild* case of chicken pox at age 13 or 14, so I remember it very well. It SUCKED. I was home alone, at at one point laying on the floor in the hallway feeling too shitty to get up and go back to bed (no child neglect here – there was a certain amount of teen drama involved in how I got on the floor in the first place.) I missed school and felt out of touch and disoriented for a while after I returned. And I got scars on my face that I have to this day. And for what? The opportunity to develop shingles in my old age? Gee, thanks, Nature.

        • Mel

          I became one hell of a depressed 4 year-old when I had chickenpox because I had a giant one on the tip of my nose. My mom bought me a mylar balloon because I really liked them – but the shiny side freaked me out.

      • BridgetD

        I was not vaccinated for chicken pox since the vaccine wasn’t quite out yet, and my twin sister and I both got the disease at 1-2 years old. Covered head to toe with insanely painful and itchy blisters (I still remember to this day how even putting on clothes was uncomfortable).

        My little brother was vaccinated the following year when the vaccine became available to the general public. I don’t remember him getting sick at all, but he told me later that he does remember getting mildly ill, and “mildly” is used in all seriousness. A few scattered spots. Maybe a fever. Nothing near to the degree of my sister and I.

      • MaineJen

        Yeah, I remember chicken pox being pretty dang miserable. I’m thrilled that my kids will probably never get it.

      • indigosky

        I got the chicken pox just a few weeks before the vaccine started being given out. I was pretty pissed at the nameless person who gave it to me.

    • Chi

      I got chicken pox in the pre-vaccine era. Mine was what I’d consider a ‘moderate’ case as the fever got pretty high a couple of times and clothing hurt like hell. The only thing that didn’t was a satin pajama top of my mother’s so I practically lived in that for a week when I wasn’t in a lukewarm bath with pinetarsil.

      As could be expected, I spread the illness to my siblings who also had moderate cases. My mother, believing she’d had chicken pox as a child was the one who took time off work to care for us.

      She wound up with more spots than all three of us kids COMBINED. She was red from head to toe. She was ILL. To be completely honest I’m surprised she wasn’t hospitalized.

      But she got through it. However now whenever she gets physically run down (or exposed to CP) she gets shingles and she tells me it is the most painful thing she’s ever experienced in her life.

      So yeah, I’m gonna get onto getting my daughter the chicken pox vaccine as there is no way in hell I want her to go through that.

      • Sue

        Yep – chicken pox is particularly nasty in adulthood. I;ve seen a young man tragically die from varicella pneumonia.

        So much for “natural” immunity – not every kid got it, or deveoped lasting immunity, even in the days when it was almost universal.

      • DelphiniumFalcon

        I was terrified when I got chicken pox when I was eight. I had a friend that was still on chemotherapy for leukemia and my parents had made it clear to me when when I first met him and he was ill two years before that if I was sick in any way I couldn’t go over and play. And that even if this friend had had chicken pox before I still couldn’t go play with him if I had it. I know now that his immune system was so messed up they weren’t sure if his body had immunity from the previous bout or not.

        He got the chicken pox a year before I did and it was really scary for everyone involved. I remember going to visit him in the hospital and I’d never seen anyone my age that incredibly sick before. That was near twenty years ago now and I still remember cleary how awful he looked when I first walked in to his room. Now that I think about it I wonder if my parents only brought me there because his family thought he wasn’t going to make it or that he would be in the hospital nearly all the time now.

        He looked so sick. So many IVs and tubes and he could barely turn his head to look at anyone. Just his eyes slowly following people. When they were open. He did make it but he was in the hospital for a long time. He never really caught up in school after that either. And it wasn’t like he looked terribly sick before this happened. He still had his hair and wasn’t especially lethargic. You wouldn’t have known he had leukemia unless he or family told you. Or you’d seen him in the hospital.

        I honestly don’t think these anti-vaxxers have ever seen anything like that. And thank goodness for them because it’s not something that leaves you, even witnessing it as a child. I don’t know how his parents managed to not strangle everyone who said chicken pox wasn’t that bad. I don’t know how he doesn’t these days as an adult after what he went through. They really do speak from a place of profound ignorance to make the claims they do.

      • Jen

        I had chicken pox as an adult. It was horrific.

        If I had the choice between chickenpox and an unmedicated birth, I’d take the birth. I am so happy my boys have been vaccinated and my daughter will be when she is old enough.

    • Sue

      This “but we all went through it and we didn’t die” makes no sense, even if it were true.

      Don’t we all want our children to have better lives than we had? I’m really glad that communication over the internet and social media is now so easy, air travel is affordable, car travel is much safer and kids don’t have to suffer through the infectious diseases of childhood, even if most did recover.

      I’m also really glad that HiB epiglottitis has essentially gone – the condition that terrified everyone seeing sick children when I was doing my specialty training. ANd that young doctors don’t know what chicken pox or measles look like any more. That’s called progress. Just like unleaded paint, safer industrial chemicals and better screening for the purposes of child protection.

    • MI Dawn

      Yeah. I’ll admit my case wasn’t too bad, as a child. My brother and baby sister also got it from me. I doubt my mom was pleased, though. And sister definitely wasn’t pleased when she got it again as a teen because her case as in infant was so mild. (All pre-vaccine).

      Also pre-vaccine, my own children got it. I can’t imagine anti-vaxxers being happy about having to give their children narcotics, the way I did, because child was in so much pain. Poor thing – poxes EVERYWHERE – couldn’t sit, couldn’t lie down, couldn’t eat or drink. She was covered – I honestly don’t think there was an inch of skin *anywhere* that didn’t have pox on them.

      Thanks to a good MD who prescribed the narcotics, because the calamine lotion, oatmeal baths, etc didn’t do a damn thing for her pain.

      Her sister got away with a much lighter case. And I cried when, 2 years later, the vaccine came out…

      • moto_librarian

        I wish my pediatrician would have given me narcotics when I came down with pox at age 13! I too had them everywhere (and I do mean everywhere). My sister was even sicker (she was 9), and wound up in the ER because of dehydration.

        Thank goodness my own children won’t have to go through this!

        • Bombshellrisa

          I had chicken pox at 13 too and it was misery. It was as miserable to me as giving birth without an epidural.

    • Kathleen

      I don’t understand that either. I hate it when my kids have a tiny cold and that’s not just because I am usually also exhausted and miserable. Would they be happy if someone who was infected with stomach flu or a cold purposely got their kids sick somehow? If not, why not?

  • Dorit Reiss

    Even if you want to anthropomorphize Mother Nature, I don’t understand why they think she prefers humans over germs. If anything, Mother Nature would be like the Childlike Empress in Ende’s Neverending Story – she would love all her children equally and not prefer some over the other: she would value germs as much as us, and as you point out, not care who wins.

    Scientists inventing medical protections, however, are inherently humanocentric.

    • Amazed

      I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: I’m told that once, dinosaurs were Mother Nature’s most beloved kids…

      • The Computer Ate My Nym

        Wasn’t there a line in a song like that? “Hey Mr. Dinosaur, you really couldn’t ask for more. You were god’s favorite creature, but you didn’t have a future.” Now if I could remember the song that line is from…

        The thing is, whether an adaptation is a good one or not depends on the environment. When the environment changes, whether due to asteroids or global warming or zika virus invading your part of the world, your ideal adaptation can suddenly become deadly.

        • MI Dawn

          Yep. The Police, “Walking in Your Footsteps”

          I had to google it because I didn’t remember, either…

    • SarahSD

      Yep.

    • Nick Sanders

      Papa Nurgle loves all his children…

  • BeatriceC

    Nature is, and always has been, “survival of the fittest”. These people who have bought into the anti-vax philosophy, along with NCB and other similar mindsets have to come up with ever escalating theories as to why conventional medicine is the enemy. If the consequences of their actions weren’t so dire, not just to themselves, but to the public health, it would make a great sitcom a la “Scrubs”.

    And completely and utterly OT: Figure skates are expensive. The middle kid needs new ones. Grumble, grumble, mutter, mutter. Ugh. At least these days he’s wearing them out before he can outgrow them.

    • Mattie

      question did you ever/do you think you will ever get to a golden time where he outgrows them at the same time as they wear out? Feel u though, figure skates are so expensive, is he still in skates or the more expensive boots and blades?

      • BeatriceC

        He’s in custom built boots with blades sold separately. And since I think he’s at the end of his full growth, I think that he’ll outgrow maybe one more pair before he’s done growing.

        • Dr Kitty

          Seriously, i started picking my child’s after school activities based on what is cheapest/ least unpleasant to sit through.

          Which is why my child does ballet, not Irish dancing and when my kids want to learnt an instrument their choices are piano, guitar, violin, flute, clarinet, ukulele, didgeridoo, harmonica, bongo drums and tin whistle…because we already have those in the house (my husband is very musical, I….am not).

          Can’t do much about her burning desire to ride ponies though.

          • Mattie

            I used to have riding lessons, so much fun 🙂 my mum went too lol

          • Dr Kitty

            We’re Irish, horses aren’t optional.
            My father’s family owned and trained race horses, my husband’s family own ponies. Everyone can ride, even if we rarely do.

            She’s already had a few riding lessons with her cousins and she’s very good (rising trot and everything). I’m just holding off as long as possible because a) dangerous hobby and b) expensive hobby.

          • BeatriceC

            A friend and I were comparing the financial output of both horseback riding and figure skating. We came out at a draw. Turns out that when the kid was skating competitively, I was spending as much money paying for ice time as my friend was to board and feed her horse. Things like coaching, competition fees, etc seemed to be about the same, and while the cost of acquiring a horse is far higher than skates, a competitive skater will go through many, many pairs of skates over the competitive lifetime of a single horse. I know other families that have re-mortgaged houses, sold off antiques, etc to bankroll both sports.

          • Dr Kitty

            Sister in law has dairy cows, so the pony is not a problem.
            One more large animal to feed and the associated vet bills is a drop in the ocean, and most of the time the pony is in the paddock eating free grass anyway.
            I have explained to our kiddo that we do not have room for a pony, and that she will have to make do with riding her cousin’s.

            On the plus side, I still have the hat, jacket, jodhpurs and boots I wore when I was 14… And yes they still fit, and have plenty of wear left in them.

          • BeatriceC

            It’s so nice once you’re “grown” that you don’t have to keep buying gear. I imagine buying riding gear for a growing child is as frustrating as buying skates for a growing child. I can’t count how many times I dropped nearly $1000US on a pair of skates only to have the kid outgrow them in two months.

          • Roadstergal

            I wanted to ride ponies. There were some things I couldn’t have. 🙂 Bicycles worked.

          • Charybdis

            I loved my riding lessons and was devastated when we moved and I couldn’t continue with them. I was told that I could after we got settled, but my brother’s issues got first priority with both money and time.

          • D/

            My grandfather, in an uncharacteristically weak moment, was worn down by my relentless begging for the pony I couldn’t have and offered me a newborn calf as a substitute. “Jumper, the steer” worked just fine too, and got way more miles put on him over my childhood than my bike ever did. 😉

          • BeatriceC

            He does ballet too, however it’s secondary to the skating.

            I figure this is cosmic payback for making my parents pay for me playing the oboe.

          • Megan

            I’m praying the girls like piano. We already have one and plenty of music. Or I supposed clarinet or trumpet are OK, since we have those too, but I still remember what I sounded like learning to play the clarinet…

        • Mattie

          yeh, the painful stage of skating lol but sounds like he enjoys it (or he wouldn’t have got this far)

          • BeatriceC

            At least he can have the same blades remounted. That saves a little money.

            And yes. He’s pulled back from competition, but he still enjoys the skating itself.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      But “fittest” doesn’t mean best BMI and ability to run sprints, it simply means most likely to successfully have grandchildren. A person with an iffy immune system, prone to having sequelae of vaccine preventable illnesses, but protected from such illnesses by vaccination is equally fit to a person with a “perfect” immune system that can shrug off VPI with only a couple of days of illness. Nature doesn’t care how you survived to reproduce and raise children to adulthood, only that you do.

  • Cartman36

    “Anti-vaxxers live in a fantasy world made possible by vaccines”. This is my new favorite quote. Thanks Dr. Amy for this post (and all the others!)

  • namaste863

    Anecdote: I went to South Africa a few years ago. I saw some pretty awesome things. Amongst them was a pride of 13 or so lions feeding at a kill. I think at one point it might have been a baby giraffe. They were growling, faces smeared with blood. So my question is where the hell did people ever get the idea that nature is kind and benign? Any ideas? I’m not being sarcastic. I’m pretty much baffled, because baby giraffes being consumed isn’t exactly my idea of kind.

    • SarahSD

      A socio-historical explanation which is not original to me: that modernization and industrialization removed people from as direct a relationship with nature, and culture (esp those in privileged positions to experience nature as a site of relaxation, recreation, “good for the soul” and all that) began to produce the idea of an idealized and romanticized nature. There are different versions of this, like the imagined, idealized primitive/”natural” family that underlies various western philosophies – Rousseau, Hegel, Freud etc … pastoral art, early conservation, wilderness and its ties to transcendentalism – those are just the things that spring to mind.

      It’s similar to the arguments that the improvements to medicine and public health in the 20th century make disease and childbirth not seem as scary. In both of these cases, the idea that nature has good intentions for anyone comes from a place of privilege. Not that I’m anti-environmental, or that I think experiencing nature has no inherent value – but that our western concepts of nature have a history and are connected, and have various unintended or unanticipated effects.

      I also wonder whether religion has played a role, that alongside the shifts above, that moving toward a more forgiving and kind deity also leaches into cultural understandings of nature, at least in the judeo-christian west.

      • monojo

        Wow, what a great explanation, thank you!

      • Roadstergal

        “Not that I’m anti-environmental, or that I think experiencing nature has no inherent value – but that our western concepts of nature have a history and are connected, and have various unintended or unanticipated effects.”

        The true concept that nature is important for our survival as a species can lead one to the mistaken notion that it is nice, or at least benign. :p

      • FEDUP MD

        The romanticism of the pastoral setting has been around for many hundreds of years. During even the late Middle Ages it wasn’t unusual for nobility to dress up and do elaborate playacting and dances as milkmaids and shepherds. When really those jobs sucked IRL big time.

        • SarahSD

          Oh sure! It’s definitely older than the modern era or industrialization, so that was a poor choice of words. But the fact that it is the relative rich and powerful people who are more removed from those roles doing the romanticizing is the same.

        • Dr Kitty

          At least if you were a milkmaid you had a chance to contract cow pox and avoid smallpox…

          • Roadstergal

            I have heard it hypothesized that their unscarred-by-smallpox faces lead to the trope of the Sexy Milkmaid.

            Jenner certainly seemed to like to spend time with them.

          • Deborah

            Milkmaids have all the fun in romance novels until they die in childbirth.

      • Deborah

        I love this explanation!

    • MaineJen

      Ever see “Grizzly Man?” That guy thought nature was benign too…

  • indigosky

    My mother got measles, rubella, polio, chicken pox, meningitis and several other things as a child, before there were vaccines against them. Her immune system is now complete crap and she gets a cold if someone 100 miles away from her sneezes. Please, anti-vaxxers, tell me again how having these diseases strengthens your immune system?

    • Sullivan ThePoop

      Actually almost all infections leave you somewhat immune compromised for some amount of time. An uncomplicated influenza infection can destroy a large amount of epithelial tissue in your throat which leaves you susceptible to other respiratory infections until the cells are replaced. Measles destroys a large compliment of your circulating B cells which leaves you moderately immune compromised for up to three years and can destroy immunity you made during previous infections. Some pathogens have super antigens which activate T cells indiscriminately. When those T cells do not find their counterpart they die by neglect and any immune memory they contain is lost. The lack of T cells pages you extremely immune comprised sometimes for life depending on your age.

    • MaineJen

      My grandmother used to tell us that one winter back in the 1950s, all 4 of her children got measles, mumps and chicken pox. All 3 illnesses, one after the other. They missed months of school altogether.

      Now my mom, who is 69, just came down with shingles…but because she had gotten the shingles vaccine, she has so far described it as “not that bad.” It can be very painful, but she just has it in one patch and it’s only mildly itchy/sore. Yay, vaccines!

      • MI Dawn

        MaineJen: one of the fascinating things is reading my grandmother’s letters to my grandfather while he was overseas during WWII. He was a MD so enlisted – he wasn’t drafted.

        One winter, my mom had mumps and measles at age 7 (gave the measles but NOT the mumps to her 2 year old brother), and they were both constantly sick the rest of the winter. Uncle nearly died from the measles due to the high fever. Mom missed so much school (as did many of her classmates) that the teacher sent a note with the report card for that session that “no grades were given due to extreme absenteeism of the class”! And…they lived in a city, municipal water and sewage. My GM cooked from scratch always, and due to my GF being an MD, had a lot of his patients paying off bills with produce so had a good supply of fresh, farm-grown food, eggs, and meat.

        One of my mom’s friends never made it back to school. To this day she doesn’t know if the friend died or just ended up mentally or physically impaired. No one would talk about her, and the family moved before the next summer.

        Can you imagine that happening today?

    • Sue

      Actually, diseases “strengthen the immune system” in exactly the same way that vaccines do – by exposure to a specific antigen, so the immune system is primed for the next encounter.

      The only problem with infection is that you have to survive it first.

      Sorry to hear about your mother. Anti-vax idiots can’t seem to understand that the immune response to vaccine antigens is just as “natural” as infection, without the infection.

    • Liz Leyden

      Lizzie O’Marra survived diphtheria in 1903. It may have strengthened her immune system, but it also killed her 8 siblings. https://dianastaresinicdeane.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/lessons-from-a-kansas-graveyard-what-a-1903-outbreak-of-diphtheria-can-teach-us-today/

  • demodocus

    I don’t have to look very far to see someone with a vaccine preventable disease-caused disability. We *know* how much it sucks to spend your life blind in a nation that offers all kinds of technology to ameliorate the effects of visual impairment, and we know it must be so much harder for people who actually are living the most “natural” of life styles. Hard to keep up with the hunter-gatherer band when you can’t see or walk or whatever.

  • Brooke

    We don’t vaccinate against small pox. Why hasn’t it come roaring back?

    • Anonymous

      We don’t vaccinate against it because it’s been effectively wiped out. There was a massive vaccination campaign back in the 1960’s conducted by Russia, the USA, England, and a slew of other countries. See here:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smallpox_vaccine

      There have been flare-ups since then but since people and doctors are trained to recognize it they can check it fast.

      • kellymbray

        There have been no known cases of smallpox since the 1970’s

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      “Come to think of it,” remarked the Wizard, “Ozma couldn’t be invisible, for she is a fairy, and fairies cannot be made invisible against their will. Of course, she could be imprisoned by the magician or enchanted or transformed, in spite of her fairy powers, but Ugu could not render her invisible by any magic at his command.”

      • Sue

        EXACTLY.

        Must we keep indulging this Brooke creature?

        • Amy M

          You know, for all her contrariness, she does keep hanging around and apparently reading the posts. Maybe she is learning something.

          • kellymbray

            “Maybe she is learning something.”

            Maybe monkeys will fly out of her butt.

            Equal statistical likelihood.

    • Nick Sanders

      Because it has no other species it can infect besides humans, and we achieved immunity in enough humans for long enough that it died out. Without any transmission barriers, it infected the last few people vulnerable, then had no where else to go. So now it’s gone, outside of two extremely high security virology labs that hold samples.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      By vaccinating we drove smallpox to extinction.

      If we eradicate other vaccine preventable illnesses the way we eradicated smallpox, we can stop vaccinating against them, too.

      • Nick Sanders

        Indeed, we’re within spitting distance of doing so with Polio, and we would nearly be that close with measles were it not for idiots suddenly refusing the vaccine 20 years ago.

        • Roadstergal

          If the anti-vaxxers of the time had gotten their way, we’d still have smallpox.

          If you needed any more evidence that the anti-vax chorus is ‘fuck you and yours,’ it’s that for some very specific diseases, they are standing in the way of future generations not needing the vaccine because the disease is gone.

          • Megan

            “they are standing in the way of future generations not needing the vaccine because the disease is gone.”

            And they say we’re big pharma shills!

        • Liz Leyden

          Unfortunately, religious extremism means vaccine workers still get killed in northern Nigeria and tribal areas of Pakistan.

    • demodocus

      because like the carrier pigeon and the dodo, we drove it to extinction. Unlike the birds, we meant to do it, too.

    • CSN0116

      Jesus Christ… you’re an anti-vaxxer too?
      Just hitting the fuck up trifecta, I see.

      • AirPlant

        Logical fallacies come in threes.

    • Amazed

      I don’t know, Brookie Beasty. Why won’t you tell me? That’ll be the first time you actually answer to anyone’s comment.

      Tell me why it hasn’t come roaring back. I even promise I won’t ask you (in this thread) about the source of your claim that a 5% c-section rate is about right.

      Pretty please?

    • Trulyunbelievable2020

      Because it was eradicated. Duh.

      Now tell me this: Why did we stop vaccinating against it when it went away? Why didn’t our evil Pharma overlords insist it could come back and continue to profit from selling vaccines?

      • law333

        OMG why had I never thought of that! Brilliant. Or maybe they knew that you’d think that so they did the opposite…

    • militaryforlife

      They still give smallpox vaccinations to the military. So that means there is still a concern that an active duty member might be exposed to it since they send us to so many places. Plus they don’t want us possibly getting it and spreading it back in the US. That’s why it has not come roaring back.

      • Roadstergal

        They vaccinate the military because of the fear of it being used as a bioweapon. It only exists in freezers, now.

      • Cartman36

        I got the small pox vaccine at boot camp in the early 2000s. At the time they said it was because, although small pox has been eradicated in the wild, strains of the virus do exist in research labs and there was concern about it being used as a biological weapon.

        On a side note, what happens at the vaccine injection site (big pussy blister(s) made me quickly realize I wouldn’t not want to get small pox.

        • Mel

          My mom always used the smallpox vaccine as the reason we shouldn’t whine about getting the vaccines I got during the 1980’s.

          I plan on using the reduction in needle size as the reason my (hypothetical) kids shouldn’t whine about injections, but it’s not as good.

        • militaryforlife

          I still have my scar. It really sucked getting it. Poke poke poke STAB AND WIGGLE AROUND – argh! My military bearing went right out the window. I can still feel them doing it almost 15 years later.

      • Michelle Singleton

        The pre-deployment vaccinations that Superman did were his most hated part. (Other than the fact that every deployment was to an area that we were in because of religion.. That’s a whole other bag of worms…) He always got his over his tattoo. I don’t remember if he got the smallpox one while he was still AD when we were married. I’m sure he did at some point. Anyway. His tattoo would raise up and bleed every time. I remember when we had our twins he was scheduled to deploy when they were 5 months old. They had him stay in the barracks for 3-4 days so that the girls were safe.
        I’ve been thinking about the smallpox vax because it’s the “Mark of Satan” in Outlander when Claire was on trial for being a witch. (The only time I liked Geillis.) It also allowed Claire to work at the Hospital in France. I have a new respect for it being around.

      • Sullivan ThePoop

        Actually they started vaccinating the military again because they were worried about germ warfare. Although viruses would be horrible choice. They are too hard to control and will always come back to you

    • namaste863

      Umm……..because through vaccinations, we were able to make it so that the only remaining specimens of Smallpox are locked up in a BSL 4 level lab at the CDC? Jesus, it’s not that complicated. Think dinosaurs, dodo birds, carrier pigeons….all extinct. We’re pretty close to doing the same with polio. Why? Vaccines.

      • Sullivan ThePoop

        Don’t forget Russia has some too

        • Lawrence McNamara

          Unfortunately, it is a fairly badly-kept secret that Russia (or the Soviet Union) weaponized Smallpox & intended to use it as part of the arsenal in any Third World War – for the specific reason that it would kill lots and lots of children – which it was felt would demoralize the United States.

          • MaineJen

            Holy shit. Seriously?

          • Lawrence McNamara

            Read “Demon in the Freezer.”

        • namaste863

          Well how about that? I learned something new today.

    • MI Dawn

      Because it’s been eliminated, unless you play in some very highly regulated labs.

      If you *really* are interested, try reading Inside the Outbreaks by Mark Pendergrast. Great book about the early days of the CDC and dealing with outbreaks of diseases and the plans to eliminate them.

      • Roadstergal

        Oh lol, do you think Brooke is interested in reading a book about real things?

      • moto_librarian

        I doubt that her reading comprehension is good enough to read that book.

        • Charybdis

          Does it have pretty pictures of the bacteria and viruses?

      • MI Dawn

        Hey, one can always hope…

    • Mel

      You’ve never replied on your credentials compared to the various doctors that you’ve decided know less about childbirth and neonatal starvation than you do. I’d like to know your credentials on immunology if you have any.

    • Guestll

      Because smallpox has no animal reservoir, and ring vaccination was successful in controlling it. Smallpox was ultimately eradicated by the vaccine.

      You were asking a straight question, right?

    • Sullivan ThePoop

      Because it doesn’t exist in nature anymore

    • Gatita

      Here it is, folks. The stupidest fucking thing Brooke has ever said. There were a lot of strong contenders but this outdoes them all.

      • AirPlant

        I already made a tiny trophy. I just need a place to mail it.

        • Gatita

          LOL

    • Who?

      Would you be vaccinated if it did? Would you get a child vaccinated?

      Or would you rely on your natural fabulousness to get you through?

    • Azuran

      Because we eradicated the disease with vaccination. Therefore vaccination is no longer necessary.
      Smallpox has no animal reservoirs, it cannot survive in the environment and there are no asymptomatic carrier of the disease.

    • Dr Kitty

      Brooke, if there was an Ebola vaccine available (with a similar safety profile to ‘flu vac and 98% efficacy) and you had to travel to west Africa, would you get vaccinated?

    • guest

      Read a book, Brooke.

  • Elisabetta Aurora

    I blame the schools for their lack of good science education in middle and high school. The truth is, I really didn’t understand how evolution worked either until I took biology in college. Most people don’t need biology for their major or minor if they go to college at all. This means a majority of the population really doesn’t understand one of the most important theories out there. Having a solid understanding of how evolution works would eliminate a lot of the confusion/scams of pseudo-science.

    • demodocus

      When science teachers are told to teach creationism over or alongside evolution, who’s listening to the regular class?

    • Deborah

      I’m not sure schools can overcome familial indoctrination.

      • Elisabetta Aurora

        This is certainly a problem for many children in the US, but I don’t place all the blame entirely on families’s personal religious/superstitious beliefs.

        I’m an American and a few years ago I moved permanently to Germany (to marry one very sexy German). Now that we have a family I’m getting acquainted with the German school system and it’s a lot different from what I grew up with. It’s not a perfect system and I won’t pretend that it isn’t without flaws, but one thing that does seem to make a difference is just how much teachers themselves are educated. It’s an incredibly rigorous field. Teachers are more educated, paid better, and more respected than nurses. Second, the state has a much stronger authority over what gets taught, so schools don’t get to opt out of things like certain sciences and sex education. Third, Gymnasium (the highest level of high school) lasts one year longer than American high school. When kids graduate from gymnasium, they effectively have the equivalent of an American associate’s degree.

        It’s not just the sciences, but it shows in foreign languages as well. My friends’s teenage children speak damn near fluent English that they learned from their two years in high school. When I think back on my two years of high school Spanish, even though I got straight A’s, I never made it out of the present tense. I haven’t met any parents yet who have a religious/superstitious opposition to learning Spanish.

        I knew a high school French teacher back in the states and she flat out told me that they don’t have the intention of making kids fluent in the two years that they take their foreign language. The objective is just to expose kids to the language. But why? It only took me a year of classes that met for 1.5 hours per a week and an hour of homework per a night to become fluent in German. It isn’t impossible to teach kids more, but I tend to think the American school system just doesn’t think enough of its kids. That, and teachers really aren’t given the tools they need to teach effectively.

        • Madtowngirl

          Having taught in both the U.S. and Japan, I can echo your experience about other countries. Education and educators are simply not respected in the U.S.

        • guest

          It would help if the media, politicians, and general yahoos in the US public would stop denigrating teaching all the time. It drives the really smart kids out of teaching careers. Particularly when salaries and teacher tenure are under threat, the smart kids go elsewhere.

      • Roadstergal

        There was a lovely little post that was making the rounds a month or so ago – a woman who was very angry that her daughter had taken her babysitting money and gotten herself fully vaccinated, including HPV.

        If it turns out to be fake, I will be such a sad panda.

        • BeatriceC

          There is at least one kid among my kids’ friends who takes herself to get her vaccines on the sly. There are kids out there who can dis-entangle themselves from their parents’ indoctrination.

          • Elisabetta Aurora

            Wow! What a smart kid!

          • FormerPhysicist

            She can come babysit for me and I’ll happily pay $200/hour so she can afford the doctor. But that rate only as long as needed. 😉

          • Roadstergal

            That’s fantastic.

          • Shawna Mathieu

            That’s great. We need more kids like that. I ran into a kid at an indoor play park that, out of nowhere, started going on about the evils of vaccines, obviously repeating stuff he’d heard.

          • BeatriceC

            I live in SoCal. My area isn’t as crunchy as the Bay area or LA, but it’s still pretty crunchy. The one kid I know about got started on her quest in the aftermath of the Disneyland measles outbreak. The idea of getting diseases like that freaked her out. California has laws that allow teens over age 14 to make some medical decisions without their parents’ knowledge or consent. It’s mostly reproductive and mental health, but apparently this kid was able to make an appointment with the pediatrician and find out she was completely unvaccinated and make arrangements to get all her shots. She may have also been influenced by how sick my oldest got when he got pertussis in spite of being vaccinated, knowing that his case was “mild” compared to what it could have been, but I’m not sure how much that played into her decision to get vaccinated behind her parents’ back.

    • Mel

      As a former HS biology teacher, I understand your point. The problem I see isn’t as much about teacher training in high school and single subject middle schools as in multi-subject classrooms in middle school and elementary schools. I am from Michigan which as one of the three most rigorous teacher certification programs in the USA. Even with that, most elementary school teachers get a total of TWO courses in science (a gen ed course and one methods course) prior to teaching elementary school science. Because of that, many teachers prior to ~6th or 7th grade end up reinforcing mistaken scientific beliefs or simply don’t teach science at all.

      I don’t blame the teachers for that at all; God only knows what kind of mistakes I’d make if you sent me to teach English (in which I have one gen ed course and two methods courses).

      On a related note, evolution is hard to teach and hard to conceptualize for most people. It is truly the capstone idea of all biology and requires a strong grounding in all the subsections of biology as well as an understanding of probability and randomness. Since biology is frequently taught as a 9th or 10th grade subject, many students have not fully developed abstract thinking skills. I was always working on new methods and activities to help ground the abstract concepts of evolution – but I doubt I ever reached 100% of my students.

      • Elisabetta Aurora

        I don’t blame the teachers for that either. I totally agree with you. It doesn’t make any sense to have teachers not fully understanding subjects that they then have to teach. Definitely the problem of not educating teachers enough, and not paying enough because let’s face it, if you have to have a Phd in science to teach science to middle and high schoolers then you deserve to be paid for it.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        I always figured evolution is very well-suited for the video game age. Just don’t make the game all preachy and obvious. Unfortunately, the best evolution games would also be shoot-em-ups to illustrate natural selection. Someone’s gotta die.

        Because of that, many teachers prior to ~6th or 7th grade end up reinforcing mistaken scientific beliefs or simply don’t teach science at all.

        It’s really hard to do any good science instruction before then, though. The most important science teaching that you need to do in the elementary years is 1) math, 2) reading, and 3) math.

        You can show kids fun nature stuff and call it preliminary biology, but it’s not really teaching science, it’s mostly ecology. And that’s good, but it’s limited in science. Personally, I’d like to see more introductory physics – nothing sophisticated, but of the sort “which ball rolls down the ramp faster?” and other kinematics. Play with springs, and time how fast they vibrate. Exercises in f = ma. It doesn’t have the “gee whiz” aspects of playing with magnets, but it’s real observation within physical rules that they can learn.

        Chemistry? Nah. Baking soda and vinegar makes a neat demo, but beyond balancing a chemical equation, you don’t teach much.

        Astronomy? Cool, but memorizing facts. Now, if you could teach a 4th grader why the earth goes around the sun, that would be more learning.

        • Nick Sanders

          The way I learned evolution as a kid was from the special Dinosaur Zoobooks. You had to order them after subscribing to the regular series, since there were like 15 of them meant to be read in order, and that wouldn’t really work with their “10 random issues a year” delivery method. (Side note: I ended up getting boring things like horses or duplicates of stuff I already had, while my cousin got the cool ones like sharks and butterflies.) The first two issues were devoted to giving an primer on the Theory of Evolution, starting with how an idea in science goes from hypothesis to theory, presented in a way that was understandable to grade school kids. And of course it was worth reading, because they were gonna talk about dinosaurs! Who doesn’t love dinosaurs?

        • FormerPhysicist

          Spore? All my children played it, and it helps some.

          I did have fun this week spinning my first-grader around (herself) while orbiting a tree to illustrate that you don’t end up facing the tree at he one-orbit mark to illustrate why we need a leap day correction.

      • Who?

        I have never understood evolution. Smart people who know all about it tell me its the biz, and I’m fine with that, but I remember being entirely bemused by the thought process required when I studied it (very briefly) at high school. And I was a pretty conscientious student, so it’s probably right that many of my classmates had no idea.

    • Megan

      I think some of the problem, at least in my state (and I believe part of the horrible No Child Left Behind initiative), is teaching to standardized tests that focus almost entirely on math and reading and nothing else. These tests are required and the kids in each school have to achieve a certain average score in order to continue to get state funding. Science becomes something “not worth teaching” because it doesn’t keep the funding coming in. Fortunately, parents really didn’t like this approach and things may be finally starting to change. I hope this includes more basic science teaching but all I keep hearing is about teaching computer programming. That’s fine, but kids need to be taught a strong science background.

      • Megan

        Wanted to add, I wish there would be discussion about teaching kids to critically read and understand scientific studies and have basic understanding about how to interpret the results. I think that would go a long way in helping to have adults who understand the science info that is presented in the media (and having science journalists who can do more than regurgitate an abstract).

      • demodocus

        History isn’t either; one of my student teaching schools had only 1 mandatory history class, and they had 4 teachers teaching it exclusively. The other 3 were teaching one or two other history classes in addition to more recent american history. No wonder more than one kid thought only black people were ever slaves.

        • Megan

          Yes, it is horrible how basically everything else goes by the wayside.

          • demodocus

            the worst part was the number of students taking it 3 years in a row. sigh.

    • Sullivan ThePoop
  • Roadstergal

    “And now that he’s had measles he’s getting a stronger immune system. The way nature intended”

    As is becoming clearer and clearer from ongoing study, a measles infection weakens the immune system, making you more susceptible to other infections.

    And that only makes sense. Nature loves opportunistic infections. Why on earth would you think you’re more important than the viruses? I say Mama Nature wants your baby’s body as a breeding ground for the organisms she really cares about – bacteria and viruses – like those wasps that use the bodies of other creatures to breed their offspring. Go ahead, prove me wrong. :p

    • AirPlant

      Beetles. Its really all for the beetles.

      • Roadstergal

        The dinosaurs are extinct. The DINOSAURS. If beasts that cool can all die off, why do we think we’re so special?

        • AirPlant

          How can we be special when sharks exist? They haven’t changed in millennia and are still pretty wildly successful.

          • Roadstergal

            Mama Nature clearly thinks the coelacanth is the most important creature in the world.

          • Mel

            I certainly do.

          • PeggySue

            And there are tons of different species of sharks. Only one of us. We’re not that cool.

      • Dr Kitty

        The God of Evolution really does love beetles.

        And leaves half built elephants lying about…

    • Amy M

      Pneumonia does that too, I think, and pneumonia can be a complication of measles and pertussis.

      • Roadstergal

        …and the flu, and AIDS – pneumonia is a very opportunistic infection.

        • Amy M

          Well yeah, but we don’t have a vaccine against AIDS yet, do we? (genuinely asking because I don’t know). My point being that children who are susceptible to measles, etc have a higher risk of pneumonia (following the virus), possibly causing a double whammy to their supposedly awesome immune systems.

          • Roadstergal

            Yes, that’s right, I was getting excited. :p But it’s also an annoyance I have with the flu vax refusers. :

  • Amy M

    I can never quite understand the anti-vaxxers’ insistence that vaccines are causing potentially deadly conditions or diseases. I mean, they always have an explanation of their proof of this, usually conflating correlation with causation. The majority of anti-vaxxers in the Western world were vaccinated themselves, yet they are not afflicted with the disorders they claim the vaccines cause. Who gets most of the cancer and T2D? Seniors–a cohort of people who were NOT vaccinated, at least not with anywhere near the number of vaccines available today. And forget trying to get a hypothesis of mechanism of action out them—its TOXINS!11!

    It would be awesome if they put their advocacy and organizing skills to better use, and worked on something that would actually make a positive difference to children. Like access to a comprehensive science education for everyone, so the next generation doesn’t get sucked in by this craziness.

  • CSN0116

    Even your cropped photo is incredibly hard to view 🙁

    I don’t know the complete history of the anti-vaxx movement, but in the circles I run it seems as if Dr. Sears has done irrefutable damage. He used his MD to suggest a “delayed vaccine schedule,” which in turn gave people the legitimate option to distrust the system, and it also made them more comfortable in accepting the extension of that — all-out not vaccinating. He gave the whole shit show credence is what I mean. People bitch about Wakefield and McCarthy, but Sears came at it totally differently and the radiating effects of his approach are devastating, IMO.

    I know a big part of the anti-vaxx argument is vaccine injury. That “if we only knew” how dangerous vaccines are we’d never consent. Where are the injured? I know people with some rare shit – I know someone who knows someone who lost a baby SIDS, my own twins experienced TTTS, I have three acquaintances whose kids have been diagnosed with varying types of cancers, and I even directly know a boy with Costello Syndrome (crazy rare!). But I don’t know a single vaccine-injured person. Fevers and discomfort, yes. Injury? No. Where are these people? And how is that (presumed) minimal risk worth all of this?

    • Roadstergal

      I can’t recommend The Panic Virus highly enough. I was staggered at how long the anti-vaxxers have been with us. 🙁 🙁

      • Who?

        It’s very good, isn’t it? The history of the movement is really useful to understand.

    • demodocus

      If your definition of vaccine injury is as broad (and as wrong) as many antivaxers, you’d probably know more.

      • CSN0116

        I figured…

      • Roadstergal

        “My baby fussed and refused her food. Vaccine injury!”

        “My toddler won’t stop asking me ‘why’ about everything. Vaccine injury!”

        “My teenager is sullen and spends lots of time alone in her room. Vaccine injury!”

        • AirPlant

          I got a speeding ticket a month later… Vaccine Injury!

        • Amy M

          I got the flu a few weeks after I got the flu shot!! Vaccine injury!

          • Roadstergal

            “The flu?”

            “Yes, I was sneezing and congested and had to stay home from work for two days.”

            “Um, that sounds like the common cold.”

            “Yeah, it was the flu vaccine. Never getting that one again.”

        • CSN0116

          Well shit then, I stand corrected and my family has been horribbly injured beyond repair. I need compensation!!

    • BeatriceC

      You “know” me and my kids. My oldest son suffered nearly unstoppable seizures in the wake of his 4 month shots. He’d had some minor seizures prior to the shots, so it’s impossible to say if the shots caused those seizures, made an existing issue worse, or the timing was purely coincidental. They started within an hour of the shots and lasted off and on for several days. It’s a “table injury” though, and his hospital bills were covered.

      He was 2.5 when he had his last seizure, and they were always blamed on lack of oxygen during his birth; you know, the vaginal one where he had a minor shoulder dystocia and was not getting all the oxygen he needed for a short time because my OB was a rock star who handled the sudden complication with amazing grace and skill, minimizing the damage.

      • Deborah

        The timing is pretty suspicious! But I know a woman who was scheduled for an amniocentesis, cancelled because she was feeling kind of off, ruptured her membranes later that day, and lost the baby. What she said was, “If I had had the amniocentesis, I’d be blaming that. So now I believe how things can seem connected but still be coincidences.”

        • Who?

          Yes one of the boys in my son’s baby group was booked for injections, and they found they’d run out of stock, so he and mum were sent home. He had seizures in the car on the way.

          His mum said the same thing-if he’d had the jabs, we’d be blaming the jabs.

          • BeatriceC

            And those stories (plus my own natural way of thinking) are why I always say there’s the possibility of pure coincidence. It’s absolutely possible that if I’d scheduled that appointment for another day, the seizures would have happened on that day anyway. We’ll never know.

    • Erin

      Vaccines gave me a black eye, does that count? Started with febrile convulsions hours after the MMR and wasn’t aways smart about location choice. Ended up on Epilem til I was five. Obviously I might have had them anyway just never got hot enough before then but my son is due his in a week and I’m terrified.

      • moto_librarian

        Does your son’s pediatrician know about your familial history? I would bring it up. We know that some people do have documented bad reactions to vaccines. Maybe they will want to watch your son for a bit after he gets the vaccine? I hope that everything goes smoothly.

        • Erin

          We’re in the UK so no pediatrician. I told them after he was born so it’s on his record but our vaccines are just done by the health visitor. Haven’t met her myself but her first words to a friend of mine who had an elective section for a breech baby combined with a family history of stuck babies was “too posh to push huh?” So I’m not expecting much. My doctor sister in law said to give him Calpol beforehand and keep him cool afterwards which we’ll try. At least I’ll know what it is, my mother was terrified because she didn’t know what the problem was.

          • Who?

            What in the world has happened to UK midwifery?

            Hope it goes well, be generous with the Calpol. Also is there something else you can supplement it with? In Oz it’s paracetamol (which is calpol) and ibuprofen: so dose with one, and if hot a couple of hours later, dose with the other.

            I used to do that with my son who was always hot and horrible after vaccines and whenever he got sick.

          • Dr Kitty

            At 12-13 months they can have three doses of ibuprofen and four doses of paracetamol in 24 hours. So you can stagger them.

            Be aware, it is going to be MMR, 5-in-1, pneumococcus and meningitis C.
            Three needles. I’d bring a treat and be prepared for tears.

            FWIW I rarely have parents complain about reactions after the 12 month vaccinations, most of the kiddies seem to react to the first or third set.

          • Erin

            Thanks, that’s what I’m hoping. He didn’t get a temperature with any of the other jabs and he’s had the lot so far. My Mother can’t remember if I reacted to anything before the MMR, it’s just that me going rigid in my high chair with just the whites of my eyes showing left quite an impression.
            Going to take his favourite car and my husband is coming too just in case of emergencies or breakdowns on my part.

          • Who?

            Hope it goes well.

          • Who?

            Thanks for that, I don’t think we had iboprufen for kids when he was little, but it was a wonderful help later on.

            He reacted to vaxes all the way through, it’s just him. He runs a temp of 41 at the drop of a hat, and as an adult knows when he needs to call for help as he gets to the point where he can’t look after himself, and if the temp gets really bad, can’t keep anything down.

          • Roadstergal

            Wow. What a roaring bitch.

    • Kim Rieck

      I had an anti-vaxxer tell me her little one “just wasted away” after the MMR. I’m sure she was either lying or his “wasting away” was due to another cause. But it pretty much ended the conversation. No way to convince her otherwise.

      • Charybdis

        Maybe the EBF at all costs was finally catching up with her…

      • Angharad

        Ha! My daughter dropped from the 50th weight percentile to the 20th after getting her MMR (i.e., between her 12 and 15 month checkups). Here I had been thinking it was a combination of learning to walk and other factors and that we just needed to feed her higher calorie, nutrient dense frequent snacks instead of always letting her have fruit (her favorite) and talk to her daycare about letting her take as much time as she needs to finish her meals (she’s a slow eater). Apparently it was actually a vaccine injury! In all seriousness though, I can see the appeal of pinning the blame on an outside event instead of acknowledging that you were inadvertently underfeeding your child.

    • Megan

      Dr. Sears sucks people in under the guise of moderation and taking the middle ground. He tries to make it sound so reasonable. “Just space them out, don’t give so many.” It’s just as reckless and irresponsible as refusing vaccines altogether. Vaccine schedules and the number of doses are not picked at random.