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Diseases and vaccination… October 12, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Interesting podcast here from Australia on safety and vaccinations from the Science Vs series. They asked a vaccination sceptic person to go researching with them in regard to that subject. And tellingly there was one point where the person was, as it were, convinced as to the effectivity of vaccines. It sounds simple but it does point to the necessity to combat myth and misrepresentations that are out there.

She realised that the anti-vax case was simply wrong when she realised that, in the case of the measles vaccine the mortality rate for those who catch measles is 1-2 per thousand.

‘I compared that to the data I was finding on the injuries you might get from the vaccine and they pale into comparison to the bad bad things that can happen if we got one of these diseases – I was like forget it… get the vaccine. And the measles is really contagious, it can live in the air up to two hours’.

In a way it’s depressing because that’s the calculation one has to do – yes, there is no absolute lack of risk, but the risks of catching a disease are much greater and more likely to occur if vaccines aren’t used. I wonder if the problem is in part that hitherto with many of these diseases on the run there’s been a sense that people had the luxury not to use vaccines – a completely delusionary sense, but one nonetheless.

But that’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the way disease works. It pushes back continually trying to gain traction. Remove the use of vaccines and diseases that aren’t eradicated completely will return, sometimes in even more virulent form.

I’ve noted, as a parent that I understand the emotions at work. The idea of putting a child at risk, any risk, is difficult, but the central point is that not vaccinating is putting children at much much greater risk. And there’s another point too, and this locks into a broader misunderstanding and misperception in terms of risk – few fret about strapping their kids into cars, or aircraft, or whatever. And yet every single decision taken incurs some degree of risk.

The outline of mortality rates for the diseases being vaccinated against is actually quite troubling. Look at diphtheria, tetanus … etc. The case answers itself.

Or does it – because for some the case isn’t enough.

It’s worth listening though to the succeeding podcast which interviews anti-vaxxers and in particular a woman who has become heavily involved through social media – who was absolutely hostile to vaccines but appeared completely unrealising of the actual risks in relation to the diseases. And she seemed completely unwilling to seriously accept or engage with the reality of the latter. To say the argument put forward against the pro-vaccination side was incoherent would be too kind…

A lot of adverse events aren’t reported… because parents think its normal because it’s what doctors tell them… we’re only being educated by scare tactics…

And finally… ‘I don’t know, I think it’s just mother’s intuition’.

I sympathise with the depth of emotion but as I’ve noted before I think this comes back to this lack of control and fear of death. Because so much is uncontrollable in life and unknowable the effort is made to micro-manage (however ineptly and counterproductively) a small portion of life – unfortunately a very important small portion. But it’s based on a lack of knowledge and a sort of egotism, a belief in one’s ability. And yet in our daily lives we know we have to subcontract out expertise to so many different people – structural engineers, scientists, planners, food hygiene authorities.

I can only think that all this necessitates a serious push back by state authorities, and it is good to see in Ireland the case being made – most immediately for HPV. The sheer ignorance on display in these matters is in its own way terrifying, the absolute certainty that expertise is tainted or corrupted, the resistance to math and statistics.

None of this is to argue that everything is perfect, but it is to argue against a sort of pointless hostility and paranoia. Not everything is a conspiracy.


1. FergusD - October 12, 2017

Part of the problem is the idea of “risk” and “relative risk” is poorly understood by most. Our brains seem to be much more attuned to anecdotal evidence than statistics. So everyone is terrified of terrorism, but fine with car journeys, smoking etc. After 9/11 internal air traffic in the USA fell greatly, people drove long distances by car, relative risk?

If you hear a story about a baby who suffered some side effect from a vaccine it can have a big effect on you. Because you never hear of any babies with measles!!

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - October 12, 2017

Completely agree. I think that’s almost the key to this. People cannot weigh up risk and relative risk. In a way climate change suffers from the opposite problem, being too abstract and spread across too long a time for people to comprehend the risk there.


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