Friday, February 06, 2015

Human stupidity, or is it ignorance? The vaccination question

Let's face the fact - the normal human being is stupid. Society doesn't apply nature's law of "survival of the fittest". Human nature is not natural - we allow the most stupid people to survive long enough for them to procreate, passing on their genes. Granted, the offspring may not be as stupid as their parents but that is in the minority.

Even stupidity can manifest itself in the "well educated". Take, for example, my father. He's a professor in chemistry and is a great cook. Yet he has difficulty taking public transport and has times called my mother or I about which bus to take to a certain destination. He also has difficulty in following basic instructions when doing household chores. I have doctor colleagues who I can't believe can survive this long without knowing how to perform household chores such as cooking or using the washing machine. This maybe more ignorance, believing they have somebody else to do these menial tasks, rather than being dumb.

I encounter stupidity/ignorance everyday in my job as a general practitioner. Whether it is not taking medication due to some idiotic reason, believing a remedy recommended by a friend will cure his or her ills or thinking their symptom is due to some weird disease, it is a constant task of me not trying to bang my head on the table, rolling my eyes up in search for the god who created these people or doing a facepalm.

The recent measles outbreak from Disneyland probably shows most people are incapable of making medical decisions. The vast majority of children infected with measles from this outbreak were unvaccinated. In the USA, parents have the option to opt out of vaccination for personal or religious reasons. Some parents believe (I was going to put 'think' but that would be stretching the definition of think too far) will hinder the child's development.

The link between the measles vaccine and autism was debunked long ago. The one study this link was based on has been proven to be wrong and, even worse, was made up by the doctor, who has been struck off the registry and can no longer work as a doctor in the UK. There has been no concrete evidence to show any vaccine has any effect on your child's development. Let's put the fact in another way - if doctors or the health service believe that vaccination had any long term significant side effects, in that the risk would outweigh benefits, would us doctors still offer the vaccine?

Remarkably the majority of the parents who make the decision to not vaccinate their kids are the middle class and are reasonably educated. They are arrogant enough to think, with their college degree, reasonable income and searching the internet for 10 minutes, that they are smarter than the doctor who spent the whole of his or her adult life dedicated to medicine plus the weight of 150 years of modern medicine and scientific research. Please, give me strength!

Parents of the unvaccinated children have been saying, "This is my child. I should have the personal choice of what to put into my child." True, the parent have that choice. However a personal choice should also only have personal consequences. Unfortunately this personal choice has public health consequences. There are people who cannot be vaccinated for a variety of medical reasons - they are allergic to components of the vaccine or to the vaccine itself, they are suffering from a medical condition where their immune system is compromised or taking medication to suppress their immune system due to another medical condition. These people rely on "herd immunity", where the other people in society are immunised so that the micro-organism is wiped out and cannot infect unvaccinated people, for protection. Measles is not a trivial disease where it is just a rash - it can cause encephalitis, pneumonia and even death.

I read one comment on Buzzfeed: It's also incredibly indulgent and oh so very first world to deny your kid vaccinations for whatever perceived reason, while third world people would literally give anything to have their kids have these vaccinations.

There are some people who are revolting against these decisions. Certain paediatric practices in US are explicitly not accepting patients who are not vaccinated. They can, quite rightly, justify this as they have to protect other patients as well. Personally I don't think this decision goes far enough. If you choose not to vaccinate your child, you should not be allowed to go to areas where children congregate. The Disneyland outbreak shows this rule should be put in place. Your child should be home-schooled, so that they don't pass on the virus to other children at school. They should play at home and not with other children at nurseries or play groups. If a child was sick with an infection, would you want that child repeatedly turning up at your school? Exactly.

In short - get your children vaccinated. If you don't and your child becomes ill, don't come to me for sympathy.

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