Monday, August 3, 2015

Vaccine Nonsense

Recently, on the street of a nearby town, my wife encountered a man who was passing out postcard-sized “Vaccine Fact Sheets” on which are gathered statements about the alleged dangers and uselessness of giving vaccines to prevent various childhood and adult diseases. After surveying one his cards, she quietly asked him, “Have you ever seen a child with diphtheria, or a man with lockjaw?

To her alarm, the man exploded with rage. “You don't need those vaccines!”, he shouted. She quickly moved on, but his shouts followed her down the street. She brought the card home; it bears the name of It cites articles by a number of people, some with MD, DO, DC, JD, or PhD after the name, and “facts you should know.” It quotes half-truths and some statements that are just plain false, which I would sum up as dangerous rubbish.

The reason I say that is, my wife and I have seen children die with the diseases those vaccines prevent. We worked fifteen years in the hinterlands of South East Asia. We are among the last people in the world to see smallpox in the wild, when an epidemic broke out in a village which the Burmese government vaccinator had not yet reached, back in 1961. We have seen diphtheria close the throat of a child, who survived only because of an emergency operation to open her windpipe. I watched a ten-year-old girl die of whooping cough (pertussis). I have watched one adult and several infants die of lockjaw (tetanus) when they reached the hospital too late for antitoxin to take effect. Before polio vaccine was developed, the city of Syracuse NY (where I went to med school) had a hospital for polio patients, some of them destined for life in an “iron lung” machine. A measles epidemic wiped out forty children in a group of villages in the mountains in Thailand. It's small comfort for their parents to know that at least their children didn't get a vaccine reaction. Too bad they didn't get the vaccine either.

Diptheria, pertussis, tetanus, measles still happen still happen to children and adults in the United States. Get yourself and your children immunized. If you don't like the doctor's fee, get it done at Public Health. Only the ignorant or the misinformed refuse.