Saturday, January 31, 2015

On Vaccination

Rationality to the rescue.

This may be somewhat off-topic, but since it deals with issues of free-riding and communitarianism, as well as science and logical thinking, it will be discussed here. Given the ongoing and completely unnecessary measles outbreak, caused by the ignorant and the paranoid, this is a topical issue.

Some general comments first. Vaccinations are not 100% effective. Few things in life are, and biology has so much variation that an absolute 100% efficacy is currently beyond our capacity.  I think we can agree that an approach does not have to be 100% perfect to have great utility.  Thus, in a small number of vaccinated people, immunity does not develop. Also, infants under the age of one cannot be vaccinated against certain diseases, for a variety of reasons, and there are other people with legitimate medical concerns (allergies, leukemia, etc.) that preclude vaccination. However, for the most part, these non-immune people are protected when the mass of the population are immunized, so-called “herd immunity.”  When there are too few people in the population to sustain ongoing transmission, the infection in the community ends, protecting those few who are not immune. When the proportion of the population that are immune drops below a certain level (the level is related to the relative infectiveness of the disease; for example, measles is highly infectious), then not only do the intentionally non-immune get sick, but so do those who are not immune for the reasons listed above.  And society as a whole bears the burden.

Vaccination does have a (very low) risk. Many things in life do. Getting a root canal has a low risk. People have died getting wisdom teeth removed; very rare, but it does happen. Certain cancer diagnostic tests carry a low risk. Getting an X-ray has some risk. So does women giving birth (some people still die from that, even today), driving a car, shoveling snow, walking down a flight of stairs. Rational societies, populated by rational people, weigh risks and benefits, and decide that, yes, they want to have children and drive a car, no, they don’t want polio or cancer, no, they don’t want deformed jaws and rotting teeth, yes, they want to do the normal things of life even though they cannot be given a 100% absolute guarantee that nothing will ever go wrong.

Now, let’s look at this comment and answer some points.  Comment in italics.

In any case, if vaccinations do what its supporters claim, then the vaccinated are automatically protected regardless of who or what they are exposed to. If not, why get vaccinated?

See above. Vaccinations are not 100% effective. Few things in life are. I agree that we need to work on enhancing the already impressive effectiveness and safety profile of vaccines (and other biomedical procedures).  The major reason such does not occur is the perils of free market capitalism (you know, that advocated by “Ron Paul and his Liberty Crusade”). If there is no financial incentive to do X,Y,Z, and/or if it doesn’t fit the capitalist-PC-multicult agenda, then it doesn’t get done, regardless of the costs incurred by society. “Government regulation” (so decried by the Paulsters) is a joke, since the wealthy (including “vaccine manufacturers”) and their lobbyists control the political process. All of that does not alter one bit the overwhelming benefit of vaccinations for individual and societal health. The dim, forgetting the horror of measles, polio, etc., mock fear of “microorganisms.”  I don’t know, I would think the peoples of the past, dying like flies from epidemics prevented by modern medicine, would have had a different opinion.

No such thing as “herd immunity”. They make it up as they go along because the world is full of suckers gibbering and trembling over micro organisms. (Not naming names, though.)

Juvenile insults do not change reality. Herd immunity is real. It is backed up by epidemiological data, by mathematical modeling, and by common sense: when a sufficient proportion of a population are immune, the infection will be unable to spread. Without enough vectors, the infection ends, protecting those who – for whatever reason – are not immune.  

What’s the conspiracy thinking here?  Dastardly doctors and scientists are being “paid off” by the “vaccine industry” to lie?  A mass conspiracy? No one is paying me off. I understand the science, I understand risk, and I understand probability. I don’t ask anyone to do anything I’m not willing to do myself. I note that all those “evil doctors and scientists” are getting vaccinated themselves and get their own children vaccinated.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, but how much more dangerous is that road when the intentions are not at all good? You might want to ask why the vaccine manufacturers have protection from lawsuits.

So they can provide the needed service without fear of being facing lawsuits many of which will be trivial – “I got vaccinated and the next day I broke my arm, let me find a nice Jewish lawyer and sue, and hope an ignorant jury can be persuaded to give me a few million.”  Note that in the event it is discovered that these manufacturers have truly done wrong, they should be sued, but not because of an unforeseeable chance event if they acted in good faith. The actions of money-grubbing corporations in a capitalist economy is another matter independent of the utility of vaccination. Again, why do doctors, scientists, and others, people with NO connection to the "vaccine industry," strongly advocate vaccination? There's a degree of "reverse snobbery" here - people feel better believing the likes of Jenny McCarthy than all those "white coat Poindexters and their sliderules."  Score another victory for rightist anti-intellectualism and leftist science denial and fad-mongering.

Re your regime, Teddy. Go ahead. I will have to take those bullets because your form of government wouldn’t be worth living under.

I need to be harsh because of the consequences.  Remember smallpox? A plague on mankind, eliminated via vaccination. Do we need to revisit viral plagues, because people either are ignorant, cannot judge relative risk, or cannot understand the danger because the risk of the danger has been lessened by the same approach (vaccination) that they now decry?  But, fine, we can do without bullets.  Here’s another way: the unvaccinated can be quarantined, and can be made immune through exposure to the actual virus. Let all the “babies” of the anti-vaccine crowd come down with measles, polio, and what have you, give them the minimal palliative care, and let their families deal with the consequences of the infection.

You’d protect your avowed enemies from having to keep their traps shut but the people who supposedly matter in the first place would be shot because they don’t want their babies to receive 48 doses of god-knows-what

“God knows what” are vaccinations to prevent disease. Most sane people would not want “their babies” to get measles or polio either. Can you imagine going back in time a century and telling desperate parents that there was a way of avoiding those diseases with 95-99% certainty (on an individual level) or even 100% certainty (if the disease was eliminated like smallpox)?  The parents would be ecstatic about the possibility and then dumbfounded if you told them some people actually refused to protect themselves and their children in that manner.

in the arm by the time they are 5 years old. I can suddenly see the attraction of so many for Ron Paul and his Liberty Crusade. Dr. Paul is opposed to mandatory vaccinations but would not prevent anyone from receiving them if they wish.

Dr. Paul is an idiot. What he says or does not say has no influence over the reality of human immunity.

I know a woman (personally; I’ve met and spoken with her; not someone over the internet) whose daughter died from a vaccination when a baby. This was entered on the child’s death certificate.

Many of us know people who have been killed in car accidents. Don’t drive. People die in plane crashes. Don’t fly. Women die giving birth, then don’t have children. Everyone eventually dies, so don’t be born. Life is full of risks. People “gibbering and trembling” over the risks of normal life are not material for any sane and rational pro-White regime.

In my personal opinion, the anti-vaccine crowd are not only wrong, they are selfish and even evil. They are free-riding on the immunity of others. If everyone decided to be put off by a, say, one in a million chance risk, then no one is vaccinated, everyone gets sick, and some of the “babies” will die or be crippled by disease. But since the vast majority do the right thing for public health, the selfish few protect themselves from both the very small risk of vaccines and the much greater risk of the actual illness by taking advantage of those others do the right thing. Free-riding is the deadly enemy of collective action, of investing in the community, of building social goods (such as public health). Those who free-ride on society are in my opinion evil.

I see a lot of the anti-vaccine crowd as having opposition to vaccines as part of their personal identities, it is like a religion. Facts and logic mean nothing. Science means nothing. All of that is casually dismissed by insults, lack of understanding of how biology works, demands for absolute perfection ("the vaccine does not give 100% of the people 100% immunity, so it's worthless"), reliance on celebrities and gurus, etc.