Yesterday’s Teaser

I left yesterday after mentioning the unmentionable: immunizations. Great. This is a subject that causes normally rational people to become rabid. I assume this is due to fear, and I don’t blame them, really, even if their memes are giant piles of nastiness.

Before you go rabid on me, let me make it clear that I’m not an anti-vaxxer. Rather, immunizations fit into the realm of “there is no utopia here; move on.” They are imperfect. They are old medicine, but the government poured their money into funding immunization development in the mid half of the 20th C; therefore, that’s what we have. And they actually work. That’s good in the same way antibiotics are good. They save lives and create unintended consequences.

And they really are old medicine, having been used in parts of the world for hundreds of years before ever being tested in the western world. Famously, the English writer Lady Mary Wortley Montagu discovered in the early 18th C that the Turks had been inoculating against smallpox for some time and consequently had much lower death rates of the disease than the English had. Her husband was the British ambassador in the Ottoman Empire, and being a curious person, she investigated their variolation process, i.e. their inoculation against the variola virus. It was a simple process of scratching the skin and infecting the open wound with a small amount of the virus. She brought this info back with her to England, but it took quite a few decades before Dr. Jenner (credited with inventing vaccination) developed a version using cowpox instead of smallpox (hence, the name). At the time, it was ingenious to use the body’s own immune system, especially since medicine at the time still relied on bloodletting and the use of mercury to combat disease.

Today, we know that basic hygiene can help prevent the spread of disease; we’re still aware of quarantine — we also have a much greater knowledge of nutrition (as well as the sun, i.e vit D) and its role in immune function. But we don’t know everything. The immune system is incredibly complex. And as we implement immunization schedules with multiple doses against more and more diseases, we also see the dignoses of autoimmune disorders increading at about 7% every year. Obviously, correlation doesn’t equal causation, but let’s consider for a moment what modern-day immunizations are meant to do: they are specifically designed to cause a strong immune reaction. Many do this through adjuvants, which are substances that enhance immune reactions…or, as I’ve often said in my non-sciencey language, bludgeon the immune system. This is a feature of immunizations; this is what we’re attempting when we give dose after dose to young children, beginning in the first 24 hours after birth.

But I’m still not an anti-vaxxer because it’s the only system we have right now. At the same time, I’m not now and never will be a utopianist. Nor could I ever become a rabidly cruel human being to others online. What few want to admit, or dare to admit, really, is that most anti-vaxxers are not fools. They are usually college educated with above-average IQs. Many have also taken on their own irrational anti stances because they have a child who was permanently damaged by an immunization. They feel pain and guilt and on top of that are bullied by people online who don’t understand that the cost when counting it might be somebody else’s child.

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