March 21, 2008

Get Vaccinations For Your Children

One of the most irresponsible pieces of pseudoscience I have heard of recently is the refusal of parents to get vaccinations for their children because they fear that vaccinations will cause autism -- a fear based on nothing but fear, conjecture, and emotion and not based at all upon evidence, science, or medicine, which overwhelmingly demonstrates no connection between vaccination and autism.

The "vaccination skeptics" seem to be affluent and otherwise well-educated, but the problem is that they're buying into hysteria and making astonishingly risky decisions with their children. I found this little vingnette particularly disturbing:

Some parents of unvaccinated children go to great lengths to expose their children to childhood diseases to help them build natural immunities. [¶] In the wake of last month’s outbreak, Linda Palmer considered sending her son to a measles party to contract the virus. Several years ago, the boy, now 12, contracted chicken pox when Ms. Palmer had him attend a gathering of children with that virus. [¶] “It is a very common thing in the natural-health oriented world,” Ms. Palmer said of the parties. [¶] She ultimately decided against the measles party for fear of having her son ostracized if he became ill.

This well-educated, middle-class mother from San Diego doesn't mind the idea of "naturally" exposing her unvaccinated, unprotected child to a disease that can cause encephalitis, crippling pneumonia, blindness, and death, but only stops she doesn't want him to be thought of as "uncool" by his peers. In the meantime, she eschews a safe, effective, readily-available, and affordable prophylactic against the disease because someone told her that it might "cause" a genetic disorder.

No, it is not acceptable that she reaches the right result (not taking her twelve-year-old son to a "measles party") for the wrong reasons (she wants him to be popular). It is also not acceptable that she withholds vital medical treatment from her son because she loves her son. Love won't immunize him from measles -- and vaccine will.

This sort of thing ought to be considered child abuse and treated accordingly by law enforcement authorities.

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