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pestilence is from the devil.
June 23, 2014 2:21 PM   Subscribe

A federal judge in New York has ruled against a group of parents who had filed a lawsuit, asserting that the New York City policy that allows schools to ban unvaccinated kids from attending classes when another child has come down with a vaccine preventable illness infringed on their practice of religion. The decision cites Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905), where the SCOTUS upheld Cambridge, Mass, Board of Health’s authority to require vaccination against smallpox during a smallpox epidemic.
posted by roomthreeseventeen (88 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
It was a good policy then, and it's a good policy now.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:22 PM on June 23 [40 favorites]


I love it when common sense prevails!
posted by valkane at 2:24 PM on June 23 [5 favorites]


Hurray!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:28 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


Public health v. religious craziness
posted by goethean at 2:29 PM on June 23 [11 favorites]


Oh thank god. This policy protected me and everyone I went to school with in the NYC public education system and considering that at some point in the future I'll have my own kids in the same system, I'm glad it'll be protecting them.
posted by griphus at 2:31 PM on June 23 [9 favorites]


FTA: ""Disease is pestilence," Ms. Check said, "and pestilence is from the devil. The devil is germs and disease, which is cancer and any of those things that can take you down. But if you trust in the Lord, these things cannot come near you."

Talk about a crock of shit.
posted by marienbad at 2:34 PM on June 23 [57 favorites]


Whew.
posted by rtha at 2:40 PM on June 23


FTA: ""Disease is pestilence," Ms. Check said, "and pestilence is from the devil. The devil is germs and disease, which is cancer and any of those things that can take you down. But if you trust in the Lord, these things cannot come near you."

It's a little unfair to call that "a crock of shit." The metaphor just doesn't go far enough. In this reading "trust in the Lord" equates to "follow good hygiene and disease-prevention protocols." You can't just multoiply one side of the equation, after all.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:41 PM on June 23 [3 favorites]


The Lord helps those who help themselves...
posted by curuinor at 2:43 PM on June 23 [9 favorites]


“Disease is pestilence,” Ms. Check said, “and pestilence is from the devil. The devil is germs and disease, which is cancer and any of those things that can take you down. But if you trust in the Lord, these things cannot come near you.”

Textbook victim blaming. People who get sick either aren't believers or don't "trust in the Lord" enough.
posted by qi at 2:47 PM on June 23 [47 favorites]


The only thing that worries me about this is that I suspect a lot of anti-vaccination parents will now become anti-public schooing and pull their kids out of the system, making it all that much harder for them to escape their families' narrow-minded worldviews.
posted by capricorn at 2:50 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


Maybe this argument is a ticket on the crazy train, but wouldn't you want to fight the devil? I'm guessing heroin addiction is from the devil, too, but maybe you can be holy and still not shoot up?
posted by poe at 2:50 PM on June 23


Just wait till this gets to the Supreme Court, then we'll see who's laughing.
posted by languagehat at 2:50 PM on June 23 [10 favorites]


I'm a little disappointed the court didn't force vaccinate these kids after a preventable outbreak.
posted by sbutler at 2:51 PM on June 23


"Pray as if everything depended on God; Work as if everything depended on you." -St. Augustine

"Get your shots, dummies!" - Me
posted by KingEdRa at 2:52 PM on June 23 [60 favorites]


I'm pretty sure I had whooping cough just before it was time for me to get my booster at age 12. I was out of school for a week, on antibiotics, but what I remember most was the test for it- a metal wire used as a swab against the top of the throat. To get this, they go through the nasal cavity. I could have sworn they were taking a sample from the front of my brain.

The coughing was painful and sucked, a good chunk of the 6th grade class got it, as our parents were late on boosters or the vaccine had just run out a little early. Like most diseases, the specifics of it have been lost in my memory, but I do remember the warnings they sent out including telling parents with infants that they might want to pull their kids out for a couple of days to make sure it was not spread to the infants. No deaths, no complications, but this was a small private school with less than 60 kids per grade. The thought of it running through a larger population is scary.

I credit the fact that it did not spread outside of the students who were due for booster shots to herd immunity. These assholes are trying to break that. Having caught this at an age where it was not lethal, just very unpleasant, I am hesitant to characterize it as abuse, although intentional neglect does not seem to far fetched.

Despite some of the messed up vaccinations campaigns that the US has undertaken against its population (the flying vaccine squads in the Upper East Side fighting their way in to vaccinate everyone in the apartment, but only really targeting the Italian immigrants), I have trouble condemning them in any way other than to say the same tactics should have been used against all groups.

I wonder, given cases like Commonwealth v. Twitchell if parents who do not vaccinate without a medical exemption can be held responsible if their child dies of a vaccine preventable disease. I'm glad that this has not arisen as an issue yet, but I do suspect that there will eventually be a case about it.
posted by Hactar at 2:53 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


BTW, I saw a talk by the author of a book about what lead up to the 1905 ruling. It was pretty interesting to see how vaxing and anti-vaxing played out back then. [Spoiler: lots more class and ethnicity based factors back then.]
posted by benito.strauss at 2:56 PM on June 23 [4 favorites]


The vaccine squads mentioned by Hactar are detailed in Willrich's book.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:59 PM on June 23


The only thing that worries me about this is that I suspect a lot of anti-vaccination parents will now become anti-public schooing and pull their kids out of the system, making it all that much harder for them to escape their families' narrow-minded worldviews.

Thankfully, the Venn diagram of anti-vaxxers and homeschoolers has already got a pretty significant overlap (label this portion of the graph "unwilling to entrust the safety of their children to qualified experts"), so I don't imagine this'll change much in that regard.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:59 PM on June 23 [7 favorites]


Just wait till this gets to the Supreme Court, then we'll see who's laughing.

How would this play out in the conservative end of the Supreme Court, considering it's a states' rights issue?
posted by griphus at 3:02 PM on June 23


Spoiler: lots more class and ethnicity based factors back then

My assumption has been that antivax people now are mostly white and native born, and with a weird mixture of fringe Christian and upper middle class educated granola types. What did that author say?
posted by Dip Flash at 3:03 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


Ms. Check ought to demonstrate her faith by doing the backstroke in a kiddie pool of Captain Trips.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:09 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


Dip, it's more that back then, when the vaccines were developed with a body like the FDA to watch for impurities and bad batches, the people who were forced to get vaccinated were not white, upper class, etc. This can be tied to the persistent belief of those in power that disease is something that happens to the lower/dirtier/browner/poorer people. In the early 1900s, there would have been eugenics arguments that the lower classes were more susceptible to disease as a matter of inheritance, rather than because they were coming from malnourished crowded conditions.
posted by Hactar at 3:10 PM on June 23 [3 favorites]


Wish some rich person would fund a series of PSAs for the U.S. market. Wouldn't need to be too complex. Just the audio of a child with whooping cough gasping for breath against a black screen. (I don't even have kids and the audio to that Youtube vid makes me want to ring up my doctor and get a booster shot tomorrow. Fucking terrifying.)
posted by longdaysjourney at 3:12 PM on June 23 [13 favorites]


... parents who do not vaccinate without a medical exemption can be held responsible if their child dies of a vaccine preventable disease. I'm glad that this has not arisen as an issue yet, but I do suspect that there will eventually be a case about it.

I don't want any child to die, but should it happen, I hope they throw the book at them. AFAIC, they are potential child murderers.
posted by BlueHorse at 3:12 PM on June 23 [5 favorites]


I'm a little disappointed the court didn't force vaccinate these kids after a preventable outbreak.

It seems like in cases like this, the greater good of society has to take precedence. It'd be like a family who enjoys firing their guns in the air every weekend - your constitutional rights are overridden by public safety.
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:14 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


I remember getting the polio vaccine. I didn't know what polio was but I was told it was a terrible disease you most certainly did not want. I took the vaccine gladly.

What the hell happened to those days?
posted by tommasz at 3:20 PM on June 23 [5 favorites]


People are so frustratingly stupid. We have innumerable historical tragedies, from plagues to wars, and we put safeguards in place after huge unnecessary death tolls; then people just forget about why we put those practices in place, effectively saying, "Surely this is outdated or meaningless now," and then the same damn things keep happening. If there were a god, he wouldn't have to give us commandments except "read history".
posted by clockzero at 3:23 PM on June 23 [37 favorites]


The New York Times article makes it clear that the risks are in no way hypothetical:

"Among the 25 people who contracted measles in New York City between February and April this year, two were school-age children unvaccinated because of parental refusal. When one of the children, who was being home-schooled, contracted the measles, city health officials barred that child’s sibling, who had a religious exemption, from attending school. The sibling eventually contracted measles as well. Health officials credited the decision to keep the second child out of school with stopping the spread of disease in that community."

But, hey, let's just throw that all out the window because a small number of people feel strongly about a bad decision they made.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 3:23 PM on June 23 [20 favorites]


I don't want any child to die, but should it happen, I hope they throw the book at them. AFAIC, they are potential child murderers.

Screw waiting, charge them with attempted murder now.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:29 PM on June 23 [7 favorites]


Your religion ends at my health. Period.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:41 PM on June 23 [21 favorites]


The mandate to educate everybody is certainly flexible enough to allow a few sick days for a student who's carrying a disease, especially since the student would receive makeup materials. It's reasonable to separate the right to medical procedures/lack of procedures from the right to carry a disease. Sounds like a reasonable ruling.

AFAIC, they are potential child murderers.

Screw waiting, charge them with attempted murder now.


Totally, and while we're at it, why not book parents who move to high crime neighborhoods or drive their children in cars unusually often? Sounds like something Google should be able to figure out.

There's a lot of variance allowed in child-rearing. Some people are a little more obvious about isolated mistakes they make, but we need to remember that anti-vaccination sentiment is a wing of a positive trend towards being more concerned about children's health, the same movement that's working hard on getting junk food out of schools and getting rare auto-immune diseases funding and attention. They're trying to help their children and we should not make martyrs of them no matter how much we would enjoy it.
posted by michaelh at 4:03 PM on June 23 [3 favorites]


The mandate to educate everybody is certainly flexible enough to allow a few sick days for a student who's carrying a disease, especially since the student would receive makeup materials. It's reasonable to separate the right to medical procedures/lack of procedures from the right to carry a disease. Sounds like a reasonable ruling.

Doesn't that assume we can positively identify disease-bearing students before they infect anyone else? If so, that's not a viable policy for the most part, since many diseases are easily spread before their carriers become symptomatic.
posted by thegears at 4:07 PM on June 23 [5 favorites]


Disease is pestilence," Ms. Check said, "and pestilence is from the devil. The devil is germs and disease, which is cancer and any of those things that can take you down. But if you trust in the Lord, these things cannot come near you."

My late grandmother's parents (she was born in 1917) were Christian Scientists and believed in prayer over medical care. She contracted scarlet fever when she was 5 or 6 and nearly died. She was bedridden for months, I'm told.

When she was 9, she contracted polio. I don't know whether her parents knew this or just ignored it (family lore is fuzzy on that point). What I do know is that a non-CS aunt and uncle of hers were visiting one day, recognized whatever symptoms she had -- including the fact that she had partial paralysis in one leg -- and they concocted a scheme. They offered to take the my grandma and her younger sister out for ice cream, and their harried mother readily agreed. Whereupon Aunt Margaret and Uncle Grover drove 2-1/2 hours to a hospital in Chicago so that she could be checked out.

She did indeed have polio, and spent a good deal of time in the hospital, and was ultimately treated; she didn't suffer any major long-term effects. (And her parents didn't speak to Margaret and Grover for some years.)

I'm only here today because a great-great aunt and uncle kidnapped my grandmother so that she could be treated for polio, because her parents' only remedy was prayer.

It's an amusing and charming story in a "pre-Depression America was so Dorthea Lange and Tom Joad" kind of way. It's absolutely terrifying and maddening that with everything we learned about epidemiology and courses of treatment in the 20th century, people still (increasingly?) act in such an irresponsible way towards the children they're claiming to love and protect.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:25 PM on June 23 [102 favorites]


then people just forget about why we put those practices in place

It's worse than than just forgetting - people are now claiming that (having "educated" themselves on the topic) the evidence suggests that diseases like smallpox and polio were on the way out anyway and vaccines weren't really an effective part of that.

It's a moonlanding-hoax conspiracy-theory that's gone mainstream. The evidence is indeed compelling when cherry-picked and presented in a vacuum to people who are missing a lot of the technical and historical detail that turns it all on its head.
posted by anonymisc at 4:27 PM on June 23 [13 favorites]


"Disease is pestilence," Well, yeah, that's why there are vaccines to teach your body how to deal with them. You're lucky your child is healthy, and *can* be vaccinated; some kids have immune problems and can't be vaccinated - they need the protection of herd immunity, and if you don't vaccinate your kid, you're a selfish jerk and should be shunned. It's a tiny risk that we all have to accept, for the greater good. And if a child is harmed by a vaccine, as happens quite rarely, they have my profound sympathy.

I count myself lucky to live in a time with effective vaccines and antibiotics, and I'm grateful to underpaid public health workers. Sometimes, government is wonderful.
posted by theora55 at 4:31 PM on June 23 [6 favorites]


 She contracted scarlet fever when she was 5 or 6 and nearly died.

She must have been a very sinful child.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:33 PM on June 23 [33 favorites]


I count myself lucky to live in a time with effective vaccines and antibiotics

I think by the time that you and I really need antibodies (eg. elderly and struggling with a lung infection that a younger person would shrug off), we'll be well into the post-antibioltic era.

I sure hope we've managed to find something else by then :-(
posted by anonymisc at 4:34 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


My husband almost died when he got the measles and the mumps at the same time when he was two or three. It was 1951 or so.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:37 PM on June 23


“Disease is pestilence,” Ms. Check said, “and pestilence is from the devil. The devil is germs and disease, which is cancer and any of those things that can take you down. But if you trust in the Lord, these things cannot come near you.”

Bob's at home one day when he hears a knock at the door. He opens it to find a cop standing there.

"Sir," says the cop, "I'm afraid to say that the dam up river has broken and there's a major storm coming - you need to get out now as this area is going to flood."

"Oh I'm fine!" Says Bob. "I trust in the Lord. God will save me!"

An hour later the rain is pelting down and Bob's ground floor is rapidly flooding. Looking out his upstairs window he sees a man in a boat, waving at him.

"Hey!" Says the man in the boat, "I saw the lights on and thought I better check no one was still out here! Jump in! We'll get out of here before it gets worse!"

"I'm cool!" Says Bob, waving back. "I trust in the Lord. God will save me!"

An hour later the water is above the upper floor and Bob is forced to climb onto his roof. Suddenly out of the distance a rescue chopper appears. Soon it's hovering overhead.

"Sir!" Says a voice through the chopper's loudhailer, "We got reports you were out here! Hang on, we'll lower a rope!"

"No! No!" Shouts Bob, clinging to the chimney, "I trust in the Lord. He'll save me!"

An hour later, the water finally up over the roof, Bob drowns. He awakens to find himself standing outside heaven. Seeing God he runs over.

"Damnit Lord!" He shouts angrily, "I trusted you! Why didn't you save me?!"

God turns and gives him a look.

"Dude seriously," God says, exasperated, "I sent you a cop, a boat and a goddamn chopper! I mean come on Bob! What the hell else did you want?!"

As a civilisation we have knowledge, skills and common sense. Maybe those things are God-given. Maybe not. Doesn't really matter. Either way its a fucking crime not to use them.
posted by garius at 4:42 PM on June 23 [69 favorites]


I'm just wondering what the anti-vaxxers reaction is to this.
posted by magstheaxe at 4:44 PM on June 23 [9 favorites]


They're trying to help their children and we should not make martyrs of them no matter how much we would enjoy it.

People who beat their children to instill discipline think they're helping them as well. So...no.
posted by kjs3 at 4:44 PM on June 23 [21 favorites]


"Disease is pestilence," Ms. Check said, "and pestilence is from the devil. The devil is germs and disease, which is cancer and any of those things that can take you down. But if you trust in the Lord, these things cannot come near you."

Unless God decides that you should have cancer anyways. Because He is God and can do anything he damn well pleases for reasons that are unfathomable to us mortals.

Is there actually any basis in scripture for her nonsense?
posted by VTX at 4:53 PM on June 23


…I suspect a lot of anti-vaccination parents will now become anti-public schooing and pull their kids out of the system…

The world needs its uneducated, low-wage, physical labourers. These folk are simply volunteering their children. They shall serve your children. Be happy for that!
posted by five fresh fish at 5:15 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


Good. This is the right decision.

I hate that religion - which is supposed to be all about the community - is actually often very much all about me-me-me. These people should be ashamed of themselves. They are not true Christians as much as they would like to believe otherwise.
posted by sockermom at 5:27 PM on June 23 [8 favorites]


What the hell happened to those days?

We're too far removed from them. 3-4 generations of vaccines and most serious viruses in this country are down to levels where they are almost invisible. It's a common problem with things that make the bad stuff go away but require constant low-level upkeep.
posted by aspo at 5:28 PM on June 23 [4 favorites]


Missing from the coverage: Dina Check considers herself a Roman Catholic.

And it was no problem for her to get a medical exemption as well as a religious exemption. She just went to Dr. Michael Gabriel to get a note and a recommendation to take digestive enzymes.

Also missing from the coverage: the ruling is three weeks old.
posted by cgs06 at 5:33 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


They offered to take the my grandma and her younger sister out for ice cream, and their harried mother readily agreed. Whereupon Aunt Margaret and Uncle Grover drove 2-1/2 hours to a hospital in Chicago so that she could be checked out.


Funny- my grandmother also had an interesting story about ice cream and vaccination. There was a photograph of her as a little girl in the '20s, along with another little boy from her neighborhood. In the picture, both are eating ice cream.

A few weeks later, the boy was dead from measles.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:37 PM on June 23 [9 favorites]


Maybe ice cream was the universal bribe in the 20s?
posted by mudpuppie at 5:46 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


“Your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose"

... works for viral and bacterial fists too.
posted by Dashy at 6:03 PM on June 23 [5 favorites]


My late grandmother's parents (she was born in 1917) were Christian Scientists and believed in prayer over medical care. She contracted scarlet fever when she was 5 or 6 and nearly died. She was bedridden for months, I'm told.

My boyfriend's aunt died as a baby (in 1950s England, I think it would be) because his grandmother, under pressure from her Christian Scientist mother, didn't get her any help when she got sick. Now, his grandmother is a remarkable person. He adores her, and so do I. And I just can't understand how, with everything we are privileged to know and do and prevent and treat, perfectly lovely people are willing to stand back and watch as the most horrific things befall their own small, precious children. WTF, humans?
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 6:21 PM on June 23 [4 favorites]


There's a lot of variance allowed in child-rearing. Some people are a little more obvious about isolated mistakes they make, but we need to remember that anti-vaccination sentiment is a wing of a positive trend towards being more concerned about children's health, the same movement that's working hard on getting junk food out of schools and getting rare auto-immune diseases funding and attention. They're trying to help their children and we should not make martyrs of them no matter how much we would enjoy it.
posted by michaelh at 4:03 PM on June 23 [+] [!]


That just makes me writhe in agony to read. Parenting is about doing the best thing for your children regardless of what you think feels right if there's available scientific data to guide your decisions. I have parents who feel good about feeding their 6 month old unpasteurized milk, regardless of the risk of intestinal injury from cow's milk before 12 months, or from Listeria.

The anti-vaccination crowd can go fuck themselves for using their kids as cudgels to advance their retrograde bullshit worldview. The fact that so many of them are educated makes it even more deplorable.
posted by docpops at 6:24 PM on June 23 [62 favorites]


The world needs its uneducated, low-wage, physical labourers.
The world needs to stop paying physical laborers poorly, and stop assuming that manual laborers are uneducated.

These folk are simply volunteering their children. They shall serve your children.
There are plenty of ignorant people in positions of wealth and power. I don't expect that to change.

Could we not make this a class thing?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 6:42 PM on June 23 [32 favorites]


we need to remember that anti-vaccination sentiment is a wing of a positive trend towards being more concerned about children's health

Surely you don't imagine that people were less concerned about their kids' health back then. They were the people who introduced universal vaccination! They didn't know as much about medicine, so many of the things they supported were wrong, and they were just as susceptible to cranks and liars as we are. But that has nothing to do with their love for their children, which was at least as great as that of the anti-vaxxers.

What we're seeing in this case isn't an expression of love; it's the wisdom of the rube: the belief that other people are gullible, and that they're lying to you, but that you have discerned the special person who will lead you through the Valley of Quack. It's equal parts fear, and ignorance, and arrogance, and I don't think we should grant it any respect at all.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:51 PM on June 23 [34 favorites]


> My boyfriend's aunt died as a baby .. because his grandmother, under pressure from her Christian Scientist mother, didn't get her any help when she got sick. Now, his grandmother is a remarkable person. He adores her, and so do I. And I just can't understand ...

"... But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." - Steven Weinberg
posted by benito.strauss at 6:53 PM on June 23 [7 favorites]


longdaysjourney: Wish some rich person would fund a series of PSAs for the U.S. market. Wouldn't need to be too complex. Just the audio of a child with whooping cough gasping for breath against a black screen.

Sounds like a great idea for a Kickstarter.
posted by sourcequench at 7:25 PM on June 23 [4 favorites]


I come from the first generation of kids to get the polio vaccine; none of our parents objected, even though it was so new, because they knew precisely what polio could do --- heck, one of my classmates had a brother who lived in an iron lung until he died, age 11.

We all had measles and mumps and chicken pox, because there WASN'T a vaccine for them back then: if there had been, we'd have gotten that too. We got smallpox vaccinations, not doing so would've been considered as foolish as not getting the polio vaccine.

Now you've got these knuckleheads who've never seen an iron lung and how it imprisions a victim; they've never seen measles or chickenpox, BECAUSE THEIR OWN PARENTS HAD *THEM* VACCINATED, so they never experienced these diseases and therefore assume the stories about them are exaggerated.

Maybe these people need to tour a children's ward full of preventable infectious diseases.
posted by easily confused at 7:27 PM on June 23 [19 favorites]


we need to remember that anti-vaccination sentiment is a wing of a positive trend towards being more concerned about children's health

But how is positive to wish for the return of smallpox and the like, or if not wish for it, to willfully dismiss reality?

I quote:

Smallpox is believed to have emerged in human populations about 10,000 BC.[4] The earliest physical evidence of it is probably the pustular rash on the mummified body of Pharaoh Ramses V of Egypt.[9] The disease killed an estimated 400,000 Europeans annually during the closing years of the 18th century (including five reigning monarchs),[10] and was responsible for a third of all blindness.[6][11] Of all those infected, 20–60%—and over 80% of infected children—died from the disease.[12] Smallpox was responsible for an estimated 300–500 million deaths during the 20th century.[13][14][15] As recently as 1967, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 15 million people contracted the disease and that two million died in that year.[5]

After vaccination campaigns throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the WHO certified the eradication of smallpox in 1979.[5] Smallpox is one of two infectious diseases to have been eradicated, the other being rinderpest, which was declared eradicated in 2011.


Source

Actively trying to reinstate the death of millions, children among them is the opposite of positive trend. If I were a devout Christian, I'd probably say these people were doing the Devil's work. God can help you by enabling you with the ability to make intelligent decisions, like getting vaccinated. Fear and devil drive you to do otherwise.
posted by juiceCake at 8:20 PM on June 23 [8 favorites]


Re: effectiveness of public awareness campaigns on vaccine intent, a new study out today shows, distressingly:

 None of the interventions increased parental intent to vaccinate a future child. Refuting claims of an MMR/autism link successfully reduced misperceptions that vaccines cause autism but nonetheless decreased intent to vaccinate among parents who had the least favorable vaccine attitudes. 

(Nyhan et al., Pediatrics)

posted by Dashy at 8:29 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


None of the interventions increased parental intent to vaccinate a future child.

I would like to see a hollywood dramatization action-blockbuster about the heroic struggle and nailbiting race to eradicate the unholy nightmare of what becomes of smallpox victims. If you look into it, the stuff that unfolded, the ideas they honed, the obstacles they had to overcome, it seems made to be dramatized.

WHO disease specialists in Africa was the backstory for one of the characters in pulp-adventure movie Sahara, but Smallpox really needs its own movie. Maybe along the lines of "outbreak/zombie genre meets Indiana Jones".

Make vaccination heroic.
(Because it is.)
posted by anonymisc at 9:11 PM on June 23 [13 favorites]


Seeing an iron lung gave me nightmares as a child. I never even realized until well into adulthood that it was polio that necessitated them.
posted by anonymisc at 9:16 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


Seeing an iron lung gave me nightmares as a child.

Here I am, an adult born in 1973, and they stopped giving the smallpox vaccine (the one that left a telltale scar on your upper arm) a year or two before I came along.

This does two things -- one good, one bad.

First, the good. It allows me to identify people who are older than me. And I tell you what, I wouldn't have believed it a few years ago, but when you turn 40 that shit is IMPORTANT.

Second, it puts the fear of god into me, because I guess there is now some debate about whether smallpox is really gone-gone-gone, and I wasn't vaccinated. And if it wasn't? What do I need to worry about now??

Hey, hi, I'll just be over here quivering about the demise of antibiotics and the resurgence of defeated diseases and so on and so forth.

But it really doesn't matter anyway, since I will be working until I'm 75 because I can't possibly retire in any comfort OH FUCKING HELL SMALLPOX TAKE ME AWAY.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:43 PM on June 23 [4 favorites]


"If information doesn’t square with someone’s prior beliefs, he discards the beliefs if they’re weak and discards the information if the beliefs are strong."

Moreover when they discard the information, they distrust the source more in future. People in general - and this really applies to everyone, not just anti-vaxxers - will stick to strong beliefs despite large amounts of counter-evidence; they will twist their internal logic up into knots and move the goalposts hugely to avoid accepting it. 'If I could be wrong about this, then I could be wrong about everything! That's impossible!'

I bet a fair number of us - me included - go aha, that's totally like those 'other people', they're so wrong and they'll never accept the truth!

To chuck out a couple of examples though; how much evidence would it take from the oil industries for you to accept that climate change isn't caused by CO2 emissions? How long would it take for a priest to convince you to change your religion? How many screeds from Jenny McCarthy would it take to make you an anti-vaxxer?

I'm not saying that because they're right; I'm pointing out that you'd likely discard what they say quickly, because you don't trust them to give you valid information. If someone new came to you with new but similar information, you'd likely discard it too, and the source it came from to boot - you'd flag them as untrustworthy. Because you've already looked at the situation and evidence, listened what people have to say, and made up your mind, strongly. And it doesn't really matter what someone says; if it's contrary to what you believe, you'll disbelieve them before you disbelieve yourself.

Meanwhile, if it comes from a source you trust; say the CDC tells us about an increased risk of a dangerous flu strain, we should avoid travel to country X for the time being, we'll accept it as true without having to have it proved to us directly, and dismiss those who say it's a secret plan to keep us out of country X because the government wants to stop us finding about bloo blah whatever, we've all tuned out about here usually.

This sort of information-filtering is very useful at times, as it allows us to avoid being hoodwinked by a woo-merchant; or in general, to just survive the huge amount of things we read and hear and see everyday while keeping some sense of self. You can't replicate a 5 year study in an afternoon to test the results for yourself with scientific rigour, and a lot of the stuff we believe isn't even subject to objective fact-based testing. You do have to take a lot on faith, and trust in the source plays a big part in that. And there is comfort in being surrounded by others who believe as you do, mostly.

And when people are wrong, they will generally agree and accept it when given proof - as long as it's not important to their sense of self.

But once an objectively false strong belief gets out there - ironically, in much the same way that true facts disseminate - and becomes entrenched, you simply can't resolve it by throwing more evidence at it. You can convince the uninformed that way - but for those who've already made up their minds, it will at best do nothing, and at worst, they'll also ignore anything else you say in future. They'll actively adjust their beliefs to counter your information.

You can tackle it early, by getting good information out there in sufficient quantity early. When there is consesus opinion, that spreads fairly well. Seat belt laws, for example, do not generate much controversy any more, though they did at introduction, because the safety benefits were widely touted, and you didn't have a huge opposing industry disagreeing. Big amounts of correct information publishing helps a lot to convince people.

But once it's embedded as a belief? Oh boy. You *can* convince people they're wrong if it comes from their own trusted sources. In enough quantity. Sometimes.

So all we need is Jenny McCarthy and the rest of the anti-vax 'thought leaders' to step up and admit they were wrong, apologise, and spend the rest of their days convincing their believers that vaccination is a good thing. Right.

"Sometimes, the only meaning of life is to be a warning to others."
posted by ArkhanJG at 9:44 PM on June 23 [6 favorites]


I'm not saying that because they're right; I'm pointing out that you'd likely discard what they say quickly, because you don't trust them to give you valid information.

But you're palming a card, kind of. I wouldn't require extraordinary evidence to convince me that CO2 emissions don't cause climate change or vaccines cause autism because I don't trust the sources you listed, I would require it because there is already extraordinary evidence that CO2 emissions DO cause climate change and vaccines don't cause autism. I would still require extraordinary evidence if the evidence came from reliable sources.
posted by Justinian at 10:01 PM on June 23 [8 favorites]


longdaysjourney: Wish some rich person would fund a series of PSAs for the U.S. market. Wouldn't need to be too complex. Just the audio of a child with whooping cough gasping for breath against a black screen.

Sounds like a great idea for a Kickstarter.
posted by sourcequench at 7:25 PM on June 23 [1 favorite +] [!]


Before we brought our twins home from the NICU, we had to watch a bunch of different health and safety videos, including this one. Oh yes, we vaccinate.
posted by killy willy at 10:04 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


Analogous to vaccinations losing ground as familiarity with the alternative fades from memory, abortion rights are going to be successfully clawed back as people forget the nightmare of unregulated, non-clinical, "back alley" abortions. Same applies to unionism — falling out of favour as people forget that unionism is what gave us reasonable work conditions to begin with.

As always, those who forget or ignore history cause us to repeat it.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:19 PM on June 23 [4 favorites]


I would require it because there is already extraordinary evidence...

Fair point; those two are bad examples for that reason for an educated and rational audience. But then it's kinda hard to think of good ones that would apply to many mefites, when I largely hold the same beliefs, and it's not easy to think of beliefs that you hold that are obviously wrong! On reflection it was a rhetorical point that I probably should have skipped.

15% of Americans doubt the safety of vaccines, about 40% doubt evolution, more than 50% don't believe in the big bang. All of those have strong evidence backing them, but it's simply not enough for a lot of people; when it comes to a conflict between politics, religion and science, science very often gets the short straw, and just throwing more science at those who disagree doesn't work.

Take climate change and Anthony Leiserowitz, Director of the Yale project on Climate Change Communication, who makes the point much better than I ever could.
Six different Americas that each respond to this issue in very different ways and need different kinds of information about climate change to become more engaged with it. So the first group that we've identified is a group we call the alarmed. It's about 16 percent of the public. These are people who think it's happening, that it's human caused, that it's a serious and urgent problem and they're really eager to get on with the solutions. But they don't know what those solutions are. They don't know what they can do individually and they don't know what we can do collectively as a society to deal with it. We haven't done a very good job of explaining what we can do.

Then comes a group that we call the concerned. This is about 29 percent of the public. These are people that think okay, it's happening, it's human caused, it's serious, but they tend to think of it as distant. Distant in time, that the impacts won't be felt for a generation or more and distant in space, that this is about polar bears or maybe small island countries, not the United States, not my state, not my community, not my friends and family or the people and places that I care about. So they believe this is a serious problem, but they don't see it as a priority.

Then comes a group, about a quarter of the public that we call the cautious. These are people who are kind of still on the fence, they're trying to make up their mind. Is it happening, is it not? Is it human, is it natural? Is it a serious risk or is it kind of overblown? So they're paying attention but really just haven't made up their mind about it yet. They need to be just engaged in some of the basic facts of climate change.

Then comes a group, about eight percent of the public that we call the disengaged. They've heard of global warming, but they don't know anything about it. They say over and over, "I don't know anything about the causes, I don't know anything about the consequences. I don't know anything about the potential solutions." So for them it's really just basic awareness that they need to be engaged on.

Two last groups, one is we call the doubtful, it's about 13 percent of the public. These are people who say, "Well, I don't think it's happening, but if it is, it's natural, nothing humans had anything to do with and therefore nothing we can do anything about." So they don't pay that much attention, but they're predisposed to say not a problem.

And then last but not least, 8 percent of Americans are what call the dismissive. And these are people who are firmly convinced it's not happening, it's not human caused, it's not a serious problem and many are what we would lovingly call conspiracy theorists. They say it's a hoax. It's scientists making up data, it's a UN plot to take away American sovereignty and so on.

Now, that's only eight percent. But they're a very well mobilized, organized and loud eight percent. And they've tended to dominate the public square, okay. So here you have these six totally different audiences that need completely different types of information and engagement to deal with this issue. So one of the first tasks, and you know this as a communicator as well as I do, one of the first rules of effective communication is, “know thy audience.”

If you don't know who your audience is it's kind of like playing darts in a crowded room with the lights off. You might hit the target sometimes, but most times you're going to miss. And unfortunately too often you're going to do collateral damage. You're actually going to hit somebody by mistake and cause a backlash.

So you know, this is why if we were to do a true engagement campaign in this country we would need to recognize that there are very different Americans who need to be engaged in very different ways who have different values and who trust different messengers.
posted by ArkhanJG at 11:26 PM on June 23 [9 favorites]


From magstheaxe's link:

"A first-ever vaccine for gut bacteria common in autistic children may also help control some autism symptoms."

Wow.
posted by marienbad at 2:29 AM on June 24 [7 favorites]


I'm just wondering what the anti-vaxxers reaction is to this.

What is a conspiracy theory that suggests that pharmaceutical companies deliberately cause autism so that they can make billions of dollars on a treatment?

OK, I'll take "Oh those kooky anti-vaxxers" for $1000.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:41 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Second, it puts the fear of god into me, because I guess there is now some debate about whether smallpox is really gone-gone-gone, and I wasn't vaccinated. And if it wasn't? What do I need to worry about now??

The smallpox vaccine doesn't last forever, so we're pretty much all fucked if that happens.
posted by NoraReed at 6:26 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


One of the parents in my neighborhood listserv posted a request for advice from other parents about sending a "undervaccinated" child to the same school where my child will be this fall. I'm seriously considering asking her to share her responses so I know who to avoid.

She's a nurse, BTW. Goddammit.
posted by Liesl at 8:03 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


"Underevacccinated" my great aunt fanny..... y'know, Liesl, if it was me? I'd start by making sure the school knew to check her kids were correctly vaccinated, then let them know to watch for the other families.....
posted by easily confused at 9:04 AM on June 24


If you don't want to vaccinate your kids because you're an idiot who distrusts this one specific part of science (as you talk on your cellphone while driving your car), fine. Rot in hell, and go to jail forever if your child dies of a vaccine-preventable illness.

But. If you decide on this 'religious exemption' bullshit, your children must be isolated from society. Period. That means you, too. Because you are putting everyone else in danger, you selfish jerks.

* Obviously if your child is immunocompromised or actually tested as being allergic to vaccines, that's a different story.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:21 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


She's a nurse, BTW. Goddammit

She should have her licence to practice nursing revoked for such anti-medical-science quackery.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:23 AM on June 24 [4 favorites]


Oh, the school knows. They're going to give me grief for my kid getting one of his required vaccines one day before his birthday.

I haven't made a stink because I don't know all the facts of the case. Maybe the kid really is compromised in some way. I really don't know. But all in all, I'm wary.
posted by Liesl at 9:26 AM on June 24


These debates always frustrate me because I feel like a lot of things that were previously considered "Woo" and mocked and shunned, turned out to be accurate when given scientific study. And doctors not only don't always keep up to date with a lot of newer information but many still do not have a functional understanding of the huge wealth of research being done on lifestyle variables, nutrition, and environmental variables on health. I'm low income and have been uninsured or occasionally on medicaid for the past ten years or so, so my experience may be very different than that of people who have good insurance or can pay out of pocket for needed services. On the one end you have these quacks who preach anti-vaxx and hand out homeopathy under the title "naturopath" or teach varying degrees of reliable to total nonsense under the label nutritionist, but if you want that information from a DOCTOR you can't access that.

We're not connecting people with licensed professionals who CAN guide people through lifestyle variables to promote their own health and well being given their specific health difficulties. This leaves people going to the internet or going to "naturopaths" to get reliable information on diet and lifestyles. There are tons of conditions that respond well to dietary alterations, to physical activity, physical therapy or occupational therapy. Docs will hand out prilosec before trying to find out if a person has a bacterial imbalance or figuring out how to work with that.

The trick would be to create an actual licensure (that matches scientific standards in other medical professions) for doing that kind of work that would pass medical ethics and standards of care but would offer people an opportunity to try to use options other than meds that have a lot of side effects of which there are many scientifically validated options for many conditions that don't make their way into standard practice. (The other thing being to ask doctors to update their practices from assuming meds for long term conditions that could be treated other ways is not always better or even scientifically sound for many conditions).

People don't know who to trust because doctors HAVEN'T been trustworthy. I think the medical profession should be a little more accountable for failing to try non-pharmaceutical options for many conditions (and making them available for doctors to use on insurance so people can access them through RELIABLE sources). This would also allow people to feel more confident listening to their doctor when the doctor says "While I'm happy to offer lifestyle options for many conditions, this is one that requires pharmaceuticals/surgery etc... and vaccines are a standard part of a healthy lifestyle"

I know it's fun to scream about how obscene and vile anti-vaxxers are and that they should rot and stuff... but seriously, this is metafilter where people often stand up for prisoners and criminals who are TRYING to hurt people. These are not people trying to hurt others, they are just wrong.

Being wrong can cause a lot of suffering, unfortunately. And I totally understand the desire to vent-- I just would rather launch a more sound attempt to reach the anti-vax crowds and I think that starts by understanding where they are coming from and that they don't trust the government's health standards or doctors views on healing form chronic conditions (nor do I really, unless they're staying current with a wide range of views on health and healing). Any campeign to educate that comes from doctors or the government will fail because these institutions HAVE pushed harmful practices claiming they were safe on people and refusing to consider that sometimes more pharmaceuticals thrown at something is not the right approach. UNLESS these establishments can demonstrate they have changed, are looking into new approaches to working with the body, and have a deeper respect for methods that promote the bodies own methods of healing and repairing itself over assuming every condition needs to be cared with a pharmaceutical substance.
posted by xarnop at 12:04 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


These debates always frustrate me because I feel like a lot of things that were previously considered "Woo" and mocked and shunned, turned out to be accurate when given scientific study.

That's true, but vaccines have been given scientific study. The "we just don't know, so it's safer to do nothing" argument doesn't work here precisely because we understand how the biology works. There's no empirical connection between vaccines and autism, nor any other identifiable syndrome. There's no good reason not to vaccinate which is based on evidence.

Any campeign to educate that comes from doctors or the government will fail because these institutions HAVE pushed harmful practices claiming they were safe on people

Every kind of powerful human institution has done bad things with that power, historically. It's really irrational to disregard anything a doctor might ever say because some other doctor or doctors did bad things in the past. If you're right, though, we're going to have deadly plagues again. It's as simple as that.
posted by clockzero at 12:41 PM on June 24 [5 favorites]


I feel like a lot of things that were previously considered "Woo" and mocked and shunned, turned out to be accurate when given scientific study.

Such as?
posted by klanawa at 12:54 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


"The "we just don't know, so it's safer to do nothing" argument doesn't work here precisely because we understand how the biology works." I totally agree, I also think some people are operating from a view of health that is being told to them by professionals who should not really be allowed to be practicing as "doctors" which naturopaths can call themselves.

Again, I know, it's totally irrational, but some people aren't very good at logic despite having a degree or even two. This doesn't make them evil, just irrational. Granted irrational thinking can absolutely and does lead to death and serious harms. It's a terrible thing.

I mean, maybe the most productive thing to do is to vent that it's hopeless and anti-vaxxers should rot, I just have to believe there is a way to reach people and keep trying new methods if the first attempts don't work. I think there's a role for anger in social change, so I'm not saying not to get angry... it's worth getting angry, I just am trying to say from living in a city with a lot of anti-vaxxers- I personally would not have ever expected a campaign that comes from doctors or the government to work without putting in a lot of effort to come at it from a perspective of understanding people's desire to learn to create their own health and for doctors to be more supportive of using scientifically sound means of supporting people to do that when possible. So there's just no surprise to me there, that failed.

"Such as?"
A lot of the recommendations given in ayurvedic health for balancing well being include things that match up with research such as lining one's sleep up with darkness and lightness patterns, understanding how your experience in your social system is effecting your health, getting social support and working through trauma issues to help build health, doing relaxation activities like yoga and meditation to improve health, noticing how the activities of your job match up with your well being or don't... essentially becoming aware of how your daily activities and consumption of foods, activities, social experiences, health conditions such as heat and cold, moisture in the air etc all effect our health.

At this point most of this has been pretty well documented to have impact on health but as recent as 10 or 15 years ago I head a LOT of people mock these ideas as totally silly.

The idea that we're eating really unhealthy food and living really unhealthy lifestyles and then to fix it we take meds instead of addressing those things, is a perfectly valid concepts and does not dismiss that there are many health conditions that may arise even in a healthy environment and that certain meds or surgeries may be able to help with that. Also the idea that plants can contain components that can help with healing is very much factual and not woo, though it has been considered woo by many in the past. Heck even the idea that breast milk is healthy has been considered woo despite that most research backs up there are certain benefits that tend to come with it.
posted by xarnop at 1:04 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Also research into skin to skin care for babies has found that the power of touch and human connection is a powerful aspect of developing babies health and promote weight gain in addition to recover from other conditions.

There is a lot more that science can teach us about health than just which meds to take once things are broken, we can use science to understanding how to promote well-being, prevent and even heal conditions with many different types of strategies including understanding how complex human relationships and personal relationships, environmental variables, and more can be worsening or even causing different types of health conditions.
posted by xarnop at 1:14 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


None of those things are specific or endemic to "ayurvedic health." Getting enough sleep at the right time has never been considered "woo." Getting enough exercise or flexibility has never been considered "woo." Each of those things is separable and independent from whatever lifestyle or religious practice recommends them. And each of them is also specifically recommended by science. And science, uniquely, can explain -- or provides the means to discover an explanation for -- why they work.
posted by klanawa at 1:15 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Yes but educating people about how these variables effect their health is NOT required of doctors. My mom has been going to these sleep clinics and no one told her that she needed to turn all the lights off and go to bed at night when it's dark and not turn the lights on if she wakes up in the night unless she has to go potty or something. Seriously. Doctors ARE failing to educate about these things. My cousin is on intense sleep aids because "she can't sleep at all"... she also drinks caffeine all day long and says that caffeine doesn't effect her sleep, stays up doing the computer and watching TV til late in the night and then wonders why when she does want to sleep it's not working well. I had this problem too until I started regulating my sleep and sleeping in the dark.

I agree with you that science can explain them, however these methods of balancing health are NOT explained to people clearly and in detail when they see most doctors, and we could be developing techniques that use these kinds of understanding to create treatments that don't always rely on medicines that have a lot of side effects. Maybe you have a great doctor that does this but for me my doctors have never offered me anything other than meds that address symptoms when I'm having digestive problems, allergies or the many different health problems I've had over the years. Doctors have never found my description of side effects using the medicines to be problematic or to matter to them at all. If I'm having this experience I imagine many others are too.

Meaning to get this kind of science based info people are turning to the internets and to naturopaths and homeopaths and the like.

The problem is that methods other than meds are often NOT a routine part of many doctors medical practices making people think doctors don't share their concerns about the side effects of meds and aren't trustworthy to get info about the safety of vaccines. After all doctors think loading people up on meds instead of working with them to help them build health is always the best solution, without concern over the effects of those meds, why trust them about vaccines?
posted by xarnop at 1:27 PM on June 24


(Also I've said my basic idea in this thread so anyone who wants a response can memail me, otherwise feel free to comment as you like without assumption I will be replying... I tend to feel like I should respond when people seem to write to me but there's not much else to add here other than a back and forth, so just letting people know I'm done replying in thread. It was just a general idea that I think might improve things.)
posted by xarnop at 1:35 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


>>What the hell happened to those days?

> We're too far removed from them. 3-4 generations of vaccines and most serious viruses in this country are down to levels where they are almost invisible. It's a common problem with things that make the bad stuff go away but require constant low-level upkeep.


I just saw that one of my colleagues ("A") got into a Facebook/Livejournal argument with an anti-vaxxer ("B"). She (B) had a proud description of how she was not going to vaccinate - no way were those doctors in the pocket of Big Medicine Corporations going to put evil toxins into her precious kids - and there were all these supportive comments, with a couple of lonely attempts by A to argue that she didn't have her facts or statistics straight.

B's slam dunk response? How many kids suffer from vaccine-preventable diseases, huh? None that she knows of. And how many get side effects from vaccines? More than zero. So there you go, no vaccines for her kids.

Yes, people should get mandatory photo tours of kids' infectious disease wards from the past as part of their parenting classes.
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:43 PM on June 24 [5 favorites]


Anti-vaxxer "B" is almost reasonable, in that an isolated individual is protected by herd immunity from exposure to disease (presuming her kids don't travel to, or meet people from countries without vaccination). This is a classic form of free riding; we need vaccination as a matter of public policy so that we have that herd immunity.

In a way, she's like that guy who urinated in the town water supply: it's not a problem if one person does it, but tolerating that one person would mean that other people would follow, and public hygiene would break down. This is why I have no problem taking measures against anti-vaxxers; it's a matter of the public good, not just private health. It's harder to police non-participation than to punish an overt act, but I think we should treat her and her children as if they were actually, and not merely potentially, infected with the diseases to which they are susceptible.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:12 PM on June 24 [3 favorites]


My son reacts badly enough to one vaccine that we do all of them at an immunologist instead of a pediatrician. But we still do them, because we live in a big ol area of stupid where many people forego them, and we are just one school carnival away from an outbreak of some denomination.

The state has a mandatory vaccine policy, except you can be exempted for religious reasons and still send your kid to public school. It's madness.
posted by dejah420 at 5:35 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


This is refreshingly good news.
posted by homunculus at 9:26 PM on June 25


Yes but educating people about how these variables effect their health is NOT required of doctors. My mom has been going to these sleep clinics and no one told her that she needed to turn all the lights off and go to bed at night when it's dark and not turn the lights on if she wakes up in the night unless she has to go potty or something. Seriously. Doctors ARE failing to educate about these things.

I mean it sounds like your mom just went to some pretty shitty doctors. I have never once in my life experienced a doctor who just pushed pills at patients without asking any questions about habits or behaviors or environmental factors etc. unless the ailment was like 'I have a bacterial infection in my throat.' I'm not saying these doctors don't exist but it seems like you're projecting a few shitty experiences onto an entire field of study.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:07 AM on June 26 [2 favorites]


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