Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

It's heartbreaking that Muslim parents in Pakistan are fighting (and killing) those who would administer the polio vaccine to that country's children.  While we have to lament the foolishness, we also must admit the source of the anger is to some extent understandable.

From the New York Times, via Eschaton:

Usman, who limps on a leg bowed by the polio he caught as a child, made sure that his first three children were protected from the disease, but he turned away vaccinators when his youngest was born.

He was furious that the Central Intelligence Agency, in its hunt for Osama bin Laden, had staged a fake vaccination campaign, and infuriated by American drone strikes, one of which, he said, had struck the son of a man he knew, blowing off his head. He had come to see the war on polio, the longest, most expensive disease eradication effort in history, as a Western plot.

In January, his 2-year-old son, Musharaf, became the first child worldwide to be crippled by polio this year.

“I know now I made a mistake,” said Usman, 32, who, like many in his Pashtun tribe, uses only one name. “But you Americans have caused pain in my community. Americans pay for the polio campaign, and that’s good. But you abused a humanitarian mission for a military purpose.

Anger like his over American foreign policy has led to a disastrous setback for the global effort against polio. In December, nine vaccinators were shot dead here, and two Taliban commanders banned vaccination in their areas, saying the vaccinations could resume only if drone strikes ended. In January, 10 vaccinators were killed in Nigeria’s Muslim-dominated north.    [Emphasis added]

The temptation is to feel some righteous indignation at those foolish Pakistanis putting their children at risk over a CIA trick.  Well, that temptation should be resisted.  We have a lot of people in this country doing the same thing, or nearly the same thing:  holding an unscientific belief about vaccinations of all sorts, including polio.  I posted on this two years ago, and things haven't changed much since then.

It's about childhood vaccinations, the ones that keep diseases like chicken pox and polio and measles and whooping cough under control, if not completely eradicated in our population. California requires proof of those vaccinations before allowing a child to be enrolled in school. This year the state requires that students in 7th grade through high school to bring proof of whooping cough boosters, a requirement necessitated by the resurgence of that illness in the state last year.

We know childhood vaccinations work, yet some parents still resist. Sometimes parents refuse the vaccinations for their children on religious grounds, and the state does allow that as an exception. Sometimes the refusal is based on the fact that the child has a physical condition (e.g., an impaired immune system) which precludes the vaccinations. The state also allows an exemption for this as well.

Too often, however, the excuses proffered are not so sensible. Many still believe that the vaccinations cause autism in children, even though the study which made that assertion has now been thoroughly debunked. Yet others object to those vaccinations being mandated by the government as a despotic intrusion into their lives, even though the whole point of the mandate is to provide for the general welfare of the population, a goal inherent in government.    [Emphasis added]

As I mentioned in that earlier post, when I was a kid we didn't have vaccinations for polio, whooping cough, chicken pox, and measles.  I got whooping cough, chicken pox, and measles, as did my sister (who could have died because her  chicken pox lined her nose and throat).  A neighbor girl got polio and we were unable to visit her until Dr. Jonas Salk came up with his miracle vaccine for that devastating disease.  We saw a wasted little body in an iron lung.  The miracle came too late for her.

Yet we still have people who know better than the scientists when it comes to vaccinations.  Several studies have debunked the autism/vaccination link.  What's even worse, we even give them popular platforms to espouse their opinion (like "The View" on television).  And here's the crusher:  people who can't have vaccinations because of an impaired immune system depend on the rest of us to be vaccinated so they are not exposed to these preventable diseases.

It's not just Pakistanis who are being stupid.  We've done our fair share ourselves.



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