Friday, February 22, 2008

Also, Foil Hats Don't Keep Out Aliens

I am sure that all of you have heard of the recent measles outbreak in San Diego. Drugmonkey touches on the deep inconvenience of quarantining that many people.

Why do we vaccinate? First, to prevent people getting preventable illnesses. Even in the US, somewhere between one in three hundred and one in a thousand measles cases die. Second, to prevent secondary consequences of infections in the patient. For example, strep throat would, generally, resolve on its own. But there is some chance of developing rheumatic fever which, in previous times, caused significant mortality from its weakening effects on the heart.

But the biggest public-health reason to vaccinate for measles and rubella is neither of these. It's because they cause serious birth defects (rubella, also known as German measles) and frequent preterm labor and spontaneous abortion (measles) in pregnant women. They're not a public health concern because kids get sick. They're a concern because you get dead babies.

I just have no sympathy for people who refuse the evidence in front of them in favor of anecdotes and conspiracy theories. Because:
  1. Vaccines do not cause autism, and never have.
  2. There is no 'industry conspiracy' around vaccines. -and-
  3. Vaccine-preventable diseases are serious. That's... why we bother to vaccinate.
I wonder if anyone in San Diego ever thought of their daughter losing her baby because Grandma was afraid of science. I rather doubt it.

Edit: Annoyance makes me hyperbolic. Maybe birth defects aren't the biggest reason. But they're up there.