Thursday, August 28, 2008

Something that makes me mad

The vaccine "controversy" always seems to be in the news. People always have arguments for and against vaccination, but the one that always seems to crop up the most is the justification: "If your kid is vaccinated then how can my unvaccinated kid be a threat to yours?" Usually in caps, with misspelling and extraneous punctuation.

The answer, which seems so obvious to me but somehow entirely escapes the people that claim to have done tons of so-called "research," is mutation. Vaccines are developed against a strain or strains of microorganism. Microorganisms require a host to replicate (and in doing so, potentially mutate). If vaccination rates are 100%, then there is never a host in which a microorganism can replicate and mutate. If the vaccination rate drops to say, 90%, then the other 10% of the population becomes potential hosts for a microorganism that can then potentially mutate into a form that is no longer susceptible to the antibodies produced by the vaccine in the other 90%. And that's a recipe for an epidemic.

Vaccinate your kids, or don't. But at least stop pretending that the only life you're risking is your own child's.


Anonymous said...

I don't have a problem with vaccines. I have a problem with the number of them. When I was a kid I was vaccinated for deadly diseases; polio, measles, mumps, rubella, etc. Now there are close to 40 vaccines for a myriad of things many of which are not deadly. Chicken pox is one of them. It's no wonder that there is a rise in allergies, autism and ADHD given the amount of vaccines that are given to our children.

I agree vaccines are good, but do we really need so many of them for non-life-threatening diseases? And do they mutate because we come up with a vaccine? It makes sense to me. We find something to kill it and it gets stronger.


Courtney said...

There are no proven links between vaccines and autism (most likely some combination of genetics and in utero or post utero environmental factors), allergies (most likely our increased obsession with sterility which prevents the immune system from being allowed to react to normal things), or ADHD (most likely genetics and overstimulation combined with some parents' need for a special label for their active kid so the soccer moms don't frown on their parenting skills).

And while chickenpox is rarely deadly on its own, life-threatening complications can arise; also I think the incidence and morbidity of shingles later in life is a very good reason to vaccinate (and why they developed the Zostavax vaccine for older adults, though it only reduces the number and duration of cases as opposed to completely preventing them). Incidentally, I had the varicella vaccine when I was 18 because I had not contracted chicken pox as a kid and being exposed as an adult would have potentially been much more serious.

Viruses don't mutate because we vaccinate. That doesn't make any sense. It doesn't work the same way as antibiotics and bacteria, where over-treatment can select for the few bacterial cells that have mutated to become resistant. But if you vaccinate, your immune system can recognize and destroy the pathogen *before* it has a chance to replicate and mutate. If you are unvaccinated, the lag time between when you are infected and when your immune system completely ramps up and is able to fight off the disease allows for many rounds of replication and potential mutations to occur.

Non-life-threatening diseases? Aside from chickenpox (which I think may be the least life-threatening but I still see plenty of evidence arguing for vaccination) the recommended pediatric schedule of vaccines includes 14 other diseases, all of which have the capacity to cause death and/or severe disability. What vaccines were you referencing here?

Finally, like I said in the last paragraph of my post, one can vaccinate their kids or not. My point was that it's ridiculous to claim to have done tons of "research" and yet neglect to take into account basic biology and realize that one's decision affects other people as much as it affects their own child.

Anonymous said...

Why can't a virus mutate? And if genetics is the point of blame then why haven't we seen this all along in the past is the numbers we see today. How do you explain triplets who were perfectly healthy who go in to get vaccinated and all of a sudden they are autistic? How do you explain a sudden increase in allergies to something that has been around for such a long time as peanuts? I work with people who are deadly allergic to peanuts and I know people who have absolutely no history of peanut allergies, but their kid is now deathly allergic to all kind of things? It doesn't make sense. It's the same with anitbacterial hand soap. It contains an antibiotic. So if we keep using it the bad stuff adapts and mutates. Not different than with any pesticide. It's the chemicals.


Courtney said...

Okay, you're bringing up like 39 different points and trying to use them all as evidence for one thing.

Viruses CAN mutate. I specifically said that. But they can't mutate unless they're in a host. And if your immune system, which has already been conditioned to recognize a particular pathogen *immediately* because of a vaccine, kills the virus immediately, then it doesn't have a chance to mutate. It's only in an unvaccinated host that it will have time to undergo multiple rounds of replication and potentially mutate into a new form while the unvaccinated person's immune system tries to figure out what to do with something it's never seen before.

I never said any of those other conditions were due to genetics alone. The fact is that they don't know the exact cause of autism or ADHD. In terms of autism, one of the best theories is advanced parental age - there was no IVF for a woman in her late 40s half a century ago. I also said it was likely a combination of genetics AND environmental factors - we're exposed to millions of chemicals that were non-existent 50 years ago. You mentioned triplets, which would certainly suggest a genetic link. There's also evidence that trauma will cause autistic children to become more symptomatic. Getting shots are traumatic; perhaps the already autistic child who was only mildly presenting symptoms that were often unnoticed by the parent was induced to regress and become more symptomatic from the trauma of getting stuck with a needle multiple times? This trauma theory has been strongly correlated with toilet training, which can often also be traumatic for a child.

In terms of ADD/ADHD, while I'm sure some kids truly do have problems (and you can blame it on genetics, TV, high fructose corn syrup, or whatever you like) I'm pretty sure just as many kids are unfairly labeled. Kids used to be rowdy, now they have a "condition" and then it's no longer the parents' fault that they can't discipline them.

In terms of allergies, they're usually caused by an *overactive* immune system that hasn't been conditioned to differentiate against "normal" and "foreign." This usually happens when the immune system is UNDER-stimulated, not over-stimulated. If the immune system never has anything to react to, it gets "paranoid" so to speak and then reacts at the first thing it sees, be it peanuts or ragweed or cat dander. And as for the parents that don't have allergies but the children do, that can be explained by the simple genetics of recessive traits or spontaneous mutation. It wouldn't serve the population very well if a gene for peanut allergies was dominant. Look up Gregor Mendel's experiments.

Finally, viral mutation is NOT the same as bacterial mutation due to antimicrobials/antibiotics. Bacteria mutate because they are exposed TO the antimicrobial. Viruses are not exposed TO the vaccine - your immune system is, and your immune system kills the virus (see paragraph one).

I've taken immunology, virology and genetics. How about you?

ted said...

I agree...but the theory of herd immunity suggests that a small proportion of a population can remain unvaccinated without any harm to the group since it decreases the odds that an unvaccinated person would come into contact with someone carrying the disease in question.

On the other hand, this does generally assume random mixing in the population...which is sort of a myth.

On the autism/adhd comments - both of these conditions (particularly autism) are exhibit symptoms and/or are diagnosed by psychologists just after vaccines are given. The argument that one causes the other is incorrect: Post hoc ergo propter hoc - "After the fact, therefore a result of that fact". Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

"It's no wonder that there is a rise in allergies, autism and adhd given the amount of vaccines that are given to our children"

A) Show me a piece of peer-reviewed scientific literature that shows causation rather than correlation between vaccines and these diseases.

B) Industrialized nations that have eradicated many infectious diseases typically manifest greater amounts of allergies. Look at studies comparing East and West Germany with regard to atopic conditions in children.

C) As I point out above, Autism is diagnosed in children at ages when vaccines are given. Just because they happen around the same time doesn't mean one causes the other. Your argument could just as easily be that driving to a physician's office causes Autism, since these trips happen more frequently around the time a child is diagnosed. Or perhaps watching television at an early age, or playing with certain toddler toys...why you focus on vaccines is the real mystery.

Also, be careful with whom you pick your battles. It's clear that Courtney knows a hell of a lot more about what you're talking about than you do. Get a fucking clue.