UPDATE 9AM: This is fantastic, all your stories collecting in the comments below - so many already at 9AM. Keep them coming. We can quote statistics all day long, but stories are powerful persuaders; they make a difference.
See that state over there on the left, the single one that is red? That's where I live these days, Oregon, and the color does not reflect political affiliation.
It is red because in 2014, Oregon was estimated to have both the highest percentage and the highest number of unvaccinated school children of all 50 U.S. states. That would be 7.1 percent or 3,331 exemptions for religious reasons and 62 for medical reasons.
(To see other states' numbers, click here.)
Measles was declared eradicated in the United States in the year 2000 so it is staggering to follow the current “debate” over measles (and other disease) immunizations – particularly, I think, if you are old like me. But first, let me digress.
The looniness of the anti-vaccination crowd is astounding – some of them are even physicians, even physicians who want to be president like Dr. Ben Carson and opthalmologist, Senator Rand Paul.
But the anti-vaxxers are not all conservatives like those two; many are liberals. Politically, vaccine denial is an equal opportunity insanity and tolerating them for more than a second endangers the health – even the lives - of the entire country.
I'm not going to explain the origin of the anti-vaccine movement. You can find that and all their crazy arguments – from quasi-medical to religious to political - all over the internet.
Instead, let me give you just one comparison fact then I will get to why I'm flogging the anti-vaccine stupidity today.
According to Centers for Disease Control quoted in Wikipedia, the death rate for measles infection is 2 in 1,000 cases. Encephalitis occurs from measles infection at a rate of 1 in 1,000 cases. And pneumonia occurs in 6 of 100 cases.
The measles immunization shot is called MMR for “measles, mumps, rubella.” The complication rate for MMR immunization is 1 in 1,000,000 injections.
If you are older than about 55 or 60, you can recall a childhood filled with terrifying diseases: diphtheria, whooping cough, measles, rubella, chickenpox, smallpox, scarlet fever, polio and others that until the current madness, we had almost forgotten. Let me remind you.
• Smallpox scars on school mates' faces were common.
• I was required to remain in bed with shades drawn and no reading allowed during my bout with measles because it can cause blindness (although I don't know why a dark room would prevent that).
• Quarantine notices were posted on the homes where some kids were sick (I've forgotten which diseases). They were so contagious we weren't allowed to go near them.
• Sometimes we heard that a kid had died from one of the diseases.
• Every fall, one or two school mates didn't return to school due to polio. Some of them died. A few eventually returned to school wearing huge braces on one or both legs.
These diseases are now preventable.
Personally, I believe the government should mandate universal vaccination for the general welfare of the public. Isn't that what government should be for, the public good?
Remember, in the 1950s, when the government innoculated the entire country – every single person – against polio? In my town, everyone lined up at one of the local schools where we were each handed a sugar cube to eat.
You haven't heard much about polio since then and how is that not a vast public good?
Most people who read this blog are old enough to recall life when those childhood diseases ran rampant. So spend some time, if you will, in comments today, telling us your recollections of those days gone by. Maybe some younger parents sitting on the fence about vaccines will read them.
As for Oregon, perhaps immunization rates are about to get better. On Wednesday, The Oregonian reported:
”By state law, all children in public and private schools, preschools, Head Start programs and certified child care facilities must have up-to-date vaccinations by Feb. 18 or have an exemption.”
Of course, that raises the obvious question of why any kids are in school now without those documents, a crucial bit of information left out of the news story. (I'll undoubtedly take flak from Oregonians for saying this but living here leaves one weeping daily for lack of competent news reporting.)
One of the many things that amuse me about Jon Stewart on The Daily Show is the number of ways he can find to digress from whatever topic he is discussing.
Earlier this week he digressed about 10 times in 10 different directions in his coverage of the vaccine “controversy” – of course, hilariously - while making his serious points. Take a look.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today is – nothing. No story. It is on hiatus for two weeks. Please read more here.