Why aren't they leading the herd? #politiciansandvaccinations

Why aren't they leading the herd?

by digby

I had thought that Chris Christie might be trying to compensate for his overreaction during the ebola scare by claiming that there needed to be "balance" on requiring vaccinations for children (whatever that means.) But apparently, he's been working with the anti-vax types for a long time:
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie suggested Monday that officials find a “balance” between requiring vaccinations and allowing parents to turn them down. But his run in with the issue may go back much longer.

Louise Kuo Habakus, an anti-vaccination activist who runs the site FearlessParent.org, provided a letter to MSNBC Monday in which Christie purportedly endorsed her concern that vaccines may be linked to autism – a concern long discredited by public health officials. She shared a photo showing Christie meeting with her and what she said were other anti-vaccination activists with her organization, the NJ Vaccination Choice Coalition, as well as other autism groups at a meeting they organized with the then-candidate in August 2009.

“I have met with families affected by autism from across the state and have been struck by their incredible grace and courage,” Christie wrote in the letter. “Many of these families have expressed their concern over New Jersey’s highest-in-the nation vaccine mandates. I stand with them now, and will stand with them as their governor in their fight for greater parental involvement in vaccination decisions that affect their children.”

I'm probably not as viscerally furious with the anti-vax parents as some of my cohorts because I see why they have gotten the wrong idea. There's a ton of news out there about Big Pharma not doing adequate testing on new drugs and being corrupt and self-serving and people naturally get cynical and suspicious after a while. Obviously, vaccinations have proven over many years, with a massive control group (the entire population) to be as safe as any vaccines can be, and that is very safe indeed. Yes, there are some who suffer side effects, but it's so rare as to be a much less risky endeavor than allowing your kids to play a sport or fly on airplanes and certainly less risky than allowing them to ride in cars. And the upside is so huge.

I'm old so I had the childhood diseases when I was a kid and I remember it vividly. I even had rubella and was quarantined for weeks. These diseases were a scourge that would run through the school and many kids got sick, some with major complications. A little boy in my first grade class got encephalitis from measles. We were all vaccinated for polio --- I'm not that old --- but I sure knew people growing up who'd had it and there was nothing more awful.

It's insane to allow these diseases to proliferate if you can stop it and the only way you can stop it is by creating herd immunity. And while I realize many parents don't like to think of their kids as part of the herd, I'm afraid they're not that special.

I'm not angry at these parents --- I think they truly believe they are doing the right thing by their kids. But they're misinformed the way so many people are misinformed about just about everything these days. It's almost as if the internet is so filled with contradictory information that people have retreated to old tribal folkways and the oral tradition to try to sort out the various concerns. It's a huge problem in a million ways.

For reasons I don't fully understand, politicians like Christie are unwilling to say the obvious: you need to get your kids vaccinated! But there's something going on in the polling or perhaps some other reason for failing to do the obvious because it isn't just him. This is from the White House just last week:
Q Does the President, does the White House have a message about that and who will be getting vaccinated?

MR. EARNEST: Well, the President certainly believes that these kinds of decisions are decisions that should be made by parents, because ultimately when we’re talking about vaccinations, we’re typically talking about vaccinations that are given to children. But the science on this, as our public health professionals I’m sure would be happy to tell you, the science on this is really clear.

Q That people should get vaccinated?

MR. EARNEST: That’s certainly what the science indicates, and that’s obviously what our public health professionals recommend. And being guided by the science in matters like this is typically the right approach.

That's not exactly an exhortation, is it? In fact it's as milquetoast as it gets --- "that's certainly what the science indicates ...  obviously what our public health officials recommend ...being guided by science is typically the right approach". Golly, ya think?

I'd guess they are afraid of people saying the state is intruding into the affairs of the family. But they do this all the time. The state forces people to use those car seats, after all. What's so different about this? And in this case, it's really not a matter of individual choice, is it? By failing to vaccinate, parents aren't just endangering their own kids they're endangering other people's kids. Even libertarians should have to take a big breath before they claim that's ok ...

This is a very strange debate. These aren't obscure new protocols. They've been around forever and we literally have hundreds of millions of people walking around who lived to tell the tale. I have to think that a full blown education campaign would fix this.  I suspect it's more the result of information overload and confusion not blind hostility to authority and a reflexive rejection of all science.