For the record, one can watch the full documentary -- which I highly recommend -- here
at PBS. I loves me some public broadcasting, yes I do.
As all y'all know, I am going to be a nurse. Having been interested in the body, all its weirdness, and all the Very Bad Things that can happen to the body, I tend to read anything I can get my hands on about epidemiology, the history of medicine (as I am interested in both history and medicine, the history of medicine is Very Much Relevant To My Interests indeed), plagues, pandemics, and assorted bacterial/viral/fungal Happy Fun Times resulting in the deaths of populations.
To say vaccines are worse than the illnesses they prevent is total, complete, and utter hogwash.
Let's take the most famous example, the disease so feared it was the first to be eradicated from the globe: smallpox. Smallpox killed up to 60% of those infected and up to 80% of infected children. It was implicated in 35% of cases of blindness in human history. What is relatively unknown to most people is that in order to eradicate smallpox, governments began to require mandatory vaccination -- no exceptions. In 1843, Massachussetts put the first madatory-vaccination law in place, and other states soon followed suit. Within 60 years -- by 1897 -- the United States was almost completely free from smallpox. The last naturally-occuring case of Variola major
(the more deadly of the two strains) was diagnosed in October 1975. The less-deadly Variola minor
was last diagnosed in a naturally-occuring case on October 26, 1977. Both cases were on the other side of the globe: one in India, one in Somalia.
For those playing at home, that is within my lifetime. I am only 34 years old
. We're not talking about hundreds of years ago, or even a hundred years ago...we are talking about less than 40 years in the past. In the history of the world, that's practically nothing
in the grand scheme of things. And now most doctors or nurses wouldn't know what smallpox even looks like in the field. They've never encountered it before, except perhaps in a footnote in an epidemiology class. Maybe.
So that right there argues that vaccines are a damned good thing where the good of humanity is concerned. Now let's look at some of the other vaccines, the ones to prevent diseases that have NOT been eradicated
. The ones the CDC still recommends.
Pertussis. Whooping cough. Sounds relatively innocuous, wouldn't you say? Oh, it's just a funny-sounding cough, right? Want to hear something that will make your chest ache? Here ya go
. Pertussis really doesn't have any particular treatment beyond comfort care once you're infected...but that cough can make you vomit, faint, the blood vessels in the whites of your eyes to rupture, break your ribs, and asphyxiate to death on your own throat secretions. Imagine coughing so hard your ribs break. The worst part about the whole disease is that babies that are too young to be safely immunized are the ones most at risk...because pertussis vaccinations don't give you lifelong immunity, most parents can carry pertussis -- and can wind up passing it along to their children. In fact, in fatal cases in which a pertussis carrier can be identified, up to 80% of the time it is a family member of the dead infant who unknowingly exposed that baby to pertussis. I can't imagine what sort of pain that must be for a family.
Measles. Yeah, that rash that your grandmother lived through, but you probably didn't have to -- because your parents vaccinated you. Sure, measles doesn't have a high rate of complications in healthy adults, but what about that person sitting next to you on the bus...the one you don't know is immunocompromised, because most people don't go around with a "I had a transplant and am on antirejection drugs" signs. In immunocompromised populations, the fatality rate from measles is around 30%.
While I'm at it, since the measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine is the primary one Jenny McCarthy et al.
froth at the mouth most about, there is such a hullabaloo raised about autism caused by vaccination and it is rage-inducing. These people go on and on about vaccines causing autism, because apparently there's nothing worse in the world that autism. I beg your pardon? Autism is somehow worse than death? Or causing pregnant women to miscarry is okay as long as your
kid is neurotypical? *flail*headdesk*flail* These anti-vaccination people don't seem to realize -- in fact, their health depends on -- the herd immunity that the rest of the (vaccinated) population provides.
So to say I Have Issues with anti-vaccination tropes is a little bit of an understatement.