I went and got vaccinated against meningitis the other day, as per a requirement for enrolling in community college.
I tend to complain a lot when I get vaccinated against things. I elect to have it done in my left arm, because I use it considerably less and so I can pretend that it’s been lopped off and I can’t use it for a few days while I wait for the soreness to go away. I treat my vaccinated arm like it’s a volatile explosive or something– If I exert any pressure on it, if I lift anything more than a few ounces, well gee, that fucker may very well blow right off. I sleep on the other side of my body so that I don’t crush and destroy my poor, weakened arm.
I keep the bandage on for about a day, even though after an hour there’s a voice in my head saying “Okay seriously, if you’re still bleeding now you probably have leukemia.”
I’m basically a complete nut about it.
And yet I go and get all of the vaccinations required of me. Hell, I even get the non-required ones like Gardasil, because you know what doesn’t seem fun? Cancer. Kinda like how meningitis sounds like a real downer, and tetanus would just really ruin my day.
It helps that my “reaction” to vaccines are pretty much me being a hypochondriac, but the thing is? Even if I went and got vaccinated and then spent the rest of the day feeling like I’d eaten rotten poison and dead kittens, vaccines would still be worth it.
But apparently, there’s a growing number of people who go along with the thought process “Little Suzy might get the sniffles? Fuck that, Measles sounds considerably better.”
But of course, they don’t think like that; they believe that since they don’t see people with measles, they can’t possibly get measles. Which in a sense is entirely true! It’s why vaccinating parents/caregivers/etc. against whooping cough is an effective way of preventing it in babies, who can’t be vaccinated but certainly can get whooping cough. It also provides a bit of a safety net for people who can’t get vaccines for legitimate reasons (read: too sick, not too stupid).
Those two things work, though, because we’ve got a nice thing called herd immunity, which works similarly to a plastic bubble of immunity. To expand this metaphor, we have a big plastic dome-o-notmeasles that we all live in. Some of us have our own little notmeasles bubbles, which is great for us. However, some of us don’t have our own bubbles. Ideally, that “some of us” would be entirely composed of those who are too sick to be vaccinated, but due to this anti-vaccine crusade, that “some of us” is growing. Those people still live under the big plastic dome, and so they’re pretty much safe as long as measles does not penetrate our bubble.
The thing about diseases, though, is that they like penetrating bubbles. It’s kind of what they do, how they survive. It happens when someone who isn’t personally immunized comes in contact with a disease, catches it, and then goes back into the bubble where everyone else is. Suddenly, this isn’t a notmeasles bubble, it’s a measles bubble. Full of measles.
This metaphor is becoming a bit stretched. Let’s change it from a bubble to, say…
Right. So we have our school with 100 students. A few years ago perhaps, only 1 of these 100 were not vaccinated- maybe she has a weakened immune system? But the other 99 were vaccinated, so they kept her safe.
Fast forward a few years, one kid has autism. The parents, who don’t understand how correlation doesn’t equal causation, assumed that this was caused by a vaccine (protip- that doesn’t happen, if there was any doubt). The parents then go and start a crusade against vaccines! Fun.
Now 50 out of the 100 students are unvaccinated. This poses a problem.
I don’t know the actual statistics, so I’m going to pull one out of my ass. let’s say that, while unvaccinated, you have, oh… a 2% chance of catching the disease. 1 out of 50.
When we only have one unvaccinated child, it’s sort of like rolling a 50 sided die once. There’s a very low chance she’ll end up with measles, and if she does, only she is affected. That’s a maximum of 1 child out of 100 getting a horrible disease.
But if we roll that dice 50 times, it’s statistically probable that we will land on measles atleast once. Let’s pretend we did roll the measles dice, and now one of our kids has measles.
So, 50 unvaccinated kids (one with measles!), 50 vaccinated kids (one with autism!)
Fast forward a very short amount of time, those 49 other unvaccinated kids were exposed to measles from the single child, and now 90% of the children who weren’t vaccinated have measles. In real life, schools would close pretty damn quick, but keep in mind that there’s a sizable amount of time between that one child becoming infected and then showing enough symptoms to be diagnosed in which he could infect any number of other students.
so now we’ve got 45 kids with measles. 45 kids who wouldn’t have had measles if they had been vaccinated. 45 kids who wouldn’t have spread it to other kids and infected other kids if they had been infected.
One goddamned kid who infected the whole unvaccinated population of the school just because his parents thought vaccines were evil.
One kid who couldn’t be vaccinated for legitimate medical reasons, who relied on the herd immunity to protect her, and who was infected by people who don’t understand how that works.
And one kid with Autism that wasn’t caused by a vaccine, whose parents jumpstarted this whole thing.
Anti-vaccination crusades are bad, okay?