Native Skeptic

Native Skeptic
Apache Crown Dancers 1887:

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

When Fear of Science Becomes Dangerous

Many people believe that simply having a healthy diet is all that’s needed to guard against disease. Unfortunately, a healthy diet by itself and simply taking vitamin supplements, do not present any immunological challenges; therefore antibodies are not created. So, when a pathogen does enter the body, the immune system is not prepared, and the body becomes infected with disease. If people only focus on their diet and fitness but neglect their immune system, they can improve fitness levels and look well in shape doing so, but their immune system won't look very well prepared against potential infectious diseases.

Only believing in what you can see is just as irrational as only believing in things you can't. But, even bad logic is still logic. For example, a great deal of naturopathy practitioners and homeopathy proponents claim that they prefer a more natural method of protecting their children from illness and disease. The notion is that the chemicals in the vaccine are not "natural", therefore they are deemed as being “toxic” and foreign, which is dangerous because they are unnatural to the body. This is either a good example of a complete absence of scientific knowledge or an obvious perversion of science that can potentially endanger an entire community.

The human body is comprised of chemicals that are just like the one’s found in vaccines. But, all of these scary sounding ingredients are added for a very specific purpose.

Pathogens are the agents which produce disease. When the body is exposed to a pathogen, it irritates and the immune system into producing antibodies to fight off the pathogen and its ill effects. Vaccines simply simulate that process by emulating specific pathogens to generate the appropriate irritation in order to produce the proper antibodies for protection against the apparent future exposure to some infectious organism. Much like the muscles in our body, the immune system needs to be stimulated in order to grow and strengthen functionality. This sort of stimulation comes through in the form of these immune system challenges that provoke an immunological response.

Currently, there are some troubling signs of this growing fear of vaccinations showing up in society and through the various form of data capture by state health departments.

Rise in vaccination exemption requests
In the state of Arizona, parents have the right to request an exemption for their children from certain vaccine requirements, based on religious or personal beliefs. The Arizona Department of Health Services collects Immunization Data Reports from schools and child care centers. The ADHS put out an announcement in the AZ Vaccine News from June 21, 2010, showing a potentially dangerous trend,

"The rates of Arizona parents requesting exemption from vaccine requirements for their children due to religious or personal beliefs have more than doubled since 2001.
The more unimmunized people there are in a community, the more risk there is for outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases."

Pertussis Outbreak
At one point, the pertussis vaccine reduced the annual number of deaths attributed to the disease to less than 30, but in the last few recent years, the number of cases has started to rise. According to the California Department of Public Health, from January to September 7, 2010, more than 3,800 cases of pertussis were reported. The number of reported cases this year is seven times greater than during the same time period in 2009. Pertussis seems to make a reoccurring appearance in the United States that spikes every 3-5 years. But, if the current trends shown in early reports continue on to the end of the year, California will have the highest annual rate of pertussis reported in over 50 years and earn the highest rate of disease in 47 years.

The CDPH is attempting to combat this state epidemic by providing the general public with various forms of guidance, educational materials, and free vaccination clinics. But, the issues surrounding vaccination denial and the people who fear or distrust doctors, hospitals, modern medicine, or science in general, are often left unaddressed.

Many Americans don’t realize the most important role that immunization plays in our society because of the fact that it’s so successful. When people do not vaccinate, they are not only placing their children at risk, but the entire community they live in.

We can help prevent these fears from becoming dangerous by familiarizing ourselves with these kinds of issues and extiguish these small fires whenever they crop up.

More information on the Pertussis Vaccine can be found on my last blog entry, or for the most recent information on the state of whooping cough in California, visit the California Department of Public Health website


  1. Good Article! It is important to get vaccinated. Not just for yourself but for your community. And as a community we can wipe out these outbreaks.

  2. Alternative medicine is an interesting case of where it goes.

    On the one hand, alternative medicine in a vacuum is usually harmless. (Homeopathy is, after all, magic water. No bad side effects effects.)

    On the other, it doesn't exist in a vacuum. If they're saying not to go to the doctor, that sucks. For Indians, this anti-vaccine rhetoric is especially deadly: Even if I get vaccinated, if nobody else does, I might as well have not.

    "Integrative" and "complementary" medicine are more in line with "annoying, but not deadly" (generally speaking). In both cases (since they're the same thing; see also "intelligent design"), they imply a team. But it's like my high school chemistry class. I did all the work, while my lab partner did basically nothing. We both got A's, but it was all me. Replace me with that antibiotic you took for your food poisoning and my idiot lab partner with those magnets you put on your abdomen for your food poisoning, and you get the picture.

    Also, can I mention I hate the TV show The Doctors? They actually have advocated colon detox, vitamin pills (complete with standard "not intended to do anything" disclaimer), and keeping vaccines away from your children "if you have a family history of autism".