Native Skeptic

Native Skeptic
Apache Crown Dancers 1887:

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Community Immunity

Based upon modern medical science, the most efficient way to effectively protect the general public from disease is through vaccination. When it comes to facing the unknown, fear and uneasiness are natural reactions. Personal or core belief systems can have powerful influences over our perception. In some cases, decisions based from those personal belief systems can result in extremely emotional states, leaving some potentially susceptible to irrational decisions, such as parents not vaccinating their children because of some naturalistic fallacy. But, through methods and strategies, like those applied through IHS to the Native American/Alaskan Native people, we can get all the way through that gauntlet of logically fallacious, pseudoscientific terminology, that’s ultimately fueled by the fear of science. We can help educate our neighbors by providing the basic means for finding things out for themselves or simply quashing these modern myths whenever and wherever we encounter them.

In the online publication of an article in Pediatrics, The Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a comparison was done on immunization coverage with between American Indian Alaskan Native children and non-Hispanic white children from 2000 to 2005, using data from the National Immunization Survey. The goals were to determine whether disparities in childhood immunization exist between American Indian/Alaskan Native children and non-Hispanic white children. The results showed,

“Although immunization coverage increased for both populations from 2001 to 2004, American Indian/Alaska Native children had significantly lower immunization coverage, compared with non-Hispanic white children, over that time period. In 2005, coverage continued to increase for American Indian/Alaska Native children but decreased for non-Hispanic white children, and no statistically significant disparity in 4:3:1:3:3 coverage was evident in that year.”

This specific type of cultural or ethnic health disparity appears to be more pronounced in New Zealand than in the United States. In a study published in the American Journal of Public Health chronicled as, “Disparities in Indigenous Health: A Cross Country Comparison Between New Zealand and the United States”, the Maori people of New Zealand show a higher disparity levels across the range of health indicators but except in regards to immunization coverage for American Indian and Alaskan Natives.

Some of the health indicators that were that were compared included health outcome measures, preventive care measures, modifiable risk factor prevalence, and treatment measures. Health disparities based on ethnicity appear to be more pronounced in New Zealand than in the United States, the study reports;

“In the case of nearly every health status indicator assessed, disparities (both absolute and relative) were more pronounced for Maoris than for American Indians/Alaska Natives. Both indigenous populations suffered from disparities across a range of health indicators. However, no disparities were observed for American Indians/Alaska Natives in regard to immunization coverage.”

This study also indicates that in the U.S., the disparities in the rates of coverage for childhood immunization and cervical cancer screenings have been eliminated for the most part. Some of the more notable and probable reasons for this accomplishment are attributed to the services provided through the Indian Health Service. Integrated primary care services, home visits, tracking immunization status, free clinics, and free vaccines all administered through immunization programs. In the case of the Maori people’s health care policies in New Zealand, they could benefit greatly from analyzing the approach the IHS has taken to efficiently and effectively immunize their indigenous people.

The Indian Health Services government agency is especially unique because it delivers health care to a specific ethnic group. One of the primary goals of the IHS is to get the tribes’ involved, as much as possible, in meeting health needs of all American Indian/Alaskan Native people in order to maximize the potential health care gains. IHS has played a significant role in increasing the health of American Indian/ Alaskan Natives and shows how coordinated efforts and adequate resources, can turn into the committed efforts of reducing health care disparities, even in the face of strong spiritual beliefs, cultural traditions, and ethnic diversity

There is an appearance of a counterfeit controversy going on about vaccines’ safety. This manufactured debate is brought together by the professional misconduct of fraudulent research, out-and-out fraudulence, and irresponsible investigative reporting by the media that often results in being promoted by celebrities who bypass all of medical science. Generally, immunity is known as protecting those who have been inoculated, but not everyone is capable of being immunized. Certain vaccinations rely on what is called community immunity or also known as herd immunity, which is the concept that unimmunized persons are indirectly protected from disease simply being surrounded by people who have been vaccinated. The entire community will be indirectly protected because the disease has little opportunity for an outbreak. However, with a low percentage of population immunity, the disease would have great opportunity for an outbreak.”

Here is a great explanation of the importance of community immunity to the public health system and the various ways it works done by the National Network for Immunization Information.

The rate that outbreaks of pertussis cases are being reported in California and the rise of vaccination exemption requests are a couple indicators that thousands of parents have been scared into delaying or outright rejecting the immunization of their children. Vaccine preventable diseases have returned due to the drop in immunization rates, resulting in a decrease in the vast majority of people not being vaccinated and therefore losing any herd immunity. In order to be effective, immunization rates need reach a certain height to benefit from community immunity. The situation of increasing the amount of pathogens potentially running rampant in un-immunized immune systems is not just irresponsible, but unscientific and irrational. Above all else, this illogical nonsense has consequences to our health that put all us at risk, and its going to get worse before it gets better.

Maybe by helping enough parents to navigate through this information with sound scientific information and basic critical thinking, we can immunize enough belief systems from infectious pseudoscience to effectively produce the effects of herd immunity to the rest of the community.