Anti-Vaxxers are right, but stupid

I am sure that by now everyone has heard of the anti-vaccine movement. It went from a small group of looneys to being a nationwide campaign by millions of parents, and is now getting mainstream coverage as more and more kids get sick from preventable diseases like Measles.

And yet, while these parents watch their kids get sick, and in some cases die the trend shows no signs of slowing and in fact seems to be gaining more steam. What can be possibly driving these parents to sacrifice their kids in the name of some misguided conspiracy theory? — Well, it’s actually the they are right.

As much as we hate to admit it, vaccines inject bad things into your child’s body. They cause an immune response, they do sometimes contain toxic chemicals like thimerosal, formaldehyde, and possibly others. You know when you get the flu shot as an adult, you just don’t feel good for a day or so.

Where anit-vaxxers get it horribly wrong, is that they have no concept of common sense or understanding of the basics of risk reward. Taken to an extreme, imagine that you had a 1 in 10 chance of getting a deadly disease, but you could vaccinate yourself against it with 100% efficacy, and yet the vaccine would have a 1 in 1,000,000 chance of also killing you. There is no sane person in this world that should roll the dice and not take those odds (and the shot). The real numbers in vaccines of course, are even better than that, with actual death related to vaccines being quite miniscule while deaths from the diseases they prevent being quite significant and real.

Another great example is alcohol. It has no physiologic benefits (ok maybe a glass of red wine a day, but that is because of the resveratrol which you can get elsewhere, and not the actual EtOH), and kills way more people than vaccines. Yet, how many anti-vaxxers are also active members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving?

Lastly, my favorite ridiculous argument against vaccines is autism. In general, I think its pretty clear that developed world populations have had increasing incidences of autism. While the causes are not understood clearly, it’s crazy to think that a few shots of bad stuff will cause it. We know that diseases like cancer, for example, generally increase in risk from long term exposure, not from a one-off dose. The same is likely true for autism. When we look at the myriad of toxic or questionable substances children ingest now, from artificial sweeteners (aspartame, unlike vaccines is in fact directly correlated to autism), artificial colorings, genetically modified foods, pesticides to ridiculous amounts of refined carbs.

So if you are really worried about your kids just do this: give them the vaccines, cut out “trash” food, have a glass of Barolo and relax.

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