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Reality Check

One of the things about being ‘an old guy’ is that I have personal memories of the times in this country that I lived through, and I have given up being surprised at the misinformation and outright lies that are propagated about those times by people attempting to make political points.

There are a lot of things in this country “that have always been this way” that I remember being imposed by politicians, like sticking G*d in the Pledge of Allegiance.

In talking about Social Security, I have made the point that people are not really living a lot longer today than they did when the law was first passed. The real change in demographics has been the number of people who are living through childhood and becoming adults. This change is because of the discovery of vaccines to prevent childhood diseases that killed a lot of people in my age group.

People often characterize childhood diseases as minor and not serious. I had most of them, and that is a load of bullshit. Trying spending more than a week in bed in a darkened room while being force-fed various noxious elixirs and then tell me how ‘minor’ measles is. It killed people. In those days they felt that medicine had to “taste like medicine” [i.e. terrible] to be effective.

NTodd has been writing about Vermont’s mandatory immunization law, and discussing the balance between individual rights and the rights of the community. Both he and Charlie Pierce noted the Whooping Cough outbreak in Washington state that has been declared an epidemic. These outbreaks are caused by people not getting their kids immunized, and, thus, susceptible to these diseases which are always present in human populations.

I flew worldwide in the Air Force and received every vaccine that was available for any disease I might encounter, which was every disease. I have multiple smallpox vaccination scars, which have been discontinued these days, and I was regularly tested for TB as a child, a practice that also seems to have been discontinued. Most of these vaccines have been discovered in my lifetime, and I recommend people take advantage of them, especially for their children. It is a tough day in elementary school when your teacher announces that one of your classmates won’t be coming back.

6 comments

1 Badtux { 05.13.12 at 2:28 am }

One of the things about being part of a family that has been in the same area for over 100 years is being able to walk through the family cemetery and look at the headstones of your ancestors. And there’s a whole lot of short graves in that family cemetery with dates showing the kid lived less than five years — something that stopped in the 1950’s after immunizations became common.

— Badtux the Roots Penguin

2 Badtux { 05.13.12 at 2:31 am }

Oh, regarding smallpox, probably the only vaccination we *don’t* need again, because smallpox is extinct. A fact that still amazes me. (And yes, I have a smallpox vaccine scar on one of my arms, I was one of the last group of children vaccinated against smallpox, my younger brother was not).

3 oldwhitelady { 05.13.12 at 8:58 am }

I don’t know why people don’t want their kids to get inoculated. It’s, for the most part, a lot easier on the kid than having to go thru the disease. If the kid doesn’t have the shot, or have the disease during childhood, it’s a whole heck of a lot worse if the kid contracts it during adulthood.

4 ellroon { 05.13.12 at 10:26 am }

I have to confess that as a child I benefited from all you guys who were inoculated because I was raised in a religion which does not support medical options. I did have a lot of the childhood diseases, but not measles and some other life threatening ones. So I’ve been on both sides of this argument….

My own kids have had all the shots.

5 Bryan { 05.13.12 at 12:05 pm }

People don’t realize what it was like with kids in school clanging around with the metal braces on their legs and arms from polio, or the sight of someone who was condemned to spend their life in an ‘iron lung’. This was some scary stuff when we were kids. FDR was considered ‘lucky’ by a lot of people because he only had to deal with the braces.

The thing people don’t seem to understand is that many of these diseases will never go away, unlike smallpox, as they are always present wherever humans gather. The shots prevent the outbreaks, but they are always available to attack people with no immunity.

With the infrastructure deteriorating at some point cholera and the other sewer-based diseases will be back in strength in cities.

Hell, it was ‘childhood diseases’ of Europeans that decimated the Native Americans, more than guns. Disease has always been the cause of most deaths in wars.

Not everyone can have the shots, as some people are allergic to some of the things used to manufacture the vaccines [eggs, animal serum, etc.], and some of them are definitely not enjoyable [I was down for three days after one, yellow fever, I think], but they are much better than the diseases they fight.

Yes, Badtux, visit any cemetery that has been around for a century and look at the markers before 1950 and you will see a lot of children. In farming country you had a lot of kids in hopes that enough would survive to work the farm.

OWL, one of my Mother’s oldest friends had the mumps in her thirties, and it nearly killed her. You don’t bounce back like kids do. How do you keep a job if you are laid up for a week or more with the measles?

It is all about risk, Ellroon. If you are on an isolated farm, you are probably fairly safe, but you can’t live among other people in a town of city and not encounter these diseases.

These days of global travel, AIDS, SARS, and other things can be transported around the world in a day. When we moved across oceans on ships there was time for the symptoms to appear, which is why the Public Health Service was created, to check for ‘pestilence’ on ships when the entered our waters. This is also why all of the early health care measures were directed towards the merchant marine. These days they check for chocolate pudding cups when you enter the US on an aircraft, but no one checks for disease.

6 Badtux { 05.15.12 at 1:47 am }

Oldwhitelady, it’s about a British scam artist who scammed a bunch of parents into believing that vaccines would make their child autistic. There is no — zero — evidence that *any* environmental characteristics “make” children autistic, just as there is no — zero — evidence that environment “makes” children gay. It’s something they’re born with, according to all the research that I’ve seen (and I’ve seen a fair amount of research — I was certified to teach special education and took several Masters-level classes in the subject, the definitive research on this was the Scandinavian twin studies which examined twins raised by adoptive parents in entirely different households). But these scare-mongers with their newsletters and seminars and scare tactics have convinced a lot of moms with more money than sense to forego vaccination in favor of snake oil.

50% of people are below average. And average ain’t so smart nowadays. And a lot of those folks are listening to these snake oil peddlers about vaccination and not vaccinating their kids. We are so fscked.

– Badtux the Numbers Penguin