Smallpox Parties?


Measles remains one of the leading childhood killers despite the existence of a vaccine that decreases the mortality rate by about 75%.

Yet instead of vaccinating their children, some parents are instead choosing to have them attend measles parties. One wonders whether these same parents would have their children attend “smallpox parties” if those were available. Although its mortality rate is not on par with that of smallpox, measles is not a benign disease. If a parent were told that their child would be the one in 1000 to die or become intellectually disabled, would they make the same choice to allow that child to contract the disease?

California makes it too easy for its citizens to opt out of vaccination. Virtually any trending thought can be classified as a “philosophical” reason and be used to put the population at risk.

In communities that maintain separation from the general population such as the Amish, then the choice to vaccinate should be respected. (Even this population is vulnerable if exposed as exemplified by a 2014 outbreak in an Ohio Amish community).

When unvaccinated children are allowed to socialize with the general population, the risk for the spread of this highly contagious infection increases. In a society such as ours where travel is so frequent and uninhibited, why do we put our most vulnerable members at risk? Why do we allow a few parents to put the rest of our children at risk?

It is the job of our elected officials to represent and protect the majority. Safety should take precedence over individual beliefs especially when the lives of our children are at stake.


3 Responses to “Smallpox Parties?”

  1. nirupashah Says:

    As the vaccination controversy rages identifying which stakeholders should take the lead in resolving the issue becomes increasingly difficult. Parents are strongly influenced by the media and scientific interpretation and have difficulty differentiating between evidence based medicine and “expert opinion”. They are unfortunate victims in this situation and very vulnerable when confronted with potential threats to their children. Persuasion using punitive or forceful policy measures to compel vaccination can be just as harmful. It may be more useful to educate the media on public health reporting and interpretation of relative risk and herd immunity. These concepts have been defined and conveyed incorrectly. The dangers of not vaccinating or delaying vaccination and differentiating vaccine associated events from true vaccine related side-effects need to be emphasized. Publicizing the stories and pictures of outbreaks rather than blowing out of proportion and escalating fear of unfounded/unproven relationship to autism remains in the domain of the media. I agree that public health officials need to take the lead but it is who they target and how they target these stakeholders that is crucial.I strongly support the need to protect children both vaccinated and not vaccinated. Public health officials and legislators walk a fine line when it comes to enforcement. The process to opt out should be used as an opportunity to educate rather than force vaccination. The target is 95% coverage to ensure herd immunity. This is more likely to be achieved by continuing to permit choice but increasing policy on responsible reporting and education of parents.

  2. falsaleh Says:

    I agree with the comment above. While there are policy struggles across the US in regards to vaccinations, public health officials and agencies can tackle this urgent issue by other angles. Such angles are some of the more popular media outlets.

    These kind of messages should not be underestimated. Their effect is powerful and well-heard across the country. These links are prime examples of how the public can be reached with various ways.The fight for 95% coverage should be on all fronts.

  3. robindross Says:

    Children do not get to pick their parents. The public doesn’t always understand about herd immunity nor do they always grasp the lifelong potential consequences of an infectious disease. If you give society an out i.e. “religious beliefs” then they will run with it.

    Do we need to incentivize immunization or penalize those who choose not to obtain it? If there child develops a measles or meningococcal meningitis from failure to immunize leaving them with lifelong disability, society pays the tab for this “free choice”.

    Furthermore, I am not sure why those choosing not to be immunized are able to obtain some “free herd protection” by attending schools with immunized children. Would all the unimmunized children like to attend the same school to make their children feel similar since they come from like minded parents (i.e. not a PH recommendation but possibly a societal one)?

    Social media often scares people with non factual data re autism and immunization. We don’t let people drive without seat belts or they obtain a fine. We don’t let people carry guns without a CWL. We have rules to protect public health so I am not sure how we got so far off the rails with optionality for immunization.

    Public health practitioners have to be effective educators and communicators in our communities.

    Take the flu vaccine for example, our academic hospital policy literally mandates all health personnel to obtain a flu vaccine unless you have had a “near death experience”. Otherwise, the alternative is inconvenient–to wear a NIOSH mask from Nov. 9th to April 9th.

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