No Vaccine? A Different Risk

Paul Offit is one of America’s most-hated scientists. He’s been called a “biostitute” for the pharmaceutical industry and been threatened with death for his advocacy of one of medicine’s greatest innovations: vaccines. In recent years, anti-vaccine sentiment has spread like, well, an epidemic, with frightening results. In 2004, there were 26,000 reported pertussis (whooping cough) cases in the U.S., up from only 1,000 in 1976. A new article in Wired profiles Offit’s crusade and the interesting risk psychology of the anti-vaccine movement. Offit’s mission is really a mission to educate parents about the true risks their children face: “The choice not to get a vaccine is not a choice to take no risk. It’s just a choice to take a different risk, and we need to be better about saying, ‘Here’s what that different risk looks like.’ Dying of Hib meningitis is a horrible, ugly way to die.” [%comments]


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  1. Bob says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  2. Steve M says:

    Unfortunately, many people don’t balence competing risks well – worth studying.

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  3. Jamie says:

    We’ll just call it evolution in action. I have zero sympathy for the tinfoil hat wearing idiots that are the anti vaccination crowd, especially since they are putting people who have legitimate medical reasons for not getting vaccinated at higher risk.

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  4. Nosybear says:

    Beautiful! The anti-vaccine Luddites should really know what they’re risking. Being old enough to have known a few polio victims, I never doubt the need for vaccination. Problem is that most of the anti-vaccine Luddites aren’t Luddites at all, they just don’t know the risk they’re exposing themselves or their children to so they protest the rare risks of the vaccine, the minute risk of something vaccine-related being more real to them than the very real risk of crippling, debilitating and fatal diseases they never see, providing more evidence for the saying, humans are terrible at estimating risk.

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  5. Mike B says:

    The real shame is that the costs of this sort of willful ignorance is charged to the children and neighbors of those that would ordinarily be strong candidates for a Darwin Award.

    I think that one of the better solutions would be state laws that make vaccination refusers PERSONALLY LIABLE for anyone they or their children infect due to not being properly vaccinated. One’s personal freedoms stop at their own nose. If you kill or sicken your neighbor you should be held responsible.

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  6. Justin says:

    I hate to say it, but- Survival of the Fittest.

    It looks a lot different these days than what typically occurs…but it is alive and well!

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  7. jennifer says:

    I do not envy the irrationality and fear Dr. Offit’s is up against.

    In many ways, the anti-vaccine “movement” is very similar to any other conspiracy that lingers despite all contradictory evidence. Moon-landing deniers, the Birthers, 9/11 conspiracy holders, Holocaust deniers and anti-vaccine crowd all seem to take historical evidence, scientific data, and logic to be further evidence of a “cover-up.”

    Perhaps the best “cure” will be a revamping of science education, perhaps beginning in elementary school, with the first lesson being: post hoc ergo propter hoc.

    Just because the rooster crows before the sun rises, does not mean the rooster causes the sun to rise. Similarly, just because (as the inevitable post will appear) a child who suddenly exhibited autism after getting vaccinated, does not mean vaccines cause autism.

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  8. Howard Tayler says:

    The biggest problem here is that doing any research into whether vaccines can be made safer will be taken, right or wrong, as an admission that they are not currently safe.

    In short, researching ways to make things better will make things almost instantly worse.

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