People Are Bugf**k Crazy

I’ve sworn off blogging until the day job relents — I’m  hoping for some time during the Century of the Anchovy.

But every now and then something comes along that is so fundamentally off — I’d say weird, but really, just plain messed up — that it cries out for both pity and scorn.  Given that this is the home to the ‘tubes most beloved snarling mass of vitriolic vicious jackals, I’ll settle for one out of two.

That something would be this story, now a couple of weeks old, that I just couldn’t get out of my head:

Parents fearful of vaccinations are being warned by a federal prosecutor that making a deal with a stranger who promises to mail them lollipops licked by children with chickenpox isn’t just a bad idea, it’s against the law.

Uh, yeah.  Seriously, people, what’s wrong with you?

According to the TV reports, parents have turned to a Facebook group called “Find a Pox Party in Your Area” to link up people looking to share the virus.

One of the Facebook postings from Wendy Werkit of Nashville offered a “fresh batch of pox in Nashville shipping of suckers, spit and Q-tips available tomorrow 50 dollars via PayPal.”

And of course, it gets worse:

Thomsen, the Vanderbilt physician, said he was even more concerned by a person in the KPHO report seeking items tainted with measles to avoid a school-required vaccination. Measles has a significant mortality rate, causes more complications and is very infectious compared with chickenpox, he said.

Now, I usually leave the anti-vax stuff to folks who know much more about it than I do — people like my MIT colleague Seth Mnookin, for one, and many others who’ve been fighting the good fight for a while.  But (a) I haven’t seen much comment on this particular hurts-too-much-to-laugh-and-I’m-too-big-to-cry number and (b) this seems to me to be one more symptom of the larger problem that lies (to my mind) at the root of our political follies right now.

And that would be the issue that used to pass under the rubric of  scientific literacy.  Now, it seems, ignorance and/or uncertainty about how scientists think isn’t the question; rather it’s that science itself is no longer recognized as any kind of reliable source of knowledge.

That’s no accident, of course.  The tyranny of facts undermines privilege, and so we’ve faced more than thirty years now of broad spectrum denialism — from Ronald Reagan’s numbers-denying advocacy of SDI to the anti-smoking advocacy tobacco industry’s deceit [per commenter Steeplejack @ 13] another MIT colleague, Phil Hilts, documented so devastatingly more than 15 years ago, to creationism and its many discontents and, perhaps most persistently, the sustained attack on climate science and scientists, framed crucially not as a search for error, but as one for the evidence of self-interest and corruption.

We know how this ends:   if the white-coated boffin is just a bankster with an impact score, then whatever he or she claims as real has no more force in the civic conversation than the views of some poor fool sending infections through the mails.  And from there, it’s not nearly a big enough step to arrive at  the current GOP presidential field, and an electorate among whom a substantial fraction gets its take on the world from Bill “the tide comes in, it goes out” O’Reilly.

The only silver lining here is that according to the linked piece, mailed lollipops are a crap way to transmit chicken pox.  Other diseases, perhaps, but most likely actually getting this particular illness from somebody else’s candy would take both heroic viral loads and a postal service of the sort not seen since Queen Victoria reigned over a London in which deliveries occurred as often as ten times a day.

Other than that, chalk this story up as one more sign that the American Century is over.

Update:  Just to be clear:  I’m not suggesting that the anti-vaccine bug is a unique property of the right; it’s not.  I do argue that the anti-science virus that underlies both anti-vaxxing and much else besides now manifests itself in our politics much more on the right than in the center or on the left — and that’s very dangerous indeed for the country as a whole.  But as commenter Mayken correctly reminds me, woo knows no party.

Image:  Giambattista Tiepolo, Saint Tecla at Este, 1759,

100 replies
  1. 1
    efroh says:

    Holy shite, I had not seen the measles quote. These people are mad. Unfortunately, I think the only thing that will get them to change their minds will be large numbers of children dying during an outbreak of measles or something else that’s perfectly preventable. Then you’ll see them lined up around the block, fighting to get a stick.

  2. 2
    Exurban Mom says:

    I would love it if our public schools clamped down on the “religious exemption” to vaccinations. I am very very sorry, but your right to endanger your own kids should not infringe upon my right to keep mine safe. Herd immunity only works if the vast majority of people are vaccinated.

    Who I really feel for are parents of infants right now. I would be terrified of taking my baby to the doctor’s office…that’s where the unvaccinated kids with whooping cough and chickenpox and other diseases spread their cases to the unvaccinated. It’s not a baby’s fault that they haven’t had their full panel of vaccines yet. Babies are dying, and it just pisses me off. I would totally support my physician asking unvaccinated kids to find another doctor’s office for treatment.

  3. 3
    David in NY says:

    So they understand the germ theory of disease, and they understand the notion of vaccination as a preventative, but … what? The doctors are putting an additive in the shots making children into socialists? Or what? What it the crazy thinking?

    I do not get this.

  4. 4
    HRA says:

    Absolutely disgusting. We have sink to nothing that can be explained except to say blankety blank idiots who would put their children at a much greater risk.

  5. 5
    Cermet says:

    This is a form of bio-terrorism; sending a deadly illness through the mail (yes – these stupid fer’s package could even kill older adults exposed to the viral agent either by handling – these asswipes will cover the outside package with viral agents that people in the mail chain (who never had the illness) could catch – these asswipes sending the viral weapons are not bio-lab experts who could safely send such a package.) This is just impossible to believe and these people need to be tracked down and put in jail. Of course, there is a real danger even a child can die and this makes sense?
    Worse, chicken pox when gotten through illness stays an active infection in the body for life and will show up again when the child grows older and gets ill or stressed. Using this method is evil, stupid and dangerous.
    This thug created bio-terrorism against science is reaching a dangerous level of total irresponsiblity.

  6. 6
    David in NY says:

    oh crap. I must set the spell check to turn “soc…ists” into “soshulists” on this site (if possible).

  7. 7
    RossInDetroit says:

    I’m a little unclear here. Parents are trying to give their children a disease so they won’t have to take the required vaccination for it? And the reason is that they’re afraid of the vaccine? Is that what’s happening?

  8. 8
    jafg says:

    After seeing the texas dummy elected twice nothing surprises me anymore.

  9. 9
    cat says:

    These morons aren’t entirely to blame of their fear of vacinations. There are a fair number of scientists who allow(ed) themselves to be comprimised and pushed unsafe drugs on the population. When you couple that loss of trust of modern medicine with humans inability to guage risk correctly you get people whose fear of a >1% chance of a reaction to the vaccination overrides their fear of a ~1% chance of infection.

  10. 10
    Joseph Nobles says:

    Not to mention that the reason why chickenpox works is the same reason vaccines work.

  11. 11
    The Bearded Blogger says:

    A social darwinist would, in good conscience, at the very least cheat these people out of a couple of hundred bucks with fake “pox blankets”

  12. 12
    Steve says:

    @RossInDetroit: The theory is that if you get chicken pox when you’re young, it’s less serious than when you’re an adult (which is usually true) and that each person can only get chicken pox once (which is usually true, sorta). So there’s a school of thought that says you’re doing your kids a favor if you intentionally expose them to chicken pox.

    The way it works is that someone’s kid will get chicken pox and then mom will invite all her friends to a “chicken pox party” where all the other kids are encouraged to play with the sick kid and so forth. Personally I think it’s nuts.

  13. 13
    dcdl says:

    Arggghh! The pain in my head, it hurts!

    Please, please teach critical thinking and focus on science and what it actually is and means in schools.

  14. 14
    Steeplejack says:

    @Tom Levenson:

    [. . .] we’ve faced more than thirty years now of broad spectrum denialism—from Ronald Reagan’s numbers-denying advocacy of SDI to the anti-smoking advocacy another MIT colleague, Phil Hilts, documented so devastatingly more than 15 years ago [ . . .].

    You’ve got a clanger in there (emphasis mine). What Hilts exposed was either pro-smoking advocacy or anti-anti-smoking advocacy. Hell, probably just better to make it “anti-smoking denialism,” although that doesn’t sound as good.

  15. 15
    RossInDetroit says:

    @Steve:

    The way it works is that someone’s kid will get chicken pox and then mom will invite all her friends to a “chicken pox party” where all the other kids are encouraged to play with the sick kid and so forth. Personally I think it’s nuts.

    70 years ago my grandparents had my father sleep with a cousin who had chicken pox so he would ‘get it over with’. He never got symptoms so he lucked out.

  16. 16
    jibeaux says:

    @Steve: And when I was a kid, and you had a say, sixth grader, who hadn’t had chicken pox yet, this would be a defensible idea. Because there wasn’t a fucking vaccine then!

  17. 17
    David in NY says:

    @Steve:

    a school of thought that says you’re doing your kids a favor if you intentionally expose them to chicken pox.

    But the question is, if you understand that, and they do, why not just get vaccinated? (The doctors are adding mind control drugs to the vaccine, or whatever, is the best I can suggest …)

    ETA: Or they listen to Michelle Bachmann, or they think there’s a danger of getting autism, but that it’s safer to expose kids to germs sent in the mail by a complete stranger????

  18. 18
    RossInDetroit says:

    @David in NY:

    (The doctors are adding mind control drugs to the vaccine, or whatever, is the best I can suggest …)

    This may be related to the idiocy that attributes Autism and other disorders to vaccines. It’s been thoroughly debunked, but you can’t convince people like Bachmann.

  19. 19
    Steeplejack says:

    @David in NY:

    Because Jenny McCarthy said the vaccine will make your kid autistic, that’s why!

  20. 20
    Trinity says:

    Gross. And dumb.

    /also, too.

  21. 21
    Litlebritdifrnt says:

    @Steve:

    Certainly not true in my case. I along with my sister had chicken pox as a child. I got it again at the age of 28 when I was just about to finish my tour in Hong Kong with the Navy. I suppose you could argue that the strain I got in England as a child was somehow different than the one I got in Hong Kong as an adult, because even the doctor was gobsmacked when he diagnosed me “you’ve got chickens!” Cue two weeks being quarantined in my room, canceled flights, and utter misery and I still have the scars.

  22. 22
    Canadian Shoggoth says:

    What even worse is that the vaccine has a reduced chance of shingles later in life than the ‘caught’ strain. Knowing how much pain my father endured from shingles, that makes these parties even more indefensible.

  23. 23
    Xenos says:

    Have doctors lost the public trust given the stout opposition of the AMA to any proposed medical reforms, and the widely practiced and shamelessly promoted corruption of clinicians by drug companies?

    These lumpen-antivaccinarians don’t trust science, sure, but they also do not trust their own doctors. That should give the medical profession pause.

  24. 24
    jibeaux says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt:
    Very sorry about the misery, but the diagnosis is adorable!

  25. 25
    Steve says:

    @David in NY: Search me. I think this is an extension of the idea that “natural stuff is better, i.e. somehow you’re better off catching the disease the natural way than getting an artificial version through the vaccine process. I understand that some parents feel there are too many vaccinations nowadays and they want to cut down the number if they can, but I still can’t follow the logic if the method for eliminating one vaccine is to actually go out and catch the disease.

  26. 26
    The Bearded Blogger says:

    @RossInDetroit: man could that be taken out of context…

  27. 27
    jafg says:

    You can’t fix stupid and you don’t need to look any further than the comments here.

  28. 28
    Litlebritdifrnt says:

    @Steve: The scarey part is where do they stop? The story is about chicken pox, then they talk about moving onto measles, so what is the next disease that they are going to intentionally infect their children with?

  29. 29
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Tom Levenson, top;
    Watch the NOVA documentary Judgement Day:Intelligent Design on Trial, wherein one of the financial proponents of the Thomas Moore Law Center, an old man, openly says that the very intent is to discredit all of science and by so doing return the church to it’s rightful place of authority in American life.
    That’s what’s at stake here. Nothing more or less than the very understanding of what it means to be Human, to be American, and to be Christian. The actual science itself is merely collateral damage.

  30. 30
    The Bearded Blogger says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt: stupidity?

  31. 31
    Redshift says:

    @Steve:

    I understand that some parents feel there are too many vaccinations nowadays and they want to cut down the number if they can, but I still can’t follow the logic if the method for eliminating one vaccine is to actually go out and catch the disease.

    And the logic of “too many vaccinations” is basically “okay, the Earth is warming, but there’s no evidence humans are responsible.” There’s no evidence to support it either, but it’s the fallback “more reasonable” position when the initial denialist position seems untenable.

  32. 32
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt:

    what is the next disease that they are going to intentionally infect their children with?

    The Stupid Disease, and I fear it may already be too late.

  33. 33
    Yevgraf says:

    This is what happens when opinion untainted by investigation or facts becomes the ascendant media model.

    Opinion is cheap to create and purvey, and be twisted to the needs of the moment.

  34. 34
    jonas says:

    The tyranny of facts undermines privilege

    Cole should put this into circulation as one of the BJ masthead mottoes.

  35. 35
    RobertB says:

    I’m not on the ‘immunizations are bad’ bandwagon. But in the case of chickenpox I’ve been led to believe that the immunization granted from the vaccine will expire, where the immunization granted from the disease will not. And you don’t want chickenpox as an adult because it’ll pretty much wipe you out for a couple of weeks.

    That doesn’t mean mailing chickenpox suckers is a good idea, nor does it mean that measles parties are a good idea. But chickenpox parties amongst local kids is probably not the dumbest childrearing idea out there.

  36. 36
    Steve says:

    @Redshift: I think the logic is that the more shots you get at once, the more chance of some kind of conflict or reaction. The recommended schedules are often more aggressive than necessary, based upon the reality that some parents won’t bring their kids to the doctor as often as they should. There are shots they give to newborns that they could safely postpone a year or two until the kid has a tougher system, but they don’t because there’s no guarantee anyone will bring the kid back in a year or two to get that shot. So I don’t discount the possibility that astute parents can improve on the recommended schedules.

  37. 37
    RossInDetroit says:

    @Yevgraf:

    The MSM’s dog in this fight isn’t called Truth, it’s called Attention. If giving a forum to dangerous lies gets more eyeballs for the advertisers that’s what they’ll do. Public health be damned.

  38. 38
    Litlebritdifrnt says:

    @The Bearded Blogger:

    Good One!

  39. 39
    catclub says:

    @jafg: Which texas dummy do you mean? There appears to be a plethora.

  40. 40
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Steeplejack: Fixt. Thanks.

  41. 41

    Oh my. What an interesting thread. Maybe I’ve lived too long.

    When I was a child in Hastings, England in 1066, there were very few vaccinations of any sort. Also, my father was afraid of shots. But then, Dad was probably certifiably paranoiac about a lot of things.

    Anyway, I was shot free until my entrance into college, when I had to get vaccinated. By that time, I had survived just about every disease with spots. Even my smallpox inoculation didn’t “take”, possibly because of cowpox. The polio shot made my peers sick for a couple of days but I didn’t miss a beat. I guess there are advantages of wading around in cowshit.

    My own daughter, of course, was given every shot I could find.

    And speaking of inoculations, have you had that particular flu shot that protects against a relative of the avian flu? If you can introduce your body to that family of “bugs” you would have a better chance of surviving an epidemic.

    And get that pneumonia shot, too. It won’t protect you from everything but it will fight some of the most common causes of the disease.

  42. 42
    RossInDetroit says:

    I work in a school system Custodial department. The lengths we go to in killing germs are just short of absurd. Hand sanitizers everywhere. Antibacterial soaps. Power-washing locker rooms and restrooms with disinfectants. Special chemicals and training for everything. And signage everywhere exhorting kids to be clean and not spread germs.
    That some parents are intentionally spreading a dangerous virus so their kid doesn’t have to get a shot is just insane.

  43. 43
    catclub says:

    @RobertB: “But chickenpox parties amongst local kids is probably not the dumbest childrearing idea out there.”

    So I am guessing you might not be a fan of beauty pageants for5 year olds.

    Also from Yevgraf: “Opinion is cheap to create and purvey, and be twisted to the needs of the moment.”

    Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one, … and they can be twisted to the needs of the moment.

  44. 44
    woonkie says:

    I think the twenty seven percenters have always been with us.

    Four decades ago when my sister was a dentist in Cortez, Colorado, the local water supply did not have floride in it because a vocal minority thought floride was a Communist plot. They also thought that my sister was promoting floride because the reduction in tooth decay would give her some kind of financial benefit. And no amount of tooth loss and pain could change their minds. There were high school kids in that town with full dentures from tooth loss. Heck she had to yank abcessed teeth out of elementary school kids!

    SO I don’t think that there is more scientific illiteracy now than before. I think the difference is that back in the sixities and seventies this sort of stupidity was regarded as stupid and didn’t effect policy except in small political arenas where stupid fish could be the biggest ones in a small pond.

    Then the Rethuglican party and the media elites decided to invite the twenty seven percenters into the mainstream of our political discourse and started pretending that their lunacy was just another point of view. Decades of “he said, she said” journalism is programming people to think that there is no distriction between a person who knows what they are talking about and a person who doesn’t.

    So there is a decrease in the ability to judge sources of information and an increase in tolerance for blatant displays of stupidity.

  45. 45
    Mayken says:

    @efroh: As with pretty much every vaccine in the world, boosters are a necessity. It annoys me that the “for life” immunity we were told we would have with most childhood shots turned out to be untrue but that’s not a good reason not to vaccinate. And as was pointed out the “natural” way doesn’t confer absolute immunity either. And you’re more likely to get shingles later in life with the active infection than the vaccine. So yes it is still stupid parenting.
    Also, too, Tom, this is not a phenomena of the right alone as you imply – here in Cali it’s almost exclusively a “liberal” illness with lots of nutty anti-pharma sentiment going around. Some of my otherwise intelligent progressive friends are getting exemptions for reasons of “conscience” despite never stepping into a place if worship in their adult lives. So, in his limited instance, both sides really are doing it.

  46. 46

    Sweet fracking Buddha, people.

    This isn’t the Dark Ages. We had a Renaissance and an Enlightenment. (Part of which was driven by religious people who believed that God was rational and gave us the tools (our brains) to figure out how the world and the universe work.)

    What is wrong with you people that at any point it sounds safer to buy contaminated candy in the freakin’ mail from a stranger and give that to your kids rather than take them to the doctor?

    Cripes, just… stop it. Stop it.

    There’s no excuse for this.

  47. 47
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    @Linda Featheringill:

    When I was a child in Hastings, England in 1066

    That Norman invasion musta contributed somehow.

  48. 48
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Steve:

    The recommended schedules are often more aggressive than necessary, based upon the reality that some parents won’t bring their kids to the doctor as often as they should.

    And a lot of the time, the reason for that is that the parents have crappy insurance that will only pay for X number of doctor’s visits, so an extra visit or few visits to get the vaccines on a less aggressive schedule is $100 or $200 out of that parent’s pocket each time (assuming that the vaccination itself is covered).

    Because God forbid that a public health problem should be solved by, say, free vaccinations for every kid because that’s SOSHULISM! The free market demands that some kids die of preventable diseases so the 1% can feel superior to everyone else.

  49. 49
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @cat: I’m just going to call BULLSHIT. These parents are doing this because:
    1. Their children might become more promiscuous.
    2. Since they cannot think rationally, their fear of SOMETHING that is either not existent or exteremely rare causes them ignore the problems caused by not getting a vaccine. Children can die from chicken pox, yet somehow getting a vaccine based on a dead version of the virus is more dangerous?

  50. 50
    KyCole says:

    I remember being so pissed that they came out with the vaccine shorty after all three of my children had the Chicken Pox, one after the other. My eldest was sick her whole spring break and the baby still has scars since it was impossible to get a 1-year-old to leave the sores alone. My son had pox everywhere and was miserable. I can’t imagine doing that to them on purpose. Also, I had the measles when I was six and was horribly ill. These parents suck.

  51. 51
    Punchy says:

    70 years ago my grandparents had my father sleep with a cousin

    So you’re from Missouri, eh?

  52. 52

    @arguingwithsignposts:

    That Norman invasion musta contributed somehow.

    Yes. Dad just wasn’t the same after that. :-)

  53. 53
    phoebesmother says:

    @Cermet: Yeah, you don’t wanna mess wif’ anybody whose first name is Herpes.
    And yeah I got it a second time at 61 despite still having a few scars from when I was 7.

  54. 54
    peach flavored shampoo says:

    There are shots they give to newborns that they could safely postpone a year or two until the kid has a tougher system

    If you define “safe” as never leaving the house, ever. Otherwise, if you bring your 2-year old out in public (as 100% of people do), you’re unnecessarily exposing your kid who doesn’t have the proper protection.

    This “the vax sked is too aggressive!” bullshit needs to end. It’s not aggressive. It’s smart and necessary.

  55. 55
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Mayken: You are right – anti-vaxxing is not just a right wing meme. See the update above, one I’ve been meaning to add through two meetings so far this a.m.

  56. 56
    Emma says:

    I think a big part of the “vaccines must, must, must,cause autism/whatever” comes from a strange belief that life should be perfect and if it isn’t it’s because some agency interferes. I don’t know quite how best to explain it, but the closest I’ve seen it was with the mother of an autistic child who kept saying “I did everything right, so why should this happen unless the vaccine did it?” She couldn’t accept that the most common answer to many of these questions is usually “s–t happens”. She couldn’t accept “genetics” because, to her, that meant she or her husband had “done something wrong.” It was as if she needed to point at something or someone and say “you ruined my life.” It was the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.

  57. 57
    Steve says:

    @peach flavored shampoo: Sure, if you’re talking about airborne sicknesses, but I don’t think that’s applicable to all the vaccines on the typical newborn list. I’m not going to bother looking it up, though, as the screeching tone of your post just makes me want to ignore you altogether.

    I’m not sure why so many people think the most effective way to alter stupid behaviors in others is by screaming “STOP BEING SO STUPID” at them, but it’s a regrettably common mentality. Yes, yes, you know best, and shut up, that’s why.

  58. 58
    Geysergazers says:

    Batshit crazy immunization-deniers, climate-change-deniers and Science-Deniers in general are proof that a significant number of Humanoids who are able to perform the tasks of everyday life&work using Rational Thought at the same time have inner belief sets based on blind Superstition&Ideology. My Great-Grandmother believed in Witches: that there were people around her who could and did cast curses on people using the Evil Eye technique. She was an otherwise ordinary person who was able to not give herself food poisoning or scald herself in hot wash-water. My Dad, an Industrial Engineer who was able to work for many years as a Company labor relations guy, sees absolutely nothing wrong with Child Labor and believes that we don’t know what caused the Great Depression.

  59. 59
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    There is a significant portion of the Western world for whom the Enlightenment did not take.

  60. 60
    Ken says:

    For those commenters wondering “what are they thinking,” check the Respectful Insolence blog, http://scienceblogs.com/insolence. The blog owner has spent a lot of time on the antivaccination movement, so you can find out what lies have the parents scared.

    You can also find out who is doing the lying. As with most medical woo, the liars are often making a lot of money selling bogus alternative medicines, so it’s never clear if they are true believers or just scammers preying on the gullible.

  61. 61
    Mayken says:

    @Tom Levenson: thanks for the clarification. You’re correct the whole anti-science agenda is far more a thing of the right but the thing that gets me most about the anti-vax crowd is just how many of them are on the left. If it were simply a right-wing religious nut thing at least I could process that. People who on the one hand can have a perfectly intelligent conversation about green science and the need to combat creationism in schools and on the other hand will tell you with all honesty that they are not vaccinating their kids due to “teh Autism” or some such rock my world view completely.

  62. 62
    Catsy says:

    @Linda Featheringill:

    When I was a child in Hastings, England in 1066

    I want your genes.

    (Yes, I know, 9 is next to the 0, and what a pickup line that would make.)

  63. 63
    jacy says:

    @peach flavored shampoo:

    This “the vax sked is too aggressive!” bullshit needs to end. It’s not aggressive. It’s smart and necessary.

    Absolutely true. If you look at a lot of the cases of kids that die from preventable disease, its BABIES. It seems like people are willing to listen to any “advice” they get as long as it’s not from microbiologists and doctors.

  64. 64
    FDRLincoln says:

    OK, this is a big issue for me, so I will preface it by saying this:

    The anti-vaxxers are wrong. Very, very wrong.

    Now, that said, I have a couple of different viewpoints on this.

    1) I am 44 years old. I got chickenpox in third grade during a school epidemic. I had a mild case: I had a fever for a couple of days, and I had three pox on my back. But it was chickenpox, so I always assumed I was immune.

    2) My wife grew up with a sister and three brothers, who all had chickenpox. Her friends all had chickenpox. She assummed she had chickenpox as a kid, but she didn’t really remember.

    3) One day in 1996, I got really sick. I spiked a fever of 106. I was delirious. The doctors didn’t know what was wrong with me. They could not get my fever down. They asked my wife if I had been to Africa lately: I think they thought I had malaria or something. I was coughing like crazy; they thought I might have pneumonia or maybe even lung cancer, so they gave me a chest x-ray which showed nothing. They were about to send me to the intensive care unit due to the uncontrollable fever when a pox appeared on my arm.

    Within an hour, I had 10 pox. Within six hours, I was literally covered with chickenpox. I ran a fever of 105 for three weeks. I lost 30 pounds. It was three months before I felt normal again. It literally almost killed me.

    My doctor theorized that I caught a mild strain as a kid, but caught a more virulent one as an adult that the original illness did not confer proper immunity to. He told me there were a lot of things about chickenpox that they didn’t completely understand (as of 1996 anyway) and that it can be a deadly disease for adults.

    I have a very robust immune system and don’t get sick very often, which my doctor said is probably why it almost killed me: my immune system reacted so strongly to the virus that I almost burned myself out trying to kill it.

    Towards the tail end of my illness, just as I was barely able to function, my wife got sick with it. She didn’t get quite as sick as I did…her fever didn’t get above 105, and she didn’t get as many pox, but she was sick for a month. It was the worst summer of our lives.

    We didn’t have kids at the time, but our first was born two years later, and we always, ALWAYS made sure his vaccines were up-to-date. When the chickenpox vaccine came out, we made sure he got it.

    Anyone sending chickenpox through the mail is a criminal. Some postal worker who hasn’t been exposed, or who doesn’t have full immunity, could very well end up like me and my wife, or worse.

    We are also very familiar with the autism issue. Our second child is severely autistic. We love him, but it is an enormous emotional, psychological, and financial burden to care for him. We don’t blame the vaccines; his symptoms kicked in over a one-week period when he was 18 months old, turning a highly-verbal and inquisitive little boy into a non-verbal and inner-directed one within just a few days, like a light-switch being flipped. However, he hadn’t received his 18-month shots yet.

    I can totally understand how parents in a similiar situation could think it was the vaccines. If our boy had received his shots, then suddenly changed a few days later into a completely different person, we might think it was the vaccines too.

  65. 65
    nastybrutishntall says:

    @Emma: this. I’m actually a licensed acupuncturist by trade, because it works wonders for pain and injuries, but the magic thinking that goes on in the alt med community (including among my colleagues) and the hippy-libertarian communities (bridging left and right) follows this mindset – the irrational, ideological assertion that human bodies are perfect, and everything that’s happened since the ice ages has only made us weaker. It’s the idea behind the paleo diet, for instance, and behind the crazy idea that we should all shun vaccines, or never wash, or all be out hunting/farming/forraging, and if we all can’t then the weaklings out there should starve and/or just shut up. On the other hand, I believe that evolution did work out a few of the kinks over the years, and sometimes natural is better (see: HFCS, artificial sweeteners, etc), and following our evo-adapted-to lifestyles leads to sometimes more enjoyable outcomes than our recent techno-fetishistic lifestyle choices lead to (TV in childhood, for example). That said, I think Tom forgot to mention Big Pharma fraud as one of the causes of the anti bio-med end of the anti-science spectrum. When you can pay to have your drug approved regardless of its failure to meaningfully do anything to help anyone, then people stop truting drugs and the doctors who prescribe them…

  66. 66
    Gromit says:

    @Steve:

    I’m not sure why so many people think the most effective way to alter stupid behaviors in others is by screaming “STOP BEING SO STUPID” at them, but it’s a regrettably common mentality. Yes, yes, you know best, and shut up, that’s why.

    I think this deserves some emphasis. My kids are up-to-date on their vaccinations, but I can absolutely see why “it’s good for you, trust us, it’s SCIENCE” is less than persuasive to a lot of people. The medical/pharmaceutical industry has done itself a lot of damage over the years with drugs that destroy your liver and such, and I’m honestly not sure if we can expect the average citizen to maintain the level of knowledge needed to make a truly informed decision with respect to immunizations. So, it comes down to who you trust, and the institutions in question have a ton of work to do here, none of which is served by browbeating people for their often understandable ignorance.

    My perspective on this is partly due to my experience with the over-medicalization of childbirth, and seeing the extent to which modern medicine relies on its own weird mix of science and folklore, but I suspect it also has something to do with having realized long ago that we ALL have irrational beliefs, even those of us who like to think of ourselves as extremely educated and rational. Irrationality can’t be eradicated. It can be managed, though.

  67. 67
    Jamie says:

    what a better way to show love. Give your kid shingles when they hit 40. that’s parenting with a difference

  68. 68
    taylormattd says:

    I agree that the mindset is very right wing. I’m not sure I can agree, however, that the “anti-science virus that underlies . . . anti-vaxxing . . . manifests itself in our politics much more on the right”. It is pretty clear the anti-vaxx wackjobs are largely left-wing, luddite, conspiracy nuts.

    But maybe we are actually saying the same thing here, not sure.

  69. 69
    taylormattd says:

    @Steve: The problem is you assume anti-vaxxers can be reached by rational discussion. They can’t. It is little more than a religious cult.

  70. 70
    FDRLincoln says:

    And just to clarify, both our kids are fully immunized. Flu shots too.

    Our autistic son is quite sensitive and his system gets upset easily, so once the autism kicked in our pediatrician said it was OK to spread the immunizations out a bit. His 5–year-old booster immunizations, for example, were supposed to involve three seperate shots (MMR, chickenpox, DTPP). We did the MMR and pox shots, waited a month, then did the DTPP. Our doctor said this was fine.

  71. 71
    bystander says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:
    Hmm. My understanding is that for an individual to build a titre in response to a vaccine, they have to have – on some level – a functioning immune system. I just know there’s an application of that principle to the Enlightenment did not take.

  72. 72
    Mnemosyne says:

    @peach flavored shampoo:

    Yes, the CDC, those horrible science-haters. How dare they tell parents that they can space vaccinations out for kids between 6 and 18 months. Why does the CDC hate science?!?

  73. 73
    Karounie says:

    Steve @56

    You are right. The vaccine given in the hospital right after birth is for Hepatitis B. In my case the hospital staff specifically told me that newborns are not at risk for HepB unless an immediate family member or person close to the baby is infected (in our family we knew this was not true- we’d been tested.) The hospital staff also told us outright that the reason they give the vaccine at birth is because of the “captive audience” factor. They did allow me to sign something saying I opted to postpone but I promised to take care of it on my own.

  74. 74
    Karounie says:

    Hmm while my comment was in moderation, did 56 become 57?

  75. 75
    Monala says:

    @Mnemosyne: Crappy insurance is a real thing… but most insurance plans and doctor’s offices don’t bill you for a visit unless you actually see a doctor. Most nurses can administer a vaccine, so my experience is, if you want to take your kid in for a shot, you’ll just see the nurse and not get billed at all.

  76. 76
    Darnell From LA says:

    Barack Obama gave me a lollipop tainted with fat.

    Sincerely, #michaelmoorethoughts

  77. 77
    Mayken says:

    @Gromit
    A few years back I listened to an NPR program in which a immunologist from the CDC talked about the anti-vax campaign, including taking calls from anti-vax-ers. Now I wish I could remember this guys name because he was the calmest, most articulate, least “I’m a scientists so I’m smarter than you” person I have ever had the privilege of hearing speak. There was one woman who called in who was an avowed liberal, who did not have a child with autism or know anyone who did but nevertheless had swalled the Jenny McCarthy Kool-aid and refused to have her children vaccinated. This gentlemen proceeded in a very professional, non-condescending way, using laymen’s terms, to destroy every single one of this woman’s arguments, even to the point of getting her to say he was right about these things. Yet she still got off the phone saying should would not vaccinate her children.
    When you are dealing with this level of willful ignorance it is hard not to feel like metaphorically slapping the stupid out of people occasionally. So while I agree yelling at people not to be stupid won’t stop the stupid, sometimes it makes us feel better for a bit. Then most of us get back to the hard work of trying to educate the unwilling. Sigh!

  78. 78
    Mayken says:

    @Monala: don’t know where you live that the office doesnt charge for a nurse visit but this is most certainly not the case everywhere. Because my son was adopted from China we’ve had some interesting adventures with vaccines including still playing a little catch up (Don’t get me started on having to get him six shots before we could bring him home. Grrrr!) So some of his shots have been out of schedule yet I am charged for each visit despite “only” seeing a nurse. Admittedly not as much but still. And I am currently fighting our insurance company on a $100 co-pay for a shot (not the visit, the shot!) we had the temerity to do outside a wellness visit. And I have “good” insurance.
    So let’s not pretend its easy or cheap for people to go in and do vaccines on whatever schedule they want.
    That being said, while I am not usually a fan of medical strong arming vaccines are a case I think it is arguable a Good Idea.

  79. 79
    Sly says:

    @David in NY:

    So they understand the germ theory of disease, and they understand the notion of vaccination as a preventative, but … what?

    Pick one ore more of the following:

    1) BIG PHARMA!

    2) I don’t like evil statists telling me what to do!

    3) Just grind some tiger penis up with some hummus and rhinestones, snort it, and you won’t have to get vaccinated. For anything!

    4) Jesus is my vaccine!

  80. 80
    El Cid says:

    New opportunity in the survivalist / militia food ration business: Chicken Pox Pie.

  81. 81
    patrick II says:

    When you are dealing with this level of willful ignorance it is hard not to feel like metaphorically slapping the stupid out of people occasionally.

    Before we try to slap the stupid out of people we may want to remember that it was a study in the scientific journal Lancet, since debunked that first made the vaccine/autism link.
    In Ms. McCarthy’s own case she first recognized signs of autism in her own son shortly after a vaccination, read about the study and has been on a crusade ever since.
    I am not saying these people don’t need to be corrected, I am saying that when you are a parent of a helpless child, fear of the not-understood forces of the universe may motivate you to do some pretty stupid things. And in this case with a helping hand from “science”.

  82. 82
    Nathanael says:

    Oh, there’s nuts on all sides, but the right-wing has made a point of *driving sane people out* (look no further than John Cole), so now they’re ALL nuts.

    Whereas non-right-wing groups may be as little as 20% nuts!

  83. 83
    Mayken says:

    @patrick II: I am the parent of a small child so I understand the fear and the occasional impulse to do stupid things. Fortunately I have the benefit of an exceptionally level-headed partner who helps keep me from going too far much of the time (when I don’t catch my own self.) But this goes beyond a little bit stupid into willfully, defiantly paranoid and ignorant territory. Ms. McCarthy absolutely refuses to believe the fact that the doctor in question has not only been thoroughly scientifically smacked down but has been shown to have committed fraud. And do not even get me started on the whole “I cured my son of autism” BS. So, yeah, this is a whole other level of stupid than the everyday stuff us parents sometime do.
    And, as I said, after a little “makes me feel better even if it’s ineffective” screaming at the idiots, I generally go right back to trying to educate my fellow parents about herd immunity and assessing the real risks etc.

  84. 84
    patrick II says:

    @Mayken:
    I don’t disagree. I think in Ms. McCartney’s case she is receiving positive reinforcement for hysteria.

    However, as they are discussing in a thread above this one, much of this disdain for vaccination science exists in an environment where profits have created an atmosphere of more general distrust of science. Even though not directly on the disease topic, the Koch brothers and others like them have attacked science because it will hurt their oil profits. Not that climate change and vaccinations are the same, but they are linked by the aura of mistrust of science created by sociopathic billionaires, their various foundations and mouthpieces .

  85. 85
    Mnemosyne says:

    And since this hasn’t come up yet, I think part of the problem is that vaccination has actually been a huge success. People honestly don’t realize that measles is far, far more dangerous than chicken pox, or they think that modern science has advanced to the point where it’s no big deal.

    You’d think that having kids actually die of it would clue them in, but apparently not.

  86. 86
    Mayken says:

    @Mnemosyne: Yes, this. Most parents are a generation removed from seeing their friends and family die or be permanently disabled/disfigured by these “childhood” diseases. I wonder if dumping them into a village in rural China or Africa would help. (I know, probably not.)

  87. 87
    Richard says:

    I wonder how many deaths that Oprah Winfrey and Jennie McCarthy have had a hand in causing by pushing the vaccination lies.

  88. 88
    Mayken says:

    @patrick II: True, it was big money that started the whole vaccine/autism link histeria in the first place. Though I think in the left it is a different kind of mistrust than on the right. I’ll have to jump into the other thread as I have time.
    Cheers!
    M

  89. 89
    Tim in SF says:

    I do argue that the anti-science virus that underlies both anti-vaxxing and much else besides now manifests itself in our politics much more on the right than in the center or on the left—and that’s very dangerous indeed for the country as a whole.

    I disagree. Everything I’ve read on the anti-vax crowd says it’s way more prevalent on the left than on the right. Liberal enclaves like Ashland and Marin have dense pockets of unvaccinated children.

    Chicken pox parties sound like a good idea until you hear how many thousands of kids die from chicken pox every year. It’s preventable and should be prevented.

    As for measles parties… well, I think that may be Darwinism at work.

  90. 90
  91. 91
    Cheryl from Maryland says:

    My dark side is crying out for all anti chicken pox vaccine demagogs to get shingles. Both of my parents suffered from shingles in their 80’s, and it was horrible. Since I had chicken pox before the vaccine, shingles is on my repertoire of nightmares.

  92. 92
    Ruckus says:

    Let’s see here. I’ve had chicken pox(too early for vac), measles(same), shingles(a lovely visit from the past that’s worse than the first) and whatever other spreadable childhood diseases one could get from being born at the wrong time(well not polio, but people I know had that) They all suck. The entire family stood in line to take the polio vaccination(sugar cubes at first, shots later). Maybe this is generational thing. Maybe a lot of the parents didn’t ever see the results of having no vaccinations for communicable diseases, which all SUCK, or worse they kill. I wonder how these parents will feel when their children die of preventable diseases?

  93. 93
    HyperIon says:

    @question for Cheryl from Maryland: have you considered getting the shingles vaccine?

  94. 94
    gnomedad says:

    @Catsy:

    When I was a child in Hastings, England in 1066

    I want your genes.
    (Yes, I know, 9 is next to the 0, and what a pickup line that would make.)

    Oh, was that really a typo? Given the historically cliched year, I assumed it was a joke.

  95. 95
    Comrade Mary says:

    @Catsy: I think the 1066 was entirely deliberate, given she’s talking about freakin’ Hastings.

  96. 96
    Comrade Mary says:

    Or, what gnomedad said. I’ve even older than Linda, so cut me some slack.

  97. 97
    Jebediah says:

    @Richard:

    I wonder how many deaths that Oprah Winfrey and Jennie McCarthy have had a hand in causing by pushing the vaccination lies.

    Has Oprah made any public mea culpa/recantation on this? If not, has anyone confronted her with the number of dead babies in the last several years from these AVOIDABLE diseases?

  98. 98

    Dunno, I’m despairing enough of restoring sanity as our social norm that maybe a free market, social Darwinist remedy is all that’s left – make so much money off the anti-science morons that their reproductive fitness is reduced (even further than by their merely letting their children die). Question is, how?

  99. 99
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    America does quackery — which is subtly different from woo — better than anywhere else in the developed world. I think there are a lot of reasons for this, but weighing heavily among them is that both legitimate and quack medical services are commercial transactions, with the main distinction that the latter is cheaper.

  100. 100

    […] }()); Here’s an article I missed the first time, and thanks to Tom Levenson at Balloon Juice for catching it. Apparently some of the anti-vaxers are crazier than I thought.Prosecutor to […]

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