You give me disease

This is interesting and scary.


Non-medical vaccine exemptions are dangerous because they threaten what’s known as “herd immunity:” Diseases simply can’t spread in a community where a high enough percentage of the population is vaccinated against them. The required percentage of vaccinations to ensure herd immunity varies by disease; for pertussis (whooping cough), it’s between 93 and 95 percent, according to Johns Hopkins’ Jessica Atwell, lead author of a study on pertussis and vaccines published last year in the journal Pediatrics.

State laws about exemptions explain some of the pattern but not all of it (not especially easy to get them in VT or OR).


Don’t blame Jeebus:

In one analysis he found that whooping cough rates in states with personal belief exemptions are more than double those in states that allow only religious exemptions.

Also, Mississippi and West Virginia are the only states that don’t allow religious exemptions(!).

121 replies
  1. 1
    Liberty60 says:


  2. 2
    NCSteve says:

    WTF is wrong with Oregon?

  3. 3
  4. 4
    Baud says:

    Something has to convince people we are all in this together. Maybe it will be whooping cough.

  5. 5
    NonyNony says:

    In one analysis he found that whooping cough rates in states with personal belief exemptions are more than double those in states that allow only religious exemptions.

    This is unsurprising to me, even as an atheist.

    If you allow people to exempt themselves for any personal belief, you will have more exemptions. People believe weird shit. If you can say “I don’t want my kid vaccinated because I believe that vaccinations are unnecessary and a plot by Big Pharma to argle-bargle somethingorother” and have that belief honored by the law so that you don’t have to vaccinate your kids to get them into public school, you’re going to have a LOT of people who believe a LOT of weird shit exempting themselves.

    OTOH, I’ve always been told that “religious exemptions” typically meant that you had to argue from the tenets of a specific religion – best if you have a priest, minister, rabbi or imam write out a statement indicating why your religion forbids vaccinations. Since, in fact, MOST RELIGIONS DO NOT ACTUALLY FORBID VACCINATIONS, it’s actually a nice “teachable moment” for the priest/minister/rabbi/imam/whatever to sit down with their celebrant/parishoner/student/whatever and tell them exactly why they’re wrong and what they’re wrong about.

  6. 6
    The Dangerman says:


    WTF is wrong with Oregon?

    Drive I5 through Oregon and learn every station is a Bible station; I assume it’s religious exemptions.

  7. 7
    evinfuilt says:

    @The Dangerman:
    Sadly it’s not. Spend some time in Portland and you’ll realize a lot of the liberals don’t want anyone to touch their precious bodily fluids.

  8. 8
    boatboy_srq says:

    @Baud: If smallpox and polio weren’t enough to do it, whooping cough certainly isn’t.

  9. 9
    NonyNony says:

    @The Dangerman:

    Drive I5 through Oregon and learn every station is a Bible station; I assume it’s religious exemptions.

    Oregon have a large Christian Science or Amish population or something? There aren’t that many religions that actually forbid vaccinations as a tenet of their religion.

  10. 10
    The Dangerman says:


    Spend some time in Portland…

    I guess that’s the problem; I get through PDX Metro as fast as humanly possible (which generally means the bypass).

  11. 11
    Violet says:

    @boatboy_srq: Smallpox and polio happened before most of the young parents who are not vaccinating their kids now were born. The parents who need to be vaccinating their kids don’t have any memory or understanding of why they want their kids to be protected. They’ve never seen those diseases. It’s like they don’t exist. If a bunch of kids and adults were catching smallpox and polio now then things might be different.

  12. 12
    KG says:

    @The Dangerman: @evinfuilt:

    Drive I5 through Oregon

    Spend some time in Portland

    Now why would any sane person do that?

  13. 13
    The Dangerman says:


    Oregon have a large Christian Science or Amish population or something?

    Can’t speculate denominations…

    …but I’m serious; there’s a long stretch of I5 with basically nothing but religious broadcasting (and the ones that aren’t are Limbaugh). My CD player gets a workout there.

  14. 14
    KG says:

    @The Dangerman: invest in satellite radio. it’s a bit more costly now because they did away with the life time subscriptions, but it’s well worth it if you do a lot of driving.

  15. 15
    slippytoad says:


    It’s like they don’t exist. If a bunch of kids and adults were catching smallpox and polio now then things might be different.

    Just wait, it will happen.

    Then, can we take Jenny McCarthy on public TV and smack the living FUCK out of her dumb ass for causing so much death and misery? Can we use public humiliation on these destructively stupid fuckheads, and make it somewhat of a frightening thing to set out to be a giant bullshit artist and pull a fast one on the American people?

    Can it ever, finally, actually hurt to be so colossally fucking stupid and useless? Or will this nation be run forever by the least, the stupidest, the worst? The loudest?

  16. 16
    James E. Powell says:

    @The Dangerman:

    there’s a long stretch of I5 with nothing but religious broadcasting (and the ones that aren’t are Limbaugh).

    The last time I drove across the country, this was true of large sections of these United States. When I left Columbus, Ohio, I left non-right-wing, non-Jesus radio behind until I got to Phoenix.

  17. 17
    The Dangerman says:


    …but it’s well worth it if you do a lot of driving.

    Well, that’s the rub, I don’t do a lot of driving…

    …but I’m still thinking about Sirius (or similar). I assume you can always find a good game or some good driving music.

  18. 18
    Yatsuno says:

    @The Dangerman: Portland has gotten better in spite of the hipsters & the religious nuts. Hell I almost put in for a job down there.

  19. 19
    J.Ty says:

    I blame jeebus and hippies, it’s not just a conservative thing. Hell, Marin fucking County, one of (if not the) wealthiest & least Christian counties in the country, which is full of weird hippies who do things like pass resolutions banning chemtrails, has been having annual whooping cough outbreaks since 2010 & often has one of California’s highest rates.


  20. 20
    Libby's person says:

    I’ve already got an unhealthy case of existential angst today tied to the weather. A destabilizing Jet Stream coupled with rapidly melting ice in Greenland and the rest of the Arctic spells trouble down the road for the Gulf Stream and ocean circulation patterns in general, at which point we are well and truly screwed. A flu pandemic is going to happen sometime, and lots of migrating diseases are already knocking on my door. Now I have to worry about idiots voluntarily opening that door to diseases that were on the verge of extinction?!* Argh!

    * (Actually, I was already worried about those idiots. And yes, I am a lot of fun at parties, why do you ask?)

  21. 21
    Liberty60 says:

    Even blue states have large stretches of red. The interior of California most closely resembles Oklahoma.

  22. 22
    Villago Delenda Est says:


    Jenny McCarthy disease is spreading all over the place. There are a lot of serious deniers of some aspects of medical science scattered about, leftover hippies, religious types, just plain ornery people.

    As noted by The Dangerman upthread, it’s not a rural/urban split thing, either. Lots of precious bodily fluid types, a great deal of paranoia about a number of things.

  23. 23
    KG says:

    @The Dangerman: if you don’t do a lot of driving, they have plenty of receivers that you can pull out of the car and plug into your home stereo. That’s what I had previous to my latest car purchase, where it came with a Sirius factory stereo. I’d pull it out and listen at home. you get NFL and NBA games on Sirius, MLB on XM, plenty of college games as well. plus all (or almost all) the music channels are commercial free (they recently added a terrestrial LA station and a NYC station); they also have audio feeds from all the cable news channels and talk radio of all sorts. basically, everything you could possibly want and then a bunch more stuff you don’t.

  24. 24
    J.Ty says:

    I get pretty incensed when I see some of my FB friends of the aforementioned Marin variety post like “These are the ingredients in vaccines! I’m *never* putting that in my/my child’s body!” And they’re, like, hard-drinking smokers with a cocaine habit.

  25. 25
    KG says:

    @Liberty60: dustbowl descendants.

  26. 26
    The Dangerman says:


    Hell I almost put in for a job down there.

    When I lived in Seattle, I thought about Corvallis; nice college town and all…

    …but I wanted more sunshine (3rd Gen SoCal boy; blood is mighty thin) so Central CA it was. Now I’m begging for rain. It’s not fair ;-)

    I’m pretty sure I was a SAD person (ooooh, now THERE’S a hanging curveball); I should have popped Vitamin D like Pez in Seattle. Oh, well.

  27. 27
    esc says:

    There are a disturbing number of people who believe that since they are accomplished in a certain field, they have the intellectual ability to come to a different conclusion about vaccines than all the legitimate medical research. My husband works with a guy who is brilliant at what he does, but apparently selectively vaccinates because he essentially thinks he must be genetically superior or these diseases would have prevented him from being born in the first place or some such nonsense. You combine that with fetishizing anything “natural” and you get where we are now with idiots trying to give their kids chicken pox by buying half used lollypops on Facebook from strangers because somehow that’s better than getting the vaccine.

  28. 28
    raven says:

    I’ve had a cough for almost 6 weeks. When I visited my MD a couple of weeks ago she said to let it ride for a while longer. Seems worst right after I eat and it doesn’t seem to be improving.

  29. 29
    Violet says:

    @raven: Did you have a cold or anything that would cause the cough? Or did it did just show up? Allergies going on? Maybe the cold weather is contributing. I know it did a number on me.

  30. 30
    dr. luba says:

    @esc: They’re called “engineers.”


  31. 31
    dr. luba says:

    @Violet: Dry heat does that to me. Winters are horrible, especially at work, where there is absolutely no humidity (humidifiers are unsafe in hospitals FWIW).

    IANA internist, but have noticed that, as you get older, the sequalae of a viral URI can drag on and on. Particularly the cough. Many internists now prescribe inhalers of various sorts to us older types for symptomatic improvement, especially steroid ones.

  32. 32
    raven says:

    @Violet: I really was never sick, I’m congested y some and I ate a zyrtec just to see if it helps. I don’t cough a great deal when I’m sleeping, maybe it’s the dry air.

  33. 33
    dr. luba says:

    I am from Michigan and want to know, seriously, WTF Michigan? We are neither a particularly crunchy state, nor a really right wing state. What is up?

  34. 34
    raven says:

    @dr. luba: I think that was my doc’s position. Maybe I’ll run out and get a humidifier.

    eta I fall into that “older” group fo sho.

  35. 35
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    The article pointed out that Vashon Island, WA (which is in Puget Sound SW of Seattle, NW of Tacoma) had a vaccine exemption rate of 17% of Kindergarteners in 2013. The year before, 16% of all whooping cough cases in the state of Washington were on Vashon Island, which accounts for 1% of the population of the state.

    I’m seeing some pretty clear cause and effect stuff here…

  36. 36
    Face says:

    Darwinism in action, yo.

  37. 37
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @dr. luba: I am blaming the relatively high Amish population in Wisconsin for its position.

  38. 38
    pseudonymous in nc says:


    Spend some time in Portland and you’ll realize a lot of the liberals don’t want anyone to touch their precious bodily fluids.

    Yeah, the rainbow-parent antivax brigade in Portland intersects heavily with the people who don’t want fluoride in the municipal water supply, which is rich coming from people who drink undiluted hop juice and call it beer. So you get local artisanal pandemics.

  39. 39
  40. 40
    dr. luba says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: We have Amish here in MIchigan, too, but not as many as states like Pennsylvania…or even Wisconsin, which is not as populous overall.

    Michigan used to produce its own vaccines and provide them free to all citizens. Governor Engler (R, of course) did away with that foolish, wasteful frippery.

    I wonder if Ann Arbor contributes to this?

  41. 41
    StringOnAStick says:

    @dr. luba: My husband and I used to get at least one nasty round of bronchitis each winter and even once or twice in the summer. One year he was just starting to get it when we left for a trip to a much more humid climate, and he was immediately over it so from then on we’ve run a humidifier in our bedroom every night, all night, all year long. Neither of us has had bronchitis since (7 years), and it has been at least 3 years since there’s been a cold in the house.

    Ours is a very dry climate and cold in the winter, so once that house humidity drops thanks to the furnace the cat spends the rest of the winter cringing before you pet her since there WILL be a spark.

  42. 42
    StringOnAStick says:

    @dr. luba: I’ve got relatives in MI, some blue collar. The level of crazy conspiracy wingnutatude in MI is a lot higher than you might suspect. Remember the Michigan Militia, one of the pre-teabagger incarnations of crazy? Lots more where that came from….

  43. 43
    Violet says:

    @dr. luba: Yeah, I had a cough that dragged on and on one year. Finally the doctor gave me a steroid inhaler sample. I used it for about three or four days and I was fine. I think my body just needed a little help to get over whatever it was.

    @raven: If it’s the dry air, see if a humidifier might help. If you don’t want to invest in that, you can do a steam inhale. Fill up the sink or a large bowl with hot water, drape a towel over your head and the sink/bowl and just stay under there for five to ten minutes. You can also add some oils like eucalyptus and/or tea tree oil to it. The eucalyptus really opens up the sinus passages and gets into the lungs. Might help–it’s helped me from time to time.

  44. 44
    Ben Cisco says:

    @slippytoad: @Villago Delenda Est: Not going to deny that McCarthy is due some smackage, but who’s the bigger fool – the fool or those who follow the fool? There’s a whole lot of people self-selecting for stupid – and putting not only their kids but everyone else’s at risk in the process – by following this (and other) imbeciles.

  45. 45
    jacy says:

    If a hell existed, there would be special circle in it for vaccine deniers and people who choose not to vaccinate their kids without a medical exemption. They’re contributing to the death of other people, mostly children, not to put too fine a point on it.

    True story: a friend of mine who tends to be kind crunchy granola (but considers herself very well-informed) once said to me, “I don’t know, there are just too many vaccines. It’s seems like they’ve got one for everything.”

    To which I incredulously replied, “Yes, and there are just too many cures for diseases that used to kill us too! Why what an awful thing if we create a world where no children died of preventable disease. Why can’t people just die young naturally like they did in the old days! ”

    Stupid fucking people. I try, but it’s very difficult for me not to wish very bad things on them.

  46. 46
    ruviana says:

    @The Dangerman: Rural Oregon has a very high number of small churches that believe in faith healing to the exclusion of medicine.

  47. 47
    Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again) says:

    @dr. luba:

    Ann Arbor might contribute, but I’m thinking it’s probably related to the right wing here on the west side of the state going further off the deep end in the last couple of decades.

  48. 48
    dr. luba says:

    @StringOnAStick: Yes, chemtrails……

    The second map above is wrong; medical exemptions are allowed, but also

    “A child is exempt from immunization if a parent, guardian, or person in loco parentis of the child presents a written statement to the administrator of the child’s school or operator of the group program to the effect that the requirements of this part cannot be met because of religious convictions or other objection to immunization.”

  49. 49
    dr. luba says:

    @jacy: Agree 100%. If they just wanted to risk themselves and their spawn, fine, but their actions can harm the vulnerable among us. And that is unconscionable.

  50. 50
    Nicole says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: The “Amish don’t vaccinate” thing is a myth. They do. Of course, there are some that don’t, just as there are some in every population, but the majority do. They aren’t to blame for the rise in preventable diseases.

    I’m currently reading The Panic Virus, by Seth Mnookin, about the various anti-vaccine movements that have cropped up over time. The book opens with an absolutely terrifying story about a boy who got sick suddenly with a severe sore throat, among other symptoms, but was a mystery to the doctors in Emergency, until a doctor in his 60’s, who was old enough to remember what Hib looked like, saw the boy, and, as it turned out, the other doctors had been doing exactly the wrong things in their attempts to diagnose and made the boy worse.

    The hard thing is that science is never 100 percent, and nothing in life is entirely without risk. But people seem to have a very hard time comparing rates of risk. So on the one hand, you have scientists saying, “No vaccine can ever be 100 percent safe” and “No vaccine is 100 percent effective” (true) and on the other hand, anti-vaccinaters more than willing to lie about risks from disease (oh, measles isn’t so bad! Everyone used to get it as a kid!), and also to play up and misrepresent vaccine risks (thimerisol! Vaccine injury courts! Blah blah blah!). Ugh.

    We follow the recommended vaccine schedule and I intend that my son will get the HPV vaccine too, when he’s old enough. I understand he’s not at risk of cervical cancer, but the girls I assume he’ll be sleeping with someday will be. (if he ends up liking guys, that’s fine too, of course. He’s still getting the vaccine)

  51. 51
    dr. luba says:

    @Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again): Our hospital had to get really serious about its influenza immunization efforts this year. Failure to get immunized, unless you have a legitimate medical exemption (that has to be approved by committee), is a firing offense. Those who have an exemption, and I personally know of only one such person, have to wear a mask during flu season while working with patients.

    And some of the weirdest anti-vaccine people I met at work, who are mostly gone now, tended to be right wing conspiracists. Yes, you have a right not to be immunized, but you don’t have a right to work in a hospital.

  52. 52
    Mayken says:

    @Face: if only that were the case. Except they are largely not doing it to themselves but to other people’s children – kids and adults who cannot be vaccinated for varying reasons (immuno compromised, too young, actual medical reaction to vax component) are getting sick and dying due to the willful ignorance of a small percentage of the population. Makes me so flaming mad!

  53. 53
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Nicole: Can I blame the hippies in the Willy Street neighborhood of Madison? Posse Comitatus from around Tigerton? Some combination of the above?

  54. 54
    dr. luba says:

    @Nicole: I can’t tell you how many left-wing sites I’ve been on that are in full vaccine denial. Did you know that polio was not eradicated with vaccines? That’s what they claim.

    Dog knows, I love the internet, but I really think it is contributing to the stupidification of America. Too many people cannot judge which sources are accurate and which aren’t, and tend to give everything equal validity. Who needs case control trials when your Aunt Millie swears that homeopathy works, and there are a hundred web sites that support her claim?

  55. 55
    aimai says:

    @NonyNony: Also there are definitely people who want to refuse vaccines on the “big pharma arglebargle” line but who are personally opposed to religion and religious dogma. The point is that you can check that box whether you have a religious belief or not, but some people are not going to want to attribute their very important personal insights into Jenny McCarthy’s web site to religion because they are some other kind of granola kook.

  56. 56
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    @Nicole: Also, HPV is implicated in anal cancers and is found in 50% of penile cancers, so HPV infection is considered a risk factor (as are not being circumcised and smoking). I hope that parents of male kids will learn the benefits of HPV vaccination for their kids also.

  57. 57
    Redshift says:

    @jacy: “Too many vaccines” and “more than a child’s system can handle” for combination vaccines like MMT were the new lines of BS the anti-vaxxers came up with when the thimerasol/autism thing started to fall apart. It’s classic pseudoscience, designed to sound like there’s plausible medical evidence behind it when it’s actually just made up.

  58. 58
    Fuzzy says:

    In Marin and Sonama counties CA it is mostly the helicopter mothers who have a kid while in their early 40s and think nothing should touch them that is not entirely natural. This same subset has the time and money to force these exemptions.

  59. 59
    evinfuilt says:

    artisanal pandemics

    @pseudonymous in nc:

    I love that, it’s a perfect term. I’ll use it for my local nuts in Boulder who don’t vaccinate. For the ones in the Springs (Colorado Springs), I’ll just continue calling them idiots.

  60. 60
    Nicole says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Absolutely! It makes me bananas how many friends I have who are on the left side who oppose vaccination.

    In full disclosure (as I think I’ve said here before) I was anti- flu vaccine for a good 17 years- oh, it’s good for your immune system to fight things off every so often, natural resistance is best, I never get flu, blah blah. Then I got flu and was reminded that when you have flu, you wish you were dead. I have gotten that shot in my arm every year since. I can’t begin to articulate my rage at parents that would willfully put their kids through a week or more of misery rather than a stick in the arm (or a snort up the nose, since the inhaled vaccine is more effective in little kids). RAGE. RAGE RAGE RAGE.

  61. 61
    Violet says:

    @dr. luba: I’d disagree on that. There have been plenty of snake oil formulas and salesmen out there for centuries. The internet is just a different way of delivering that information to people. They don’t sell it door-to-door or advertise in the back of a magazine; these days they put up a website and fabricate testimonials.

    Human nature hasn’t changed. People will fall for all sorts of things.

  62. 62
    Julie says:

    @NCSteve: Yeah, we don’t have fluoride in our water, either.

  63. 63
    Nicole says:

    @dr. luba: I really recommend this book, The Panic Vaccine. It looks at how, even in pre-internet days, the media would push bad information, especially where science and medicine are concerned. The anti-vaccine movement is as old as vaccines themselves; it just keeps reforming behind different stupid arguments. Though there have been a few instances where overzealousness on the part of the government led to bad vaccines- and of course in those cases, the relatively small number of people harmed is blown out of proportion to the number of people helped. Jesus christ, even when my son got the polio vaccine, a couple of elderly friends of mine started twittering about how “some people get polio from the vaccine.” Sure. IN NINETEEN FUCKING FIFTY FIVE. And they, being old enough to remember polio epidemics, really should have known better.

  64. 64
    Roger Moore says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    I’m seeing some pretty clear cause and effect stuff here…

    Cause and effect are all part of the conspiracy.

  65. 65
    David in NY says:

    @dr. luba:

    Michigan used to produce its own vaccines and provide them free to all citizens. Governor Engler (R, of course) did away with that foolish, wasteful frippery.

    That’s the Michigan I remember from growing up. I haven’t lived there for nearly 40 years, but it seems to have become a much worse place (from a political point of view). Wonder how the Dutch line up on this — they’re the conservative core of the Western Lower Peninsula. Anyway, a damn shame.

  66. 66
    David in NY says:

    Or is the anti-vaccine movement just the anti-fluoridation movement in new clothes? I remember in Michigan in the ’50’s, my parents having to go to meetings to face off with the anti-fluoridation nuts. Commies sucking out your precious bodily fluids, you know.

  67. 67
    dr. luba says:

    I agree that there have been plenty of snake oil formulas and salesmen out there for centuries. It just seems as though that the democratization of the internet has made bad information even more accessible. Before, you really had to search it out; now the University of Google serves it up to you, at home.

    When most information was in analog form, printing and distributing misinformation was much more labor and cost intensive. And sites like Facebook allow true (dis)believers to find each other, reinforce their beliefs, and proselytize.

  68. 68
    DougJ says:


    Could be post-nasal drip if it’s worst after you eat.

  69. 69
    joel hanes says:

    Spend some time in Portland … a lot of … liberals

    Spend some time on the upper reaches of the Rogue River, and you’ll realize that a lot of 60s burnouts don’t want anything to do with The System, man.

  70. 70
    DougJ says:

    @dr. luba:

    Could be no one in the UP is vaccinated.

  71. 71
    catclub says:

    @boatboy_srq: “If smallpox and polio weren’t enough to do it, whooping cough certainly isn’t.”

    They were, until that generation is gone and the next generation has to learn it. Polio and smallpox vaccination rates in the US probably neared 100%, yes? But my brother – 56 – has a smallpox vaccine mark and I do not.

  72. 72
    dr. luba says:

    @David in NY: The anti-fluoridation movement still lives, and is gathering steam and support. Same mindset, though, and many of the same actors, I suspect.

    I’ve had to quit several “liberal” FB groups because they were rife with anti-scientific woo.

  73. 73
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    @raven: A humidifier will be likely to help. It certainly won’t do any harm. Towel and steam with eucalyptus EO (or bruised leaves) won’t hurt either. Similar to our parents and a bowl of Vick’s in the humidifier (showing my age) just without the menthol.

  74. 74
    dr. luba says:

    @DougJ: Not no one, but “Childhood immunization rates (the percentage of children age 19-35 months who have completed the recommended vaccination series) hover around 70% in Baraga, Gogebic and Ontonagon counties, and 60% in Houghton-Keweenaw, leaving too many young children vulnerable to serious vaccine-preventable diseases.”

    The UP has some hippies, but more Apostolic Lutherans and teahadis. Still, I am shocked by these numbers.

  75. 75
    shelly says:

    Guess I shoulda posted this in the Max thread, but…..
    Finally got the back door cleared enough so my pup can get into her adored backyard, and have now just heard that tomorrow’s snow showers/rain has been upgraded to another 5 inches of snow.

  76. 76
    dr. luba says:

    Also, too:

    One reason Michigan has a high number of exemptions is it allows philosophical waivers while roughly 30 states do not.

    “We have maybe a little more liberal view of what qualifies as a waiver than other states. And so I think more and more people have taken advantage of that,” said Bob Swanson, director of the state’s Division of Immunizations. “That’s where we need to really voice the importance of making sure kids are vaccinated and that only legitimate waivers are being utilized.”

    “Some parents may have no philosophical opposition but find it easier to file a waiver after forgetting to schedule a vaccination before the school year starts, said Jevon McFadden, an epidemiologist with the CDC who is based at the Michigan Department of Community Health.

    i.e. Many parents just can’t be bothered.

  77. 77
    taylormattd says:

    Oregon is easy: a whole shitload of so-called progressives are anti-science wackos. They just are.

  78. 78
    Roger Moore says:

    @dr. luba:

    When most information was in analog form, printing and distributing misinformation was much more labor and cost intensive.

    But once the misinformation was out there, those same obstacles made it harder to counter.

  79. 79
    West of the Cascades says:

    @Julie: Our bodily fluids are more precious than theirs.

    To everyone dumping on Portland: yes, it really sucks here, you should absolutely stay away and never think about moving here. Don’t come visit, either, you might catch one of our pandemics. If you’re fleeing California because it has no water, just keep driving on up to Seattle. Nothing to see here.

    That said, as an Oregonian, I was horrified when I saw this map – I don’t have kids or interact with many folks who do, but I work in the environmental community here and I can fully understand the mindset that’s against flouride, against vaccines … but while I can see not wanting heavily-diluted poison added to our water, particularly given the mixed science on beneficial effects from flouride, I cannot understand ignoring the overwhelming science on the benefits (and small risks) of vaccines — it borders on climate change denialism. It was funny during the flouride debate to hear friends who are deeply involved in climate change activism argue forcefully that “the scientific benefits of flouride are ambiguous. Science for me, not for thee, I guess.

  80. 80
    Violet says:

    @dr. luba: I don’t know. I think the accessibility of information is good. Sure, crazy theories are more accessible but so is good scientific information. If you want to follow quality science blogs and read abstracts from PubMed and link across to the actual publication in a respected peer-reviewed journal, you can do that. That sort of option was not available to most people even fifteen years ago.

    The accessibility of medical information (good and bad) can drive doctors crazy. I have quite a few friends who are doctors and we’ve had multiple discussions about how it is from their perspective when the patient comes in with a six inch thick stack of things they’ve printed out from the internet. In my experience, some doctors are more open to that kind of thing that others, so long as you’re bringing in actual articles and not print outs from Doc Anti-Vaccer’s House of Woo.

    Personally, I’m thrilled with the increased availability of medical information and the ability to work my way through a medical problem I’ve got and converse with other people about an issue. Plus, someone on the internet saved my life. I’m not kidding. Someone on a message board–a lay person–diagnosed my thyroid problem and begged me to get the bloodwork done to test for it. I went to my doctor and spent the better part of half an hour convincing him to just run the damn blood tests, and when my TSH came back it was over 13. No wonder I could hardly function. I’m pretty sure if it had stayed at that for much longer I would have ended up in the hospital or died.

    So despite having to wade through the plethora of bad information, there’s actually quite a bit of good information out there that the average person can access now that they couldn’t before. I’m forever grateful for that.

  81. 81
    PurpleGirl says:

    @jacy: I did not know there was now a vaccine for pneumonia. At one of my regular check-ups the nurse asked if I’d had a shot or would I want one. I said, Of course, I’ll have it. There a number of things that they ask you as a routine at the clinic I go to. I have no problem with them keeping track of depressive feelings, HIV status, if you’ve had the current flu shot, whatever. It helps keeps me and other City residents safe.

  82. 82
    Anoniminous says:


    A whole shitload of Americans are anti-science whackos. Evolution is “the poster child:” only 32% of Americans think evolution is a natural process.

  83. 83
    Big R says:

    @raven: I am currently having the same damn thing. Cough drops, and my doc suggested Tesselon pearls. No thank you.

  84. 84
    dr. luba says:

    @Violet: It’s a mixed bag. I love the internet, and use it all the time to look up medical information myself. When it comes to medicine, I know what the good sites are, and how to read and interpret a journal article. I can get much more up-to-date information from the web than from a textbook.

    I am a hospitalist, so don’t have to deal with patients and their stacks of printouts (although I hear about it from clinician friends.) My nurses and I do have to deal with “birth plans” printed out from the web…..ZOMG, the misinformation. It seems like many of them were written by people who haven’t set foot in a delivery room in several decades. And don’t get me started on the current rage for placentophagy.

    But that’s neither here nor there. The web isn’t going anywhere, and it is a mixed blessing. I do think that it has contributed to vaccine misinformation and decreased immunization rates, but I have no way of proving this. It would make an interesting study, though. And I have no idea how to counteract this. Better state legislatures would be a start.

  85. 85
    Julie says:

    @West of the Cascades: Ha! Yes, everyone from California should definitely keep driving to avoid our ‘artisanal pandemics.’ ;)

    I’m conflicted on the fluoride thing. There are just too many other issues tangled up with it. I do have a small child and we give her fluoride drops (when I remember). But the vaccine thing… yeah. I do not get it. Our pediatrician was visibly weary and wary broaching the subject with us, until he realized that my husband works in medicine (and we’re not crazy). We had an active whooping cough outbreak in PDX when my daughter was a newborn and it was just terrifying. It galls me that people can be so selfish. I got a flu vaccine for the first time this year because I now spend a ton more (read: any at all) time around babies and other assorted tiny people now that I have a kid. It’s just seems like the responsible thing to do.

  86. 86
    Steeplejack (phone) says:

    @The Dangerman:

    Yeah. I have played a CD in my car only two or three times in the two years I’ve had SiriusXM. They have a channel for everything down to left-handed bluegrass.

  87. 87
    Roger Moore says:

    @Julie: @West of the Cascades:
    I don’t get the thing about fluoride at all. Yes, fluoride is poisonous at higher concentrations. So are plenty of things that are essential nutrients at the right concentration, like copper and selenium. Yes, the fluoride that gets put into our water is an industrial byproduct, but so are plenty of other things that wind up in our food and water. The bad stuff people say about fluoride is just a bunch of scare tactics. Meanwhile, the science showing the fluoride is good for people’s teeth is rock solid, the main one being that people living in areas where the water supply naturally has fluoride levels similar to those that they want to add to the water have many fewer cavities than people living in areas where the water is naturally fluoride free.

  88. 88
    Steeplejack (phone) says:


    I popped for a stand-alone wi-fi Sirius radio for the apartment. It has surprisingly good sound and gets used a lot.

  89. 89
    goblue72 says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Given that Vashon Island is a bedroom community for the kind of upper-middle class, left-leaning professional who is for some odd reason susceptible to anti-vaxx propaganda, that stat makes a lot of sense.

  90. 90
    goblue72 says:

    @The Dangerman: What’s with the Portland hate? Unless one has the money to live the life of the landed gentry in the Willamette, Portland’s about the only civilized place to live in Oregon. I mean, it is a bit of a sleepy city after 10 PM, but that’s pretty much true of everything north of San Francisco.

  91. 91
    taylormattd says:

    @Anoniminous: We all know religious wingnuts are anti-science.

    What is pathetic is when so-called “progressives” aren’t much different.

  92. 92
    Cassidy says:

    I’ll have to wait until Greenwald gives an opinion on vaccines so I’ll know what opinion to have like a good liberal.

  93. 93
    Julie says:

    @Roger Moore: I feel like the good probably outweighs the harm (particularly for lower income or otherwise vulnerable children) but if the people of Portland truly don’t want it… Well, that’s democracy with all its faults. I have more empathy for the concerns about fluoride than I do for the vaccination stuff because the stakes are a lot lower.

  94. 94
    Nicole says:

    @Julie: Except there’s no science that backs up the idea that fluoridated municipal water is harmful:


    As this article mentions, fluoride naturally occurs in a lot of water anyway, which is how its protection against caries was first discovered. When people vote against it, they are electing to take a low-cost preventative health measure away from the entire population. If they are that concerned, they can drink bottled water. Yes, it will cost them more. So do fillings from the dentist for those who would prefer fluoridated water. It’s yet another way lower-income people get shafted.

    Seriously. The Panic Virus. I swear, I’m not getting a kickback.

  95. 95
    IowaOldLady says:

    @Roger Moore: The last time I had my teeth cleaned, the hygienist said she knew a dentist who didn’t think flouride should be in the water because it was poison. I was appalled.

    OTOH, I suppose that would be good for this guy’s business.

  96. 96
    dr. luba says:

    A nurse friend of mine has this to say (she’s worked in public health, such as it is, in Michigan):

    It’s way too easy to waiver your kid in Michigan. There’s a state law that requires parents/guardians provide proof that immunizations are up-to-date at the time of school entry/registration, but it’s not enforced, partially because of state funding being tied to “count days” and also because many parents would simply choose not to send their children to school over getting their shots (believe me, I’ve heard every excuse in the book). They simply ask the school for a waiver form, check off “personal/religious”, assume enough other kids are protected that there won’t be an outbreak that would cause their child to be excluded from school (a condition of the waiver).

    The state and districts really need to work together on this. The health department used to have Public Health Nurses assigned to every school, public and private, in the county. That helped give the schools some extra clout in contacting delinquent parents, but no more. Makes me sick to see our numbers. Serious illness that’s so preventable.

    Of course, Public Health Nurses in the schools is socialism, and thus evil. The invisible hand of the marketplace will solve this problem without government spending, I am sure.

  97. 97
    helping hand says:

    Scientists from the FDA are putting forth evidence that the rise in Whooping Cough is directly due to the vaccine change in 1996. As far as I can tell their paper has gotten no media coverage but you can read it for yourself:

    Pertussis has reemerged as an important public health concern since current acellular pertussis vaccines (aP) replaced older whole-cell vaccines (wP). In this study, we show nonhuman primates vaccinated with aP were protected from severe symptoms but not infection and readily transmitted Bordetella pertussis to contacts. Vaccination with wP and previous infection induced a more rapid clearance compared with naïve and aP-vaccinated animals. While all groups possessed robust antibody responses, key differences in T-cell memory suggest that aP vaccination induces a suboptimal immune response that is unable to prevent infection. These data provide a plausible explanation for pertussis resurgence and suggest that attaining herd immunity will require the development of improved vaccination strategies that prevent B. pertussis colonization and transmission.

  98. 98
    West of the Cascades says:

    @Roger Moore: I am a little agnostic about the flouride debate because I didn’t have time to drill down into it … but a lot of people whose opinions (including about science) I value highly were out in front of the “no flouride” movement.

    What I was told about the pro-flouridation science is that, in effect, there haven’t been any significant studies — a lot of correlation reporting (as you note), but no good longitudinal studies. It also makes less sense to flouridate water than to spend money to expand programs for direct flouride application to teeth, which is far more effective (and/or expand free dental services to communities that wouldn’t get supplemental flouride treatments because their kids can’t go to the dentist). My girlfriend at the time of the last referendum was a nurse, and urged a “no” vote having looked at the different aspects of the issue. We also have one of the most pure water supplies in the country, so there’s an instinctive aversion to adulterating it.

    Um – I meant, “Portland’s water tastes terrible, and it doesn’t have any flouride in it so if you moved here you’d just be asking for five-figure dental bills and besides we’re almost out of water anyway because the microbreweries co-opt all of it,” so keep on driving north, you refugees from the parched lands of California …

  99. 99
    West of the Cascades says:

    @Nicole: Bottled water is an expensive, pointless no-no in Portland, give the quality of our water supply and how much we’ve spent on keeping it pure, and also because there are efforts by Nestle to tap in to the water supply from Mt. Hood that are being bitterly fought here. Again, my understanding is that there are no comprehensive studies showing that flouride is a “low cost preventative health measure,” particularly given the low dosages and the very inefficient means of administering it.

  100. 100
    Bill Arnold says:


    If it’s the dry air, see if a humidifier might help.

    Also, if one is so inclined, lots of plants, particularly water-hungry plants, watered frequently in the winter, will help.
    (Amount of watering needs to be comparable to a humidifier’s usage.)
    Or both plants and a humidifier.

  101. 101
    dr. luba says:

    @helping hand: That is certainly part of the problem, but not the entire problem. We are also seeing a resurgence of measles and mumps and, in Europe, rubella, among other vaccine preventable diseases.

  102. 102
    WereBear says:

    In any dry winter conditions, it’s asking for trouble not to have a humidifier or two. Drying out the membranes loses their disease fighting ability.

    I don’t have one at work, but sip hot tea steadily. Dry air also dehydrates YOU.

  103. 103
    Tim C. says:

    So anyway as a Portland native I have to say those magic words in politics, “It’s more complicated than that.” Short version is that Oregon vaccinates below the national average and yes it’s largely because argle-bargle pseudo-science. But it’s in pockets, not evenly distributed. So in some areas vaccinations are normal, in others they are *terrible*. So painting with a broad brush is unfair to a majority… as usual. Also a lot of the problem is down in Ashland, not Portlandia.

    Old article that still accurately describes basic problem

  104. 104
    Bill Arnold says:

    @dr. luba:

    Did you know that polio was not eradicated with vaccines? That’s what they claim.

    One of the few things I’m deeply upset about with the Obama administration is the compromise by the CIA of the vaccination program in Pakistan. It was Hep B, but the current Polio-eradication drive is suspected and attacked by militants now. (This is the sort of thing that can happen when there is a monomaniacal focus, in this case on finding Bin Laden.)
    Your link (about polio deniers) is profoundly depressing.

  105. 105
    Bill D. says:

    @West of the Cascades: Ha! Not only are refugees from drought-stricken California preparing to inundate Oregon, but our record drought and warmth will also be taking up permanent residence in your state, albeit in moderated form so it stays livable by *California* standards. You’ll be the next California, complete with oranges and palm trees. Wel-come to the Ho-tel Or-e-gonia… ;-)

  106. 106
    Pink Snapdragon says:

    My mother died of bulbar polio in October of 1951 in Winnebago County, Wisconsin. I had just turned three and had an 18 month old sister and a six month old brother. My brother also had polio, but not the bulbar kind. Today he suffers from post polio syndrome. I have a visceral reaction to the anti-vaxers and their incredible stupidity. I wonder whether part of the problem is that the vaccines were so successful that people these days just have no idea how many people actually died or were terribly damaged by these diseases. In all of my years I have yet to meet anyone else who had someone in their family die from, or even experience polio.

    Anyone who thinks chickenpox is just a mild childhood disease hasn’t yet had the wonderful experience of having shingles. If you’ve been vaccinated for chickenpox as a child you will not ever have the experience of shingles. Having had it twice now, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Unfortunately, the vaccine for shingles does not eliminate the possibility of getting shingles, it just insures that it won’t be as painful as it otherwise is.

    Sometime in the past several years someone in the comments here linked to a video of a person in the hospital with whooping cough. If you watched that video I do not know how you could wish that experience on anyone.

  107. 107
    goblue72 says:

    @Tim C.: Isn’t Ashland thick with the New Age-crystals crowd?

  108. 108
    JoyfulA says:

    @KG: I got my parents an XM radio they keep in the house. There is a channel devoted to Glenn Miller type music (1940s), and now they have “good music” every night.

    Actually, there’s a channel for everything, mostly commercial-free, except the ones that are TV feeds.

  109. 109
    Gvg says:

    @raven: check @raven: what about acid reflux. I’ve had sinus allergy problems for years and assumed my persistent coughs were post nasal drip at night. after my hysterectomy in May it HURT to cough and I complained to my oncoligist who thought it was reflux and gave a prescription. I was skeptical but she was right. no cough anymore.

  110. 110
    goblue72 says:

    @West of the Cascades:

    On the one side, you have the Centers for Disease Control stating: “CDC considers comprehensive reviews by the NRC and other systematic scientific studies in its recommendation that community water fluoridation is a safe, effective, and inexpensive method to reduce tooth decay among populations with access to community water systems. Water fluoridation should be continued in communities currently fluoridating and extended to those without fluoridation.”

    On the other, a bunch of Oregon hippies with a hard-on for their drinking water that is only possible with the kind of regional parochialism one finds in greater Portlandia.

    Also too – longitudinal –

    From the abstract – “At the initiation of lesions, at younger ages, only a small retardation of the process was observed, but caries progression beyond the stage of enamel caries was markedly reduced in the fluoridated area.”

    Internet – How the f&*k does it work?

  111. 111
    Delia says:


    To offer some anecdotal evidence: my ex and I both grew up in regions without any fluoride in the water. We both had mouthsfull off cavities by the time we were adults and by now I’ve got mainly root canals. Our kids grew up in California in the 80s and 90s with the evil industrial fluoride in the drinking water. They’re both in their early thirties now and neither one has had any more of a cavity than those minor surface caries described in that abstract.

    I’m living in Eugene now, two hours south of Portland. I was once in a small group of highly intelligent people, including one retired MD, and I was the only one who thought fluoride was a good idea. My dentist here just throws up his hands.

  112. 112
    dr. luba says:

    @Pink Snapdragon:

    Anyone who thinks chickenpox is just a mild childhood disease hasn’t yet had the wonderful experience of having shingles.

    Try watching someone die of it. This was before there was a vaccine or effective anti-virals, but still. I got to watch a young, previously health pregnant woman die of this disease. It was horrible.

  113. 113
    dr. luba says:

    @Pink Snapdragon:

    I wonder whether part of the problem is that the vaccines were so successful that people these days just have no idea how many people actually died or were terribly damaged by these diseases.

    That is my impression, too. If you go to the anti-vax sites, you’ll see that people there really believe that good nutrition…and perhaps homeopathy and a few herbs…is all they need to protect their kids from these scourges. And since these diseases are so mild anyway, and polio doesn’t exist any more, what’s the harm?

  114. 114
    marc says:

    NM represent! In your face, civilized states!

  115. 115
    Tim C. says:

    @goblue72: Absoluteley infested with them. if effing Portland or god help you Eugene is too corporate or mainstream, you can find your holistic purity of essence in Ashland.

  116. 116
    slippytoad says:

    @Ben Cisco:

    but who’s the bigger fool – the fool or those who follow the fool? There’s a whole lot of people self-selecting for stupid

    A public example needs to be made. Someone needs to have a dunce cap welded to their thick skull. That’s my point. She wanted to take the lead on this, so let’s give it to her. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS when you’re the dumbest fuck in America.

  117. 117
    Nicole says:

    @West of the Cascades: So half a century’s worth of data, including a decade-long field study showing that fluoridated drinking water reduces the instance of caries isn’t enough for you? The fluoridation of water- reduced caries connection was made by 1950. Since then, seventy-two percent of the nation has fluoridated water and the reduction in tooth loss and tooth decay, compared to prior to mass fluoridation is also pretty well established.

    My comment on bottled water was that if the anti-fluoride cavity lovers are so against fluoride in their water then they can seek out bottled that isn’t fluoridated. What they are doing when they vote against it is depriving a large population of an inexpensive, extremely easy way to reduce caries. The “purity” of the drinking water isn’t the point- it’s whether it has fluoride or not.

  118. 118
    Julie says:


    half a century’s worth of data, including a decade-long field study

    Link(s)? I’m not being snarky, I’m genuinely curious. In all the debate about fluoridation here, no one ever brought out the big data guns. I’m generally on the side of fluoridation. I’m not a native Portlander (though I’ve been here a decade plus), so I have no illusions about the ‘purity’ of our drinking water. But I’m a little hesitant on this one since it’s evolved into something that’s not so much a debate about the merits of fluoride as it is about the city’s problematic relationship with class and race and other issues.

  119. 119
    Tim C. says:

    The long and the short of it is that we do have issues here with a significant chunk of people going off the deep end when it comes to what I call the “Portland Vegetopathic Conspiracy Society” Vaccines and Floridation are probably the biggest public health issues, but other things have popped up as well.

    Funny gag some local radio comedians did was “When is it clear this story takes place in Portland” It was about a time a local Wal-Mart killed 50,000 bees by hiring a company with competency issues to put insecticide on the trees in their parking lot. Long story short, local beehives totally collapsed, people were upset, etc… All normal and understandable stuff, good advocacy for calling out Walmart for being a terrible organization and corporate citizen. The part where the bell goes off and you realize it’s Portland is when there was candlelight vigil/memorial service for the 50,000 bees.

  120. 120
  121. 121
    Julie says:

    @Steeplejack: I missed it on first read. Thanks!

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