Kathryn Riffenburg decided on a closed casket for her baby’s funeral.
She didn’t want her family to see what whooping cough, her son’s first illness, had done to 9-week-old Brady Alcaide. The nearly forgotten disease, which has in recent years afflicted thousands of Americans, left Brady’s tiny body swollen and unrecognizable.
Riffenburg herself isn’t an anti-vaxxer; she didn’t know she needed a booster for her own prior immunization. But that’s the thing about herd immunity: if enough of the population has vaccine-induced protection, then the disease itself runs out of reservoirs that can touch the remaining vulnerable hosts. When the vaccination level dips too low…
This is non-partisan stupid, as we know– if anything skewing more blue than red. Oregon shows the highest rate of vaccine refusal, with next door Idaho one of several states just behind that dismal record. Distrust of evil doctors and distrust of the state feed bad decisions across political commitments.
As a first order of business, efforts state by state to make non-medical exemptions as hard to get as possible seems like the way to go. But the underlying pathology is not one to be fixed simply by the (needed) legislative patches. This is one more campaign in an ongoing culture war — which we need to fight on at least two fronts: against woo, which really does know no political boundaries, and versus faux populist jihad on expertise, which is right now much more the property of the GOP than anyone else. Until those battles are won, we will continue to hear this kind of news — tales of yet more collateral damage inflicted by other folk’s dumb, dumb, dumb choices:
Jeremiah Mitchell, 10, plays Xbox with no hands, writes with a pencil strapped to what remains of his arms and prefers eating pizza because it’s one of the few foods he can hold.
Four years ago, doctors working to rid his body of meningitis amputated both his arms and legs as well as parts of his eyelids, jaw and ears. At the time, Jeremiah, then 6, was a kindergartner in Oologah-Talala Public Schools in Oklahoma. An outbreak of meningitis in the school system killed two children and infected five others, including Jeremiah.
Go read the whole wretched story. I haven’t pulled the peak stupid quotes. Too much utterly unnecessary suffering.
*Yeah — I know that’s a cartoon on many levels. But the meaning behind the (deeply flawed) metaphor is clear enough, I think.
Image: English School, Portrait of a Dead child, 1624.