18 March 2008

Vaccination or "nature"

Did you know there are people who oppose vaccination (especially compulsory vaccination of children, dictated by the state) on ideological grounds? Yes, it sounds like an American thing — a typical result of the reaction between those traditional values of religious fanaticism, redneck anti-government mistrust, and the more recent libertarian "I have a right to do anything" stance. Or something out of the Amish or Jehovah's Witnesses. In fact it's common in Europe, in their case due to a misguided idea that you must "follow the natural ways". So they don't vaccinate their children and don't use antibiotics.

This was all completely exotic to me at first, and to most of my fellow citizens it must be a shock to learn that there are parents who refuse to vaccinate their children in Rosario. These are the European variety, "naturists", people who recognize the existence of disease but prefer to deal with it through "alternative medicine" (there's a reason for the quotes around that — "alternative medicine" is not real medicine).

The bad part is that you don't know of these children until they end up in hospital in advanced stages of common diseases (such as the whooping cough) that have been eradicated from the general population decades ago. The worse part is that they might spread these diseases around them.

Fortunately for the children, judges tend to disagree with the parents.

4 comments:

  1. Anonymous11:32

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    ReplyDelete
  2. I really enjoy your blog, especially your insights into Argentine politics and culture, but I have to object to your characterization of some Americans' refusal to vaccinate as being based on libertarian values or religious fanaticism or redneck-ness. In fact the Americans I have known or known of who choose not to vaccinate are the opposite... they're usually educated, very progressive, very liberal people, the same ones who might eat a vegan diet and breastfeed their children for two or three years, etc. I'm not saying people like you described don't exist in the United States, but if they do, this is the first I've heard of them (well, other than the Jehovah's Witnesses). Oh, and in the spirit of disclosure, I'm American (though I live in Argentina) and I did vaccinate my kids.

    ReplyDelete
  3. wywh, I didn't want to imply that Americans who don't vaccinate their children are libertarians or rednecks, though I see I came across that way. I meant that, for us outside the US without prior knowledge, that seems the likely cause, though in fact, as I said, this idea came to Argentina via European inspiration.

    Frankly it'd never occur to me that liberal progressivism could involve a rebellion against socialized healthcare or embracing these nebulous, New Agey "naturist" values, but then progressivism means different things in different places.

    Thanks for correcting me and reading this blog.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Pablo - Apropos of you blog, there was an article in the NY Times a couple of days ago detailing the benefits of vaccinations, and the parents that oppose them. To quote the article:

    "Public health experts generally agree that after clean water and flush toilets, the most important health advances in history have been vaccinations.

    Shots against measles, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, flu, hepatitis and some causes of childhood meningitis, pneumonia and diarrhea have saved more lives than all the “miracle drugs” of the latter half of the 20th century — antibiotics like penicillin, antivirals like drugs to fight AIDS and flu, and so on."

    "Health insurers pay for most vaccines, and public clinics offer them free to the uninsured, the cost paid by the federal government under the Vaccines for Children Program of 1994. Before that time, incomplete vaccination was most common among the poor. Now it is more common for children from wealthy or middle-class families to lack some or all shots, presumably because their parents objected."

    John

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