"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Sunday, February 01, 2015

About Vaccinations

There's a good post over at Mahablog on the anti-vaxxers and their consequences. She has the close to the same reaction that I do, not only to the whole "vaccinations cause (fill in favorite horrible condition)" mantra, but to the self-obsessed "health" nuts in general:

Health fads aren’t new at all, but fads about diets have gotten so prevalent they’ve spawned a new term — orthorexia. Suddenly gluten is bad. Suddenly people have to de-tox. Like we didn’t have livers for that. Not that I’m exactly a role model of sensible eating, but I do run into people who are absolutely obsessed with only eating certain foods from a few trusted, and out of the way, sources. It’s like anything sold in a chain grocery store might cause sudden death.

My working theory for at least some of this craziness is that food and health fads have taken the place of religion for some people as a means for protecting themselves and their loved ones for the scary things out there. Prayer has been replaced by colon cleanses.

I've seen labels at my local Jewel crowing that the packaged ham is gluten free. Ham? Why would you find gluten in ham to begin with? Yes, gluten -- which is nothing more than the protein in wheat and similar grains -- is sometimes added to other foods as a stabilizing agent, but meat? Granted, there are people with gluten allergies, but all the manufacturers need to do is include information on gluten on the label. Jewel is jumping on the latest food-fad bandwagon. (The idea the gluten is "bad for you" is patently ridiculous, unless you're one of those with the aforementioned allergies.)

I have a friend who at one point was avoiding carbohydrates -- she called them "empty calories." I sort of lit into her, pointing out that your body needs carbohydrates, that's mostly what it burns for energy, especially at rest, and carbs are not "empty calories." It's amazing the nonsense that people pick up from the media that becomes received wisdom. (Well, that's my problem with received wisdom, now that I think of it. Who knows what these "authorities" have been smoking?)

Back to vaccinations. The real problem here is that we need our herd immunity; without it, diseases -- such as, for example, measles -- have a nice big playground. (I was talking to my sister yesterday and we were remembering all the vaccinations we had as children. She remembered the polio vaccinations, which I had forgotten, but who in the hell would want polio to come back? Or smallpox? I religiously get my pneumonia vaccinations -- having had pneumonia twice in the past five years, I can assure you it is no fun -- two or three days in the hospital and maybe three to four weeks for a full recovery -- and my shingles vaccination, and even flu shots, even though I have variable reactions to the flu vaccines: sometimes I get sick for a night, sometimes I don't, but I'd rather spend a night in bed than a week.) So now, thanks to Sarah Palin, among other luminaries, we have measles outbreaks all over the country.

O'Brien's last statement gets to the heart of it:

The measles outbreaks also reminds us that the things we do, or don’t do, really do affect other people in myriad ways. We can go around pretending that our personal choices are just our business, but it’s not always that simple.

That's it, with a small caveat: some of our personal choices are purely personal, but a lot of them simply aren't, because we're social animals, we travel in groups, and for better or worse, what's experienced by one member of the group has a big chance of eventually being experienced by most, if not all, of the others. Like measles.

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