Thursday, April 14, 2011
I just read a fascinating book. Read it in a single sitting, almost. It's called Denialism, and no, it's not about the Egyptian river (sorry, couldn't resist). It's about a general trend that the author believes is very strong in the world today: people not believing in science. The author treats a number of subjects, including genetic manipulation and pharmaceuticals, but my favorite is vaccinations. I had assumed that everyone was enthusiastic about vaccination. I remember as a child standing in line to be given a sugar cube with a drop of the Salk vaccine absorbed in it. It was the first Polio vaccine. Every summer was Polio season, and my mother worried all summer about one of us getting the disease. A friend of mine developed a headache one day after we went swimming at a lake near my home. Shortly after that, he was paralyzed with Polio. I'd been swimming right beside him that day. The Salk vaccine changed all that. Because of vaccines, I've been more or less safe from a variety of diseases, some annoying (I wasn't vaccinated for mumps, and it was a real drag to have them), some really dangerous (diphtheria, for one). Yet I read that today people are opting not to have their kids vaccinated, in spite of overwhelming scientific evidence that vaccination is both safe and necessary. As if to put an exclamation point behind it all, in the newspaper yesterday I read about measles outbreaks in Utah. Measles! I have come to two conclusions about the people who don't have their children vaccinated. The first is that they have no idea of the immense relief that vaccination brought to the mothers and fathers of children who were saved from a host of childhood diseases. They have no concept of a world without vaccination, a world where influenza is a major cause of death. The second is that those people who withhold vaccinations from their children have that smug arrogance that only truly profound ignorance and stupidity can bring.