Saturday, September 1, 2012

Join the Herd to Stop Whooping Cough

Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough is officially infecting more people than it has since you were probably born. Current rates of infection are greater than they have been in over 50 years, including epidemic levels in the state of Washington.

Why is this happening? Much of the rise in infection can likely be attributed to a decline in childhood vaccine rates. Less people getting vaccinated = more people getting sick. Shocker.

I don't mean to poke (pun intended) fun of people who choose not to vaccinate themselves or their children. It's not surprising considering the flurry of misinformation and myth that has resulted in fear regarding the safety of vaccines. The panic about vaccine safety can largely be traced back to a scientific paper published in 1998 which suggested that vaccines may be linked to autism. Several further studies were unable to replicate the author's findings and the paper has since been retracted, in other words officially unpublished, considered to be fraudulent and deemed to be full of hooey. Despite this, the media has perpetuated the vaccine-autism myth, including through famous people who claim to know more than doctors.

I'll be the first to admit that sorting through information about medicine and science can be damn confusing. But, here are the facts, plain and simple: 

1) There is no scientific evidence linking autism to vaccines. I repeat: THERE IS NO SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE LINKING AUTISM TO VACCINES.

2) The pertussis vaccine was created over 100 years ago and has been SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN to prevent whooping cough.

3) Whooping cough KILLS BABIES. Of those infected, about 2 of every 100 will die.

The final kicker is that vaccination really isn't a personal choice. Whether or not you vaccinate can have more far-reaching effects than you realize. You see, pathogens (the buggers that make us sick) cannot thrive well in communities where much of the population is immune. Through a phenomenon known as "herd immunity" or "community immunity", the vulnerable people in a population are protected when a pathogen can't thrive well in their area. This can even lead to complete eradication of a disease, such as happened with smallpox. In the case of whooping cough, infants who are too young to be vaccinated are less likely to be infected if they live in an area where the whooping cough bacteria doesn't have many hosts (non-immune people) to infect.

So, please for the sake of babies everywhere,join the herd: vaccinate your children and keep up to date with your vaccine boosters!

If you have more questions about vaccine safety, check out these evidence-based and easy to understand answers:

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