What’s the harm, really?

One thing that anti-vaccine types keep asking over and over is the following:

“If your kid is vaccinated, and if vaccines work as well as you say they do… Why is my kid a threat to your kid?”

It’s an interesting mental game to play with them if you’re so inclined. It probably won’t get you anywhere with the hardcore anti-vaccine activists, the ones that blame everything and anything on vaccines. But the “softer” ones may still be reachable. Here’s how you play the game:

1. Vaccines are not 100% safe and not 100% effective, but damn close. The MMR vaccine is 95% effective against measles in people who get one dose and 99% effective in people who get the recommended two doses.

2. If the entire city of Pittsburgh was vaccinated with the two doses, we’d still have about 3,000 people (1% of the population) walking around non-immune. That’s not so bad in a general sense because the other 300,000 would provide enough herd immunity.

3. The problem is when these non-immune people congregate in a setting. (More on this in a little bit.)

4. Now, to that non-immune 3,000, we should add other non-immune people who are so because of other reasons like:

A- They refuse to be immunized, or their parents refused for them to be immunized if they are children. This is for any ideological reason.

B- They cannot be immunized because of an actual medical reason.

C- They were immune but lost immunity because of a medical or physiological reason like old age, chemotherapy for cancer, chemotherapy for auto-immune disease, advanced HIV/AIDS, and others.

So you have more than 1% of the population walking around non-immune. But what if you congregate them in one setting? What if, say, you place those on cancer chemotherapy in a hospital oncology unit waiting room? What if you have someone walk by with measles? Well, this happy experiment is ongoing right now after a graduate student in Pittsburgh walked through such a place while being contagious with measles. (You’re contagious before symptoms and a while after symptoms resolve, so you may not even know you’re getting others sick. That’s why I “love” this particular pox.)

If only we could keep herd immunity at an all-time high by eliminating those in 4-A above, those who won’t listen to reason and ask stupid questions like “What’s the harm?” The harm is that you get measles and may find yourself walking through a non-immune group. It could have been this oncology unit, a newborn nursery, a bus full of kids on their “make-a-wish” trip. I could go on with all the goddamned scenarios where you — vaccine “skeptic” — could put a ton of people in danger. And it could very well be mortal danger if they don’t have the strength or resources to get through what is a serious ailment no matter how you want to spin it.

And, just in case they come at us with the “we all got through childhood diseases fine” bullshit, remind them that millions of people made it through World War II, but that doesn’t make it a “nuisance”. It was deadly.

If my words read a little angry, it’s because I am. I’m pissed because I know people who are on cancer therapy and something as “small” as a cold could kill them while these bozos walk around all proud that they didn’t get their buttercups vaccinated.


2 thoughts on “What’s the harm, really?

  1. Caterina at “Just The Vax” posted about this Pittsburgh hospital’s measles case and exposures.

    I was born before 1957 and am considered “immune” under most circumstances, (I actually remember having measles). Before I was officially hired as a public health nurse, I underwent blood testing to determine my immunity status for measles, mumps and rubella…all positive IGG results.

    You can check out your own State’s public health laws and Pennsylvania’s public health laws regarding health care workers, to find out if those State’s actually require MMR vaccine/proof of immunity, here:


  2. Thank you for speaking up. By the way, do you know if there was fallout of last year’s person with measles walking through a newborn ward?

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