Skepchick Elyse Anders has founded an organization called Women Thinking Free. Skepchick and Women Thinking Free sponsored a clinic giving free Tdap vaccines at Dragon*Con. It’s a brilliant strategy to bolster herd immunity by increasing vaccination rates among adults whose immunity to tetanus, diptheria and pertussis is waning. Elyse has posted a powerful video series called Why We Vaccinate–some of which I couldn’t bear to watch.
These are all very serious diseases, and vulnerable people are at high risk of dying: infants too young to be vaccinated, people whose immunity is waning or who didn’t mount a strong defense upon initial vaccination, people with compromised immunity, the elderly. As we are seeing with the current pertussis epidemic in California, undervaccinated (in CA, it looks like a significant number of children are undervaccinated due to economic factors rather than parental philosophical objections) populations provide inroads for these diseases to spread though large swaths of people.
I received the Tdap booster several years ago when I asked my doctor about my own safety given that I have asthma and there is a largish local cluster of unvaccinated (due to parental philosophical objections) children. She strongly recommended a booster, and I was able to get it that day. My OB was concerned during my last pregnancy when my rubella immunity test was inconclusive. Rubella is very dangerous to unborn babies and can cause profound birth defects. I had a booster in the hospital just hours after my daughter was born. Of course our children are fully vaccinated on the CDC schedule.
I encourage you to check with your doctor and update your own boosters. (I’m looking at you, Trophy Husband…) I’m also wondering if those of you who won’t allow your young children to receive vaccines will consider updating your own boosters and also vaccinating older children. If vaccine refusal is based on the widely disproven autism hypothesis, adults and older children will have aged out of the emergence of autism and will therefore not be at risk. (Happily, new research has found markers of autism in very early infancy, facilitating ever earlier diagnosis and treatment.)
Here’s a pile of links starting with Elyse’s series:
PalMD on the Whooping Cough epidemic. Pal has many other great vaccine-related posts as well.
Phil Plait on the Whooping Cough epidemic. Phil has also written extensively about vaccines.
Someone posted a link to this video in the Skepchick comments, and although it’s a little too snarky for my comfort, it is a good visual demonstration of how herd immunity works to protect vulnerable people and how vaccinated people are at risk as well when herd immunity is compromised:
Orac of Respectful Insolence has a good analysis of herd immunity and the California epidemic. (Orac has copious excellent analyses of the ongoing state of anti-vaccination.)
Mark Crislip is an infectious disease doc who writes extensively for SBM and other sites, as well as hosts several great podcasts. Check out Quackcast episode 45 on iTunes for a thorough analysis of the various arguments against vaccination.
Jann Bellamy of Science Based Medicine has a fascinating discussion of the legal and liability issues surrounding vaccine refusal:
“Can the parents of an unvaccinated child be held liable if their child becomes infected with a vaccine-preventable disease which then spreads from their child to another child or children?”
Also check out the Vaccine page at Science Based Medicine for an accessible round-up of the latest vaccine information and copious reference sources.