A new patient came to see me a few months back. She is in her 60’s or 70’s and not in the best health. She is very nice. And simple—very simple. I spoke to her brother before the appointment. He told me that she was a normal, happy kid until the age of seven.
Then she got sick. At first it wasn’t much, just a cold. Then there was a rash. Then she got very, very sick. She had measles, and she was one of the about 1-1000 people who develop acute encephalitis as a complication of the disease.
The rest of the kids in the family are quite bright and successful. My patient came to her appointment with a caregiver who assists her in basically any function that requires thought. She’s quite nice, but she’s not happy. She is anxious, perhaps partly because she can’t understand what is going on around her. And she is completely dependent on others for all but the most basic of her physical needs.
Denialists point to all kinds of pseudo-evidence (i.e. made-up crap) when it comes to vaccination. The point they always miss, partly because they never see it in real life, is that these diseases have real consequences for real people—not just made up connections with autism and other problems. The statistics are quite clear. Vaccines save lives. People who were around in the pre-vaccine era will tell you about the fear.
I recently did an oral history with my father. During a whooping cough epidemic, his mother rented a cottage on a lake outside the city to keep her kids from getting pertussis and perhaps ending up dead or brain-damaged from hypoxia. As an intern in the 40s he remembers how summer would bring a flood of polio victims to the hospital.
The diseases that vaccines prevent are very real and much more dangerous than the vaccines designed to prevent them.
There have been recent outbreaks of measles associated with reduced vaccination rates. Parents who fail to vaccinate their kids bear a portion of responsibility for this, but it’s the noisy idiots like Jenny McCarthy and Gary Null who are more to blame.
I enjoyed meeting my new patient, but it was a sad visit. Her parents were dead, her siblings had already finished their careers and become grandparents, and she was left behind, a seven year-old in a 70 year-old’s body.