This might be a touchy subject for many out there, but none the less one that we as a society seem to have lost touch on.  Many in our community haven’t heard of, much less known somebody with diseases like measles, polio, diphtheria, and whooping cough.  These contagious diseases ran rampant in the 1940s and 1950s before vaccines became standard.  Today, many people are opting out of immunizations for their children, thinking they’ll be fine or everyone else will get the vaccine so they don’t have to.

Look at measles for example, it used to infect 3 to 4 million people per year, with 400-500 deaths per year.  In 2000, it was declared eradicated from the United States except for imported cases.  Just recently, an unvaccinated 7 year old from San Diego became infected with measles after traveling to Switzerland.  He came back home and promptly transmitted the disease to 2 sibling, 5 schoolmates, and 4 children at the doctors office.  All who had not been vaccinated for either personal or religious reasons.  Whooping cough is also back, a school in San Fransisco had to shut down recently due to 16 students who came down with the disease.

Fear of autism seems to be the driving force for many people refusing to vaccinate, even though almost all scientific studies point to no relation between autism and vaccines.  In fact, mercury containing vaccines have been the biggest target by the anti-vaccine crowd, even though the mercury has been largely phased out since 2001.  Often autism gets blamed on a vaccine because symptoms of autism appear at about the same time a child is scheduled to get immunized.  Vaccines make an easy target, but the data doesn’t match up.

Should a society force its population to get immunized or should it be a personal choice?  Take into account vaccines at their best are “only” 70-90%  effective, the other 10-30% effectiveness comes from living in a community that is largely immune to the disease.   But should the government mandate vaccines?  I don’t know, I’m all for less government control, but one of the two jobs government should do is protect the folks (you and me).  They’re to protect us from other countries, criminals, contaminated food, and even disease.

Today we have taken modern medicine’s accomplishment of mostly eradicating these diseases for granted.  History shows we operate in cycles; there’s a large outbreak of a certain disease, many die or are deathly ill, we take steps to stop this horrible disease, it’s pretty much gone from our lives and vocabulary, so we loosen up a little, let down our guard, stop doing those things that brought us to the point of health and wellness, then start seeing people get sick all over again.  Progress is easy to take for granted.

We’re at the point now, where most people younger than 40 years old have no idea what it’s like to live with these diseases or to have friend permanently disabled by something like polio.  It takes constant work to keep the water clean, ensure an adequate food supply, and stop the spread of disease.  Good health doesn’t just happen, although I sure do hate exercising sometimes.

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