Monday, March 31, 2014

Your choice, no herd immunity - (child) vaccinations and the anti vaxx lobby

I've been trying to be quiet about this since I know I'm biased since I'm a researcher. (Biased as in I read scientific papers and have more knowledge than the "average person".) I didn't know that I was biased when I started of course. I thought since "I read research papers and am of logical mind" that I was just "one in the regular crowd", I didn't have anything more to say than the public opinion.

Oh was I wrong.

I mentioned on twitter earlier this week that I was giving up my gym membership due to the facebook links from them, which have been a lot of anti-vaccinations for children. See, I really think that people should be able to make their informed decisions and make what's best for them and their family. I'm all for that, to a point. And especially when I get links to what they read in order to get their idea of proof... and I read a lot of the links to their "proof". And it is a lot of "opinions" and not facts.

If you are living in a remote area where no one else gets hurt by your decision, I'm actually ok with you making whatever decisions you want for you children and family. Go ahead, choice is free and you will never be part of this the major difficulty of infectious diseases (see below). You are alone in that area, hopefully your family are ok with your choices and if your young ones and grand parents get sick anyway, well - that's fine with you and yours.

However, and this is where I get upset and need to say things, act on it and all the above and more, when your decisions make it impossible for other people to feel safe and their children are at risk.... well, sorry but your right to "choose" goes into my "this is not an area to discuss, these are FACTS and what you may or may not believe, is not my main concern since it is the children and families who do not have this choice and will get hurt by your decision".

I'll make this statement simple for this blog post - I can provide links to everyone of these FACTS (please note, these are not my opinions, but FACTS that are founded in examples, experience and scientific logic) if you so want. The only reason I'm not doing it right now is because I'm tired and want to get this blog post out now. I will update it after that fact that I've published it and gotten it out of my system. There are some very obvious misconceptions that are floating around that make me furious.

First; most of our "common childhood diseases" can not be cured by antibiotics. Why? Because they are viral infections (like measles and the flu (influenza)). Viral infections can not be cured by antibiotics because antibiotics only work on bacterial diseases - and that is IF they are not resistant to the antibiotics (most of the prevalent strains of ear infections (Otitis Media) and unfortunately TB, more to come - be sure of that since we have over-prescribed antibiotics for livestock and people last couple of decades, more of that in another blog post).

Secondly: (I would often put this first myself but that's because I know antibiotics don't work against measles and flu): HERD IMMUNITY means that the likelihood of a child getting the more common childhood diseases is lowered since more than 86-90% of the children (reservoirs) are vaccinated against the disease means that is less likely to exist and spread. In short, lots of people having vaccinated immunity will protect the unvaccinated people since the likelihood of the disease rearing its ugly head is diminished. Case in point; every community where the amount of vaccinated people drops (like London or places in California or Texas or even New York for Measles) will make the disease rate go up and spread uncontrollably.

Third; this silly notion that "childhood diseases like measles is not dangerous and therefore it's better to have it and then get protected". Let's get this misnomer VERY clear. A lot of children in places where the vaccinations aren't working are not only getting sick, nor getting SERIOUS side effects from the disease - like blindness - but they die. Simple as that. They die.

Fourth; (if you're counting, I'm not since I'm a firm believer in thinking about others apart from myself) the herd immunity means that the people (let's get this straight since it's mainly about the children, it's about small innocent vulnerable children) who can't get vaccinated get protected by a lot of other people getting vaccinated since this means that the unvaccinated kids are getting a chance to not encounter the infectious agent (that's virus for the most part, non treatable by antibiotics) and therefore getting a chance of not getting sick and getting the side effects of getting sick (death, 'moribond' = blind, sterile (if we are talking about men and chicken pox for example, etc). Examples of children who can't get protected and are very vulnerable, children who are less than 2 years of age (their immune system is still trying to get to work) and children who are battling any other type of disease like cancer.

This whole idea of "I'm choosing not to get my child vaccinated" is making me furious beyond. I'm not the one to rant about these things, nor pontificate, but the last year has gotten me over the line. It's the several drops on the camel's back s to speak. And the links for my gym (not to mention the conversations with the people in general) has made it obvious to me - it's not about INFORMED CHOICE. It's about a lot of people claiming "they know the truth" without ANY facts since "everyone is entitled to their opinion".

And I'm reacting to that since I truly think that everyone is entitled to their own opinions after reviewing the FACTS. The FACTS I'm referring to by the way, is infectious disease statistics spreading all over the world (Sweden, UK and the USA among some places) where the pockets of non-vaccinations spread and where the diseases are creeping up and the innocent (babies, children on chemotherapy who can't get vaccinated, and grandparents (who are old and therefore don't get the same protection with vaccinations) are getting sick, affected and dying.

You know, I' m all for "your choice" if you live in a remote area and don't socialize with anyone (not the elderly or children below 2 years of age). Go right ahead. If you don't live like that though, tough choice. You should really feel responsible for the health of your neighbour (or older and younger relatives). It's called HERD IMMUNITY since it is considering everyone living together and you should really have a sense of respect towards your neighbours and family. God knows there are plenty of people living in the world where they don't have a choice and their young children and old relatives die everyday. That'd called the "Developing world". Why don't you go look for the stats there and then come back. I can promise you that's it's pretty hard to keep your "I don't think the vaccination is good for my child" after looking at the reality of the communities where there isn't herd immunity and the disease is rampage and killing babies. Maybe if we get there (oh the sadness if we get there again) the people who talk about "their choice" and "it's not that bad" really understand what we - the scientists - are talking about.

I simply wish that we don't have to get there since it means a lot of dead people in the meantime.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Waffle day!

This Tuesday 25th of March was (as always) 'waffle day'. Well, in Sweden it was at least. Based on the wonders of a) language and spelling isn't the same as pronouncing b)Christmas is the 25th of December c)have a reason to eat waffles for dinner.... (as one does here in the South of USA with chicken...)

So, basically it's this simple: 25th of March is "conception day for Our Lady (Mary)" since it is 9 months to Christmas. Never mind details as "Sweden doesn't think of Mary as "our lady since we're not Catholic", nor do we celebrate Christmas with gifts the 25th. Sure enough, church service is at 5/6/7 am the 25th, but not that many people attend church compared to say the USA or UK. And kids gets their pressies on Christmas Eve (julafton) and the big family meal is the 24th and Donald Duck is on ... another story for another day...

Anyway, in Swedish this is "Vårfrudagen" - vår (our), fru (lady), dagen (the day). However, it's pronounced "vårffludagen" which can easily be turned into "våffeldagen"... Våffel=waffle

It's easy as pie ;)

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Oh Canada, you mighty glorious winner! 

Yes, this is a photo of the victorious Canadian men's hockey team. Look at that nice gold bling!

Yes, Canada beat Sweden in the Olympic gold medal game on Sunday.

Yes, Chall is Swedish.

Yes, this post is the result of a lost wager on the game.

Yes, this is Cath . Hi!

Chall and I made the bet right after Canada beat the US in the semi-final. I watched the final period of that game with dozens of colleagues in the lunchroom at work, and there was much cheering and high-fiving at the end. All charged up, I took to Twitter to make a bet with our gracious Swedish host.

Two days later, I got up at 3:40 am (yes, you read that right, and I know how ridiculous that is) to watch the final, thinking "well, at least if we lose, it's to Sweden. I like Sweden".

Because, really, who doesn't like Sweden?

The game wasn't half as exciting as the much closer Canada-US semi final. It wasn't anywhere near as exciting as the Canada-US women's final earlier that week, when the Canadians came back from a 2-0 deficit with five minutes left and won in overtime in one of the most exciting games of any sport I've ever followed.

No, in the men's final against Sweden, Canada were dominant, scored early, took a 3-0 lead, and never looked like losing. We celebrated at the end, of course - winning the Olympic hockey gold medal is pretty crucial to our self-identity, eh? But did I want to gloat, or to mock the losing Swedish team?

Hell no - I wanted to give them all a big hug. Especially Daniel Sedin.

And then something wonderful happened on Twitter. #HardToTrashTalkSweden started to trend in Canada; #HardToTrashTalkCanada started to trend in Sweden (they must not know about Harper). Some of my favourites are in this screen capture:

Now that's true Olympic spirit! The internet can be a wonderful place sometimes.

Take THAT, Sweden!

Additional photo from me (chall) since Canada did indeed 
win it all in the hockey - women and men. 
A truly remarkable feat! Congratulations Canada!