Beware the Myth Buster

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89 Responses

  1. Avatar Kazzy says:

    When working with young kids, we tend to say, “Answer the question they’re thinking about, not the one they’re asking.”

    There is often a disconnect between what we verbalize and what our internal thought process is. This may be conscious but generally isn’t. So someone saying, “I don’t want to get the flu from the flu shot so I’m not getting one,” might be using “get the flu” as a proxy for “feel crappy”. So telling them they won’t get the flu is useless if they know they can legitimately feel crappy. And you can’t tell them they won’t feel crappy because, well, they might. So you have to convince them why a temporary crappy feeling is worth it. Which there is no assured way to do.Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Kazzy says:

      It’s interesting – ‘getting flu from the vaccine itself’ was an objection/myth/whatever I had never even heard of before reading here that Romm ‘debunked’ it.

      And a lot of my friends consider vaccines entirely evil, an international big pharma conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids, a coverup of the fact that all we need to remain healthy and immune to disease is homeopathic nothingness/coconut fat/essential oil of grapefruit/a neti pot full of dilute himalayan rock salt/oh god I can’t even go on.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to dragonfrog says:

        I hear that myth pretty much every year from a few people who are not anti-vaccine more generally. I’ve known at least a couple people who were convinced that they got the flu from the vaccine at one point, and therefore chose not to get it anymore.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to dragonfrog says:

        df,
        I could not be RL friends with people like that — it would be immoral.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to dragonfrog says:

        I got my first non-childhood vaccine before I left for college. It was for that disease they say you get from not wearing flip flops in the shower or whatever. I got woefully sick that night. It was awful. For a short while there after, I refused to get vaccinations. Not that “refusing” took much. I hadn’t previously gotten vaccines and never really had future opportunities to get them. So I simply reverted to doing what I always did. Zazzy wanted me to get the flu vaccine a few years ago. “But it might make me sick again!” “Don’t be stupid. The flu is much worse!” “Okay.”Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to dragonfrog says:

        Kimmi – they are a community of truly kind, caring, warm, generous people. They’re a absolute blast to be around, they’re welcoming, they support one another in need.

        And there are certain topics that I have to avoid bringing up, or quickly find another conversation to be part of should they come up.

        I imagine it’s a bit like family dinner with these folks

        Report

      • I hear that myth pretty much every year from a few people who are not anti-vaccine more generally. I’ve known at least a couple people who were convinced that they got the flu from the vaccine at one point, and therefore chose not to get it anymore.

        That’s my experience, too, Chris. I hypothesize that it’s because people tend to perceive the flu as no big deal, even though (from what I’ve heard) it kills thousands every year. But perhaps compared with the really scary diseases like polio, it doesn’t seem as bad.Report

      • @dragonfrog

        they are a community of truly kind, caring, warm, generous people. They’re a absolute blast to be around, they’re welcoming, they support one another in need.

        That goes to the “complicated and nuanced views about the debate” I mentioned in my second-to-last paragraph. I’m bothered some of the broad assertions made about the “anti” group from the “pro” group, even though I do believe, quite firmly, that the “anti” group is wrong.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to dragonfrog says:

        I never had the Chick Pox as a kid so i got the adult vaccine a few years ago. I had a bit of reaction to it that was annoying for a couple days. Of course getting the Pox as an adult can be serious. Go Team Vaccine.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to dragonfrog says:

        df,
        😉 I wasn’t saying it would be immoral for you to be friends with them.Report

  2. Avatar Damon says:

    Good points Gabriel. My company always has the free flu shot thing here and every year I get bombarded with “did you get your shot” questions. I’m so tired of it and tired of explaining that I don’t need one. I rarely get sick. Like not in 15 years. Not with the flu. I wash my hands a lot and I stay away from folks that look/act sick.

    What I follow was the best advice a safety engineer gave me decades ago.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Damon says:

      You, sir, I would avoid in flu season. Why take the risk?
      (I have avoided people on the bus who did not get their flu shot, this is not hyperbole).Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Kimmi says:

        Knock yourself out. I’m neither asymptomatic and a carrier as suggested below. Once I started eating better, getting a lot more rest and washing my hands, I’ve never gotten sick. I don’t need a shot to make me feel crappy for a day when it’s only for a few strains, and often, isn’t the strain that’s worth worrying about in the current moment.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Kimmi says:

        oh and I don’t hang out around kids. 🙂Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kimmi says:

        Damon,
        Clearly we aren’t using the same language.
        You do understand that the definition of asymptomatic means that you wouldn’t notice that you were infected?

        We aren’t talking syphilis here, just influenza.Report

    • Avatar morat20 in reply to Damon says:

      I know a few guys like that.

      It took one case of the flu for them to start getting it, because if you haven’t had the flu in a decade or two, you forget how miserable it is.

      That aside, for the company it makes tons of sense. You being off two weeks sick is a big cost to them — you showing UP sick is potentially even more expensive, and it’s not uncommon to start off contagious but not feeling so sick you stayed home.

      So the company can, basically, save an awful lot of money by enticing as many of their employees as possible to get a flu shot.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to morat20 says:

        They don’t give you the /real/ flu shots anyway, just bare-bones basic ones.

        They have better flu shots, but they’re triple the price — and come with mandatory asprin afterwards for the swelling.Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Damon says:

      Today I learned: approximately 1/3 of people who get infected with influenza remain asymptomatic, but still infectious.

      http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/167/7/775.full

      It’s possible you just tend to be one of those lucky ones.Report

    • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Damon says:

      @damon

      I used to decline to get flu shots. It wasn’t because of a moral objection or because I really thought they would do me harm, but I was kind of taken by surprised when I found out they seem to give me a minor fever. Rather, I’m not sure exactly why I refused. I had had the flu before and didn’t want it again. But I forbore.

      I suppose I’m convinced by the arguments about herd immunity and I don’t want to be a carrier to people who have less immunity. And it’s true, I don’t want to be a carrier. I don’t want the flu, either. But I can’t say that’s honestly why I’ve decided to start getting the shot.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        It’s not the flu shot itself that’s really my issue. I don’t think I need one that’s all. No, it’s the “OMG you didn’t get a flu shot” attitude from those around me. It gets tiresome trying to explain. More of a herd mentality than critical thinking on whether they actually need it or not. No one I’ve spoken to have articulated a clear reason other than “it’s free” and “you should get it”. Frankly, those arguments aren’t sufficient.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        Damon,
        yeah, well, my reason is your idiocy might kill someone I care deeply about — who can’t have flu shots, because he’s allergic.

        You want good reason? People’s lives are at stake.

        You claim you don’t get sick. I claim, with good justification, that you are a biological factory shot through with viruses and bacteria. Plenty of which can make other people sick (you have heard of ecoli, haven’t you?).Report

  3. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Sounds like another example of the Motte and Bailey argumentation style discussed a few days ago.Report

  4. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I am not really super-concerned about whether people get flu shots or not because it is an annual thing and while it might be good health policy for everyone to do so, it is not something that should be mandated.

    I am more concerned when we see outbreaks of diseases in school districts because parents are concerned about vaccines and autism links and these are diseases which were pretty much unheard of during my childhood because everyone or almost everyone got vaccinated!

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2014/12/15/pertussis_and_measles_outbreaks_in_michigan.html

    In general I think you are right and people underestimate the power of psychology and the placebo effect. I personally think gluten intolerance is scientific bunk but I am not going to convince anyone who noticed their stomach get better after they stopped eating gluten and wheat.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Easy for you to say. It’s not you, after all, who would likely have to deal with someone dying in your arms.
      Not everyone can get a flu shot.Report

    • Avatar Damon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I’m down with gluten intolerance being that, unless you’re talking Celiac’s. That is not bunk.Report

    • I mostly agree, @saul-degraw . I think mandating a flu vaccine would be difficult as a practical matter, even if it is desirable (and I’m not convinced it is). Of course, mandating that certain people–e.g. health care professionals–is a different story.

      As for gluten, I certainly think people and businesses go way overboard on the gluten-free train. I mean, my favorite brand of pepperoni at the store advertises itself as “gluten free!”…..uh, why wouldn’t it be gluten free? It’s meat, not bread. Still, the anecdata of those who seem to be feeling much better after cutting out gluten, and it’s hard for me to be overly skeptical, even though I realize there’s probably a confirmation bias thing going on.Report

  5. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    My understanding is that the adverse reaction you describe to the flu shot is kind of the point – it sends the immune system out on drills, and so you get that portion of the symptoms of a typical flu that is actually symptoms of immune system activity.

    I find how much I react to a flu shot varies from year to year. The only time I had symptoms I would have missed work over was the first year they did the H1N1 vaccine – fortunately I got that shot after work on a Friday, and was fine again by Monday. I figure the H1N1 virus was sufficiently different from previous flus I’d fought off, whether as vaccines or actual infections, that my immune system had to work much harder on it.

    Now at least in Canada H1N1 varieties are among the ones in the regular seasonal flu vaccine – if you hadn’t been previously vaccinated or infected with an H1N1 flu, this might have been your first exposure to it, so perhaps the reaction will back off somewhat in future years.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to dragonfrog says:

      My understanding is that the adverse reaction you describe to the flu shot is kind of the point – it sends the immune system out on drills, and so you get that portion of the symptoms of a typical flu that is actually symptoms of immune system activity.

      That was my impression also, along with several other factors. Here is my totally-not-a-medical-professional opinion on why this myth persists:

      1.) as @dragonfrog says, your immune system may act up upon encountering the vaccine.

      2.) Twice, when I have gotten the vaccine, have been years when the “predicted” flu strains didn’t come to pass because the flu mutated in a different direction (each year’s vaccine is based on last year’s guess of where they think the “wild” strain will be in a year’s time; since they need that lead time to produce, distribute and administer the vaccine. This means that sometimes, the flu vaccine they make is inapplicable to the flu strain you get in the wild). If you get *a* flu shortly after getting the flu vaccine, you may assume the vaccine gave you *the* flu.

      3.) In my experience, without going to the doctor to get a concrete diagnosis, a severe-enough cold can have similar-enough symptoms and duration to the flu (minus stomach symptoms, generally) that they can be easily confused. So, as in #2, if you got the flu vaccine and THEN got a severe cold, you may assume that the vaccine gave you the “flu”.

      4.) This part is speculation, but I assume that while injecting dead influenza strengthens your immune system to defeat that live flu if it is encountered later, your immune system is still expending resources in building a defense against that flu; so I would expect a window of time in which your immune system is somewhat compromised due to this, and more susceptible to other things (including, as in #2 or #3, a bad cold or a different flu strain; if you have the bad luck to catch one of these during that window, I would expect it might hit you harder, due to immune resources having been already expended on “fighting” the flu vaccine.)

      I await the Doc or Christopher to tell me I am out of my mind.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Glyph says:

        @glyph

        At least at first blush, those seem like perfectly reasonable points. But yes, if a real doctor (and not a mere history PHD!) chimed in, I’d like to hear it.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph says:

        I await the Doc or Christopher to tell me I am out of my mind.

        If they’re busy, I can do it.

        Actually, your 2 has the deciding factor for me. It hasn’t been worth the time and expense to get vaccinated for someone’s rough guess at a disease I might be exposed to later. But since my current employer put a table of medical technicians where I’d go past it walking between buildings, why not? It wasn’t a meeting I wanted to be on time to anyway.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Glyph says:

        re:4)
        Actually, your body has two different defense systems — one for roughly bacteria and one for viruses. Flu shots ramp up your viral detection/defense system slightly, so you’re more likely to NOT get sick from a virus.Report

    • As far as missing work is concerned, I’ve been fortunate to have a workplace with a lot of sick days and it’s pretty easy to take them. If I had fewer sick days or some other reason to stay working, I probably could’ve sloughed it out.Report

  6. Avatar Pinky says:

    Really interesting article, Gabriel. I wonder how many people object to the vaccine simply because they don’t like needles. But there’s another problem, the general lack of trust of experts. It’s something that we should examine as a society. I know I’ve said it here before, that the crucial skill these days is not acquiring information, but understanding what information to filter out. We’re treating so-called experts as white noise. Why? Because of the number of experts who have been wrong, or the number of non-experts who make themselves look like experts. If I get one more piece of junk mail with “Urgent Notice” printed on the envelope, I’m going to give up on mail entirely.

    Who was it, someone or other, said that the most important influence on your politics is the first myth that you rebelled against. For a lot of people my age, it was the coming global ice age. I don’t think that AGW people realize that they’ve got 2-3 strikes against them before they even speak. Jimmy Swaggart is still fresh in some people’s minds. The Atlantic article mentioned WMG’s, but next generation it could be “if you like your plan you can keep your plan”.

    Beyond that, there’s a certain mystique about doubting. We live in a very sarcastic and dismissive age, one that even doubts the existence of truth, or the ability to transmit it without distortion. It goes back to the cool kids in junior high. We don’t do ourselves any favor by surrounding ourselves with reality tv and creating video games that could pass the Turing test. We associate ourselves with real-looking falsehoods.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Pinky says:

      “The coming global ice age” was a myth built on some decently solid science. No actual scientist thought this was more than “wild-ass extrapolation”Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to Kimmi says:

        Your two sentences seem to be contradictory. But the quality of the science behind the myth is beside my point. The issue is how we decide what we don’t believe in despite expert opinion, and it’s worthwhile to look at what makes us make that first break.Report

    • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Pinky says:

      @pinky

      I guess because I tend to distrust experts, and while I don’t think I doubt the existence of truth, I probably am skeptical that we have the “ability to transmit [the truth] without distortion.” Therefore, I tend to have a knee-jerk sympathy for others who act in a non-rational or seemingly irrational manner.

      Interesting point about one’s politics aligning with myth of first rebellion. I had never heard it before.Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        It bugs me because I think that was just mentioned as an aside in some article I read, and I’ll never be able to come up with who said it. But I think there’s some merit to it. I remember being a fan of Andrew Breitbart, even though I think he went too far sometimes. It never occurred to him that he could be a bully. In his mind, he was standing up against bullies. For him, the turning point was the Clarence Thomas hearings. He saw a good man being bullied by people he had thought were trustworthy, and that became his defining narrative. He was out to bring down the bullies. I think we all are prone to sticking with that first narrative we develop.Report

      • yeah, I think there is a lot of truth to that.

        As for Breitbard, I never really read him and so don’t have an informed opinion.Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        He was just an example that I associate with the phenomenon.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        Breitbart objected to Clarence Thomas being bullied by a woman he’d been harassing for years?Report

    • Avatar Patrick in reply to Pinky says:

      Who was it, someone or other, said that the most important influence on your politics is the first myth that you rebelled against.

      Interesting idea, but I see a cart-and-a-horse problem there.

      It could very well be that the first myth you rebel against is one you’re ideologically inclined to notice first.Report

  7. Avatar veronica d says:

    This is pretty common stuff. Folks are irrational. They believe something, but they don’t really have a reason per se, so they invent some reason, usually the first thing that comes to mind, maybe something they heard or whatever. Then when you give them evidence that their reason is not true, well, that wasn’t actually why they believed. It was a quickly formed rationalization. They can quickly form another, and another, and another, all day long.

    Getting people to be honest with themselves about why they believe stuff, and then to be honest with you, so then you can challenge their beliefs head-on — this process is difficult and usually fails.

    People who are effective at changing public opinion use other tools. Usually they find ways to associate beliefs they support with being cool and popular while they associate the opposite beliefs with being a horrible jerk. No one likes the people who believe the bad stuff. The people who believe the cool stuff are the best looking and get invited to all the cool parties. Done well this can shift opinions rapidly.Report

    • Avatar ScarletNumbers in reply to veronica d says:

      The people who believe the cool stuff are the best looking and get invited to all the cool parties.

      This point is more true that I wish it was.Report

    • Avatar ScarletNumbers in reply to veronica d says:

      The people who believe the cool stuff are the best looking and get invited to all the cool parties.

      This point is more true than I wish it was.Report

    • That’s a really insightful comment @veronica-d . I think the first paragraph roughly covers Romm’s argument, and the rest of your comment is pure gold, especially this:

      Getting people to be honest with themselves about why they believe stuff, and then to be honest with you, so then you can challenge their beliefs head-on — this process is difficult and usually fails.

      The part I bolded is, I think, the most crucial, and probably the most difficult. So much of my intellectual and emotional growth has come by realizations about what lies I was telling myself. (Of course, maybe that point is a “self-lie.”)Report

  8. Avatar Citizen says:

    Am I alone in the thought that our immune systems should be able to stand on their own without the “crutches” of vaccines?

    Maybe we should have a corporation design a synthetic so we can put our original in a jar on a mantel.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Citizen says:

      Eh, if vaccines simply “teach/prepare” our immune systems, then they are no different than books for the brain.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Citizen says:

      Am I alone in the thought that our immune systems should be able to stand on their own without the “crutches” of vaccines?

      I hope so.

      I mean, that tends to happen over time in regards to virulent diseases. They wipe out the most susceptible over and over until most folks left are those that have some natural resistance. Or the virulent form of the disease kills so fast that it can’t sustain itself through transmission. Either way, that can involve millions of people suffering really unpleasant deaths.

      And lots of those diseases remain, just at chronic rather than virulent levels, either because the less virulent strains survive because they propagate more successfully (because their victims live to spread it, rather than dying ASAP), or because the population that didn’t die had some, but not complete, resistance to it.

      It’s just how biology works, whether we like it or not.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Citizen says:

      A couple of possible arguments… (1) Modern transportation means that we’re exposed to more different varieties of virus in a given time than our immune systems evolved to deal with. If you set out to design a system for transmitting viral diseases, you’d end up with today’s long-distance air-travel system. (2) Evolution’s approach to addressing the problem through our immune system can be a bit hard on the overall population. There is evidence that a small percentage of people are naturally immune to Ebola (not surprising; given a particular virus, a small percentage always seem to be naturally immune; for HIV, it’s about 2%). Evolution is perfectly willing to wipe out a large part of the population in fairly short order, then repopulate from the survivors.Report

    • Avatar Citizen in reply to Citizen says:

      So we are good with suppressing naturally acquired immunity or that it should be marginal?Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Citizen says:

        I don’t think you understand what you just said.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Citizen says:

        Sorry, that was overly-irritable.

        There is no difference between “naturally acquired immunity” and “immunity acquired by injecting a damaged virus into somebody”.

        In both cases, the human immune system learns how to create antibodies by attacking a foreign substance that has markers for those antibodies.

        You don’t “weaken” the immune system’s ability to produce antibodies “naturally” by giving them “artificial” injections. That’s not how the immune system works.

        It’s not like putting cheap gas in your car and damaging your intake valves making it harder for your car to work.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Citizen says:

        *My* immune system don’t go for none’a that namby-pamby vaccine learnin’. No sir. It learned everything it needed to know on the streets, at the school of infectious hard knocks.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Citizen says:

        Naturally acquired immunity runs on the same nuts and bolts as vaccine acquired immunity.

        You don’t lose your ability to have a runner’s high by doing pot, you know??? Same system, different “Interesting” stimuli.Report

      • Avatar Citizen in reply to Citizen says:

        Is a larger fraction of the population immune to polio than 200 years ago?

        This may be relevant to my point:

        http://jid.oxfordjournals.org/content/194/11/1619.1.full

        school of infectious hard knocks? 😉Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Citizen says:

        Citizen,

        That’s worrisome, yes, but the vaccine itself hasn’t destroyed any person’s natural immunity. First, there is, as the article notes, little “natural” immunity. Rather, children were purposefully introduced to the disease to induce immunity. Consequently, the polio vaccine has no diminished natural immunity, because none existed. Nor does the article show that the polio vaccine diminishes any immune person’s degree of immunity. It only shows that vaccinations’ widespread replacement of sickness-sharing has led to a more complete reduction in sickness-sharing than in vaccinations, leaving some people without either method of developing immunity.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Citizen says:

        Then these children or adolescents, not being fully protected by vaccination, are likely to become paralyzed.

        So the argument “not to vaccinate” is that “if people aren’t vaccinated and they’re exposed they might get the disease later in life and be paralyzed, whereas if they get it while younger they’ll only be sick. And be carrying a communicable disease. Which they can expose to other people who aren’t vaccinated but who are older, who may be paralyzed.”

        That’s kinda… silly. No wonder this is a letter to an editor and not an actual paper.

        See, the thing you’d actually want to look at is the total number of people paralyzed by polio, before a vaccination program and after a vaccination program.

        You may want to check those numbers out.Report

      • Avatar Citizen in reply to Citizen says:

        @ Patrick
        The numbers I am interested in would reveal if there is a larger fraction of the population naturally immune to polio than 200 years ago?

        Is that a silly question?Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Citizen says:

        Is a larger fraction of the population immune to polio than 200 years ago?

        I don’t think this is the question you want to ask, or at least not the complete question. Yes, a larger fraction of the population has artificially acquired immunity to the polio virus than did 200 years ago. A smaller fraction of the population has a naturally acquired immunity to the polio virus because almost no one gets polio to acquire immunity that way.

        Some fraction of the population 200 years ago had an innate immunity to polio — their immune system reacted in such a way that they developed an acquired immunity before they could get sick. Some fraction of the population has innate immunity to HIV; some fraction to Ebola; some fraction to almost any virus. The answer to whether that fraction has increased or not is indeterminate. Absent the artificial vaccine and modern medical care, the fraction with innate immunity would probably have increased — the innate immunity improves your chances for survival and is heritable. Over time, the population becomes large immune, unless the innate immunity has consequences worse than polio.

        The way to think about it might be malaria and sickle-cell anemia. If you have one copy of the recessive gene, you’re more resistant to malaria than people with no copies. If you have two copies, you’re resistant but develop sickle-cell anemia somewhere later in life.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Citizen says:

        The numbers I am interested in would reveal if there is a larger fraction of the population naturally immune to polio than 200 years ago?

        No, that’s not what you’re interested in.

        Is that a silly question?

        Yes, because there is no such thing as “naturally immune”, as I already said.

        The question you teased out in this comment is not “is there a difference between “natural immunity” and “vaccine immunity”. That isn’t what that letter to the editor is about.

        What that letter to the editor is about is conditional probability, basically

        Compare the occurrence of paralysis due to polio in the following conditions:

        Condition 1: nobody is vaccinated, people get polio at pre-vaccination rates.
        Condition 2: everyone is vaccinated, people get polio at post-vaccination rates.
        Condition 3: most people in many populations are vaccinated, some in other populations are not.

        Condition 1 sucks (I’ll leave that as an exercise to the reader). Condition two is very very small, because fewer people get polio, fewer people are carriers for polio, overall (I will also leave this as an exercise to the reader).

        Condition 3 is what the letter is referring to… there are countries where vaccination rates are higher, so they have sufficient herd immunity to prevent outbreaks of polio due to their own population dynamics. However, there are other countries where vaccination rates may be lower or non-existent, and they have higher incidences of polio. If sufficient members of population 2 travel to population 1, they can increase the overall exposure to polio such that it overcomes herd immunity in population 1, and you get an outbreak in population 1. The letter refers to the fact that this may be dangerous, because more people in population 1 will be getting polio later in life than they would have been otherwise.

        You can actually construct a conditional probability equation for this, again… an exercise I’ll leave to the reader. Theoretically it would be possible to have paralysis probabilities and transmission rates and under-vaccination rates that could yield a higher overall number of people having paralysis as an outcome, but it is fairly implausible just on the stacking nature of the conditional probabilities.

        In any rate, you can play with probability equations all you want, but the answer is already empirically available:

        Prior to Salk, how many people got polio and how many of those people had paralysis as an outcome, as a percentage of the population?

        Today, how many people get polio and how many of those people have paralysis as an outcome, as a percentage of the population?

        The first number is higher.

        Now, you may do a second-order analysis where you say, “Okay, now, given that it’s already better overall for most everybody to have a vaccination program… let’s also find out *of the people who are still getting sick anyway*, what is the next step to also decrease their vulnerability?”

        And what the letter is saying is, “Well, if you have an under-vaccinated population that can pass into a vaccinated population maybe you might have this potentially conditional probability situation where some folks may be more vulnerable”. Perhaps that’s true (even though again, I expect it’s very implausible).

        But then the obvious answer is “go to the under-vaccinated population and vaccinate them properly”, because we already know (from above) that vaccination programs are effective. Not “well, stop vaccinating the folks who are vaccinating so that if they do get polio they get it while they’re younger”, because you already know that’s a bad idea.Report

    • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Citizen says:

      @citizen

      Since this is my post, I guess I should chime in and say I agree with James, Glyph, and Patrick and others in their responses.

      But here’s a question, and I am genuinely interested in your answer. Why is it desirable (to you) to have our immune systems “stand on their own”?Report

  9. Avatar Citizen says:

    I would say that Michael defines the situation pretty well.
    There is no glossing over the real possibility that we are reducing and weakening our immune systems when compared to the natural/innate condition. In short, we are increasing our dependency. Not just on a single vaccine torwards a single virus, but a ever growing ever changing number of them.

    Is it comforting to have a health system that says it will take care of us? That we will forever have access to all these products that insure our good health. The more dependent we become the more “special” and “high demand” these products will be classified. This is a very old game, not so much on the means of production, this is one is about the means of survival.

    For many health care is not a enduring edifice and the access has been degrading. Centralization has had very specific effects in the communities that I live. I have no belief or indications it will get better, only worse.

    Maybe this lends a fatalilsm air about me. There is a significant anti-fatalism pushback, I would assume it comes from merited positions. Maybe fatalism is to strong a term, but how do you parse it from “the future is going to suck in this regard”?

    (Jaybirds comment was pretty damn awesome also)Report

    • Avatar Patrick in reply to Citizen says:

      There is no glossing over the real possibility that we are reducing and weakening our immune systems when compared to the natural/innate condition.

      Sorry, but this is just nonsensical. Biochemically speaking, it indicates that you very likely just don’t understand how the immune system works. There is no currently understood plausible mechanism by which increasing exposure to damaged virus strains will actually *decrease* your immune system’s ability to adapt to other viral strains. It just simply does not work that way.

      This would be like saying, “There is no glossing over the real possibility that by practicing for hours a day, performing strength training, and conditioning exercises, today’s modern athlete is increasing the likelihood that they won’t be able to perform on game day.”

      In short, we are increasing our dependency. Not just on a single vaccine torwards a single virus, but a ever growing ever changing number of them.

      This also does not make sense. You realize that smallpox is effectively eradicated, yes? We are no longer “dependent” on the smallpox vaccine, nor were we ever “dependent” upon it.

      Is it comforting to have a health system that says it will take care of us? That we will forever have access to all these products that insure our good health. The more dependent we become the more “special” and “high demand” these products will be classified. This is a very old game, not so much on the means of production, this is one is about the means of survival.

      I think your inclinations and biases are starting to seep out in this comment. It seems like your actual problem is not with vaccinations, but with the fact that you can’t construct and make them in your garage (yet) and you somehow regard this as objectionable because you currently depend upon the medical establishment to provide them to you, and you regard this as a means of control?

      For many health care is not a enduring edifice and the access has been degrading.

      I will grant the first clause but the second is arguable. Certainly post-PPACA millions more people have access to health insurance than before. If some also have less access, this is an equilibrium problem.

      Centralization has had very specific effects in the communities that I live. I have no belief or indications it will get better, only worse.

      Again, I think this speaks more to your biases against centralization than anything else.

      Maybe fatalism is to strong a term, but how do you parse it from “the future is going to suck in this regard”?

      The future is going to suck in many regards, just like the present sucks in many regards and the past sucked in many regards.

      One way in which the past sucked in high regard is that many folks used to get polio and suffer from partial paralysis. One way in which the present sucks less than the past is that far, far fewer people get polio and suffer from partial paralysis.

      Just because the present is not perfect, and the future will also not be perfect, doesn’t mean that the things that are better now than they were sixty years ago are losses.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Patrick says:

        Patrick,
        I congratulate you on your patience.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Patrick says:

        Y’know, in 1932 we elected a president who began life as a clueless, rich, spoiled jerk, but whose partial paralysis had taught him compassion for the less fortunate, In 2000 we elected a president who began life as a clueless, rich, spoiled jerk, and never found any reason to change. So don’t tell me vaccinations are a good thing.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Patrick says:

        Yes, FDR was quite the compassionate fellow. Take this for example:

        I hereby further authorize and direct all Executive Departments, independent establishments and other Federal Agencies, to assist the Secretary of War or the said Military Commanders in carrying out this Executive Order, including the furnishing of medical aid, hospitalization, food, clothing, transportation, use of land, shelter, and other supplies, equipment, utilities, facilities, and services.

        That was him making sure that the Japanese citizens that he was ordering be rounded up and put in camps have enough food, shelter and medical care. Definitely a top man.Report

    • Avatar Citizen in reply to Citizen says:

      @ Gabriel
      Was my answer sufficient to meet your interest? Not that I am looking for agreement, just that you understand the points I am making.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Citizen says:

        Citizen,
        Do you know anything about acquired immunity?
        It’s a chemical process, right?
        One type of cells binds to the exterior of the antigen — and then they remember it.
        [yes,I’m simplifying.]

        This has nothing to do with whether the antigen can replicate — or is even dead.

        You ask whether we’re “weakening our ability to fight other viruses” by giving a system a decent workout?

        No, in fact, we’re seeing an epidemic of allegies (which run off the same adaptive immune system) — our bodies are if anything more hyperalert to new antigens after vaccination (note: i’m not citing a study here. “if anything” should be taken with caution).Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Citizen says:

        Citizen,
        Great, now you’re citing work from ethically questionable research — in another country.

        As I may have stated upthread, those who are at significant risk of death from the flu get a REAL, comprehensive flu shot. Because, um, if they get ANY type of flu, they’re likely to die.

        See, we do this funny thing, where we actually read the research, and change policy because of it.

        You get the small spectrum flu shot, as a general effort to “keep the population clean”. A person with a compromised immune system (whether hyperactive or hypoactive) gets one designed to “make sure they don’t die”.

        Please, get your flu shot.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Citizen says:

        Citizen,
        also, that is an EXTREMELY small study, with obvious methodological problems mentioned by the study author. Please consult pubmed, your local immunologist, or a more complete body of research.

        You may very well be exhibiting selection-bias in your recall of studies.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Citizen says:

        Citizen,
        Also, flu shot has significant yearly variation in effectivity:
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25462180.
        I do not trust a one year study on this, particularly with such a small sample size.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Citizen says:

        @citizen

        I’ve been away all day and just now read your comment above. I think I get the gist of your objection, but I still don’t understand it.

        Are you suggesting that vaccines help cause mutations the way that overuse of antibiotics help facilitate the growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria? If so, then I at least see your reasoning, and I myself have wondered why a vaccine developed for strain A of a disease doesn’t somehow make strain B more prevalent if strain B is worse, then would it be better to just cope with strain A? I tend, however, to trust the doctors who as far as I know don’t seem to worry about this possibility (or non-possibility, if my worry is way off base and owes a lot to a basic misunderstanding of viruses….a distinct possibility when it comes to me).

        However, thanks for answering my question and clarifying. You’re right that I don’t think I agree with you. But even though I still don’t quite understand your objection, I think I have a better insight to it.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Citizen says:

        Citizen,
        I think that study may have more to do with “compliance and diligence” — the parents that get their kids vaccinated get their kids to wash their hands more than the parents of kids who aren’t getting the vaccination.

        On Average.Report

      • Avatar Citizen in reply to Citizen says:

        @ Gabriel,
        Your schedule must look alot like mine.

        Antibiotic resistant bacteria so far has been kind of a random killer.

        Vaccine resistant virus?, those bastards mostly kill the young.

        This said, I am not completely anti-vaccine, use them to your hearts content. I only hope that portions of the population retain the opportunity/right to let their body succeed or fail without these things.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Citizen says:

        Citizen,
        you can’t have herd immunity without getting the herd. and if you remove polio (say) from most of the population, the few people won’t get “natural (really, young acquired) immunity”

        I don’t think you’ve really thought through what you’re saying, or have the evidence to make a credible argument. But, I could be wrong. If you’ve got a metaanalysis (or larger study) I’d love a peek!Report

      • Avatar Citizen in reply to Citizen says:

        @ Kimmi
        The following is intentionally cryptic:

        “The mass youth die off was pretty dis-heartening. So time passed and the few that made it through were doing well. Looking at the new situation, It became obvious the local gene pool had decreased to an unacceptable level. Newbs were found and coaxed into the population. Unfortunately we were buring all the newbs three days later.”Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Citizen says:

        Citizen,
        Chtorr! Nothing like turning into a coevolved fungal mass.Report

  10. Avatar Gabriel Controy says:

    @citizen

    Yeah, we might have similar schedules, but I’m on vacay now, which means I’ll have less time to blog, but can do so at different intervals.

    Whether I agree with “vaccine resistant virus” as a threat depends on how accurate it is to say it’s a threat. For me, it’s a question that I’d like to see answered, but that I suspect the answer is “no, it’s not a threat,” or “it’s kind of a threat, but not the kind I’m thinking of and it’s not caused or made worse by vaccines.” Still, cheers and have a happy holidays.Report