Monday, January 24, 2011

Rahul Parikh: Vaccinated Against Logic

This man, Rahul Parikh, wrote an opinion article on childhood vaccinations and insurance premiums that I happened upon while perusing  He thinks that parents who do not vaccinate should have to pay more because of the risks their children pose to the community.  I have an opinion on his opinion.

Here is the article, in case you want a full context:

Let's jump in:
"Given that, it's hard for me to believe that some parents still refuse to vaccinate their children...frightened by the rants and raves of anti-vaccine fundamentalists..."

This is poppycock.  The parents I know and read about make informed and educated decisions after reading and researching the topics of vaccines and diseases, the benefits they offer, and the risks they pose.  Raves and rants may spur an interest, and act as a catalyst to get people to research and make decisions for themselves, but they do not frighten the majority of non-vaccinating parents into vaccine paralysis.  The suggestion of it insults people and indicates that the author thinks these parents are of uncommonly weak character.

I have experienced the opposite.  I gave birth without medication at a birth center, so the parents I came to know and love provide a unique pool for me to gather insight and information from, as parents who give birth without medication are also apt to give their children less medication, and many of them provide a perfect example for me to comment on this article.  My friends who choose not to vaccinate read books from several different perspectives, talk to their doctors, and vaccinate selectively or not at all.  Those parents must put in a lot of effort to have their wishes respected, including interviewing many pediatricians to find out their beliefs and if they will support a selective or non-vaccinating family.  Some parents I know started vaccinating and stopped; however, none of them said, "My goodness, I'm just so scared 'cause vaccines might give my precious baby the cooties."  The author assumes my friends are idiots.

"Refusing to vaccinate a child is dangerous not just for that child but for entire communities...that parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids should pay substantially higher health insurance premiums.

To indicate how far stretched I find Rahul's logic, I would like to relate vaccinating to breastfeeding.  Breastfed babies have enhanced immunity, get less ear infections, diarrhea, and flu, and have enhanced cognitive and social development, not to mention a huge slew of benefits that do not directly benefit the community, but correlate strongly and directly to the premium pot our author so cherishes and fears for, including lower incidences of gastroesophageal reflux, MS, allergies, and dental problems.  Breastfed babies who get sick less don't put other children in danger as often, and in addition, the breastfeeding mother also enjoys health benefits of lower rates of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, postpartum depression, etc., etc.  So, if we follow the author's logic (which I would never want to do), then all non-breastfeeding families should have to pay higher premiums for the risks posed to their communities for both the baby and the mother, despite whatever reasons for which they made the original decision not to breastfeed.  (Not to mention the ecological costs of not BFing!  I diverge a little, but what an interesting question:  Who costs the nation and communities more; parents who don't breastfeed, or parents who don't vaccinate?)  (More on breastfeeding, and my source: )

The perfect analogy is smoking. If you smoke -- and want to turn your lungs black and spend a greater portion of that pot of money on your possible chronic lung disease or any cancers you'll get -- then you may have to pay more.

Why shouldn't we impose the same logic on parents who refuse to vaccinate their children?  The link between smoking and lung cancer is as clear as that between refusing vaccines and increasing the risk of infectious disease."

I'll tell you why, dummy.  Because the smoker who gets sick pays for his own health care, as should the parents of a child who may become sick.  The author wants the parents to pay for the risks they pose to everyone else, not for the risks they pose to themselves (as the smokers do).  So yes, Rahul, the links between smoking and cancer are clear.  The links between refusing vaccines and spreading disease are clear (although my generosity feels stretched at giving the author this claim, as the studies are pretty conflicting and the risks very difficult to measure).  However, the link between your two arguments is not clear, although you're pretty convincing to all those people out there with low critical thinking skills, or too little time to care.  Your arguments link to themselves, but not to each other.  If smokers paid for all of the people they got sick through their second hand smoke, then your arguments would be congruent. 

Actually, if he shifted his smoker/vaccination-deserter argument to actually make sense and commented on the personal health care bills that may arise from the risk taken from not vaccinating, I might actually, well, not agree with him, but at least he wouldn't look like a fool. 

The author goes on to tell a horror story about an unvaccinated child who brought the measles home from Europe.  He uses the same "rant and rave" fear tactic to strengthen his argument that he condemns in his third paragraph.  Just like any politician trying to make his case, he makes one incident the poster for a nationwide proposal, and it works, it scares people, and then you get seven thousand people recommending the stupid article on Facebook, and then twenty thousand people espousing the info as if it were actually their own opinion.  And they never even thought about it.  So it comes to pass that the people calling for change, and for non-vaccinating parents to pay more, is spewing from the mouths of the people the author is supposedly trying to punish - the poor and uneducated, as indicated by his comment, "I don't foresee any quick shift in the trend among affluent, highly educated older parents against childhood vaccines."  He says right there that he's not, in general, talking about highly educated or wealthy people.  What a pig.

"As an aside, perhaps we could make doctors complicit in that choice pay higher malpractice premiums as well. Perhaps then, the combination of proof, medical crimes, stories like what happened in San Diego and a little moral hazard for patients and doctors will help move the needle toward common sense and preventive medicine."

Does this speak for itself?  In case it doesn't, I say this guy was spanked a few too many times as a boy.  He wants to punish everyone for whatever reason he can conjure up, including saying that it should be an actual medical crime for doctors to respect their non-vaccinating parents' wishes.  I suppose he thinks he's clever at the end there, with his "move the needle" stuff.  Perhaps he should learn to demonstrate common sense before he direct the medical and parental community toward it.

The circle closes, and so do I.

This link leads to Dr. Sears' book on vacs, which I think comes from a healthy perspective and shows respect to parents.  The book does not give an opinion or tell parents what to do.  It informs.  In addition, you can find books that do come from a certain perspective, for and against, through links from here.

From Japan,

1 comment:

Megan said...

Well said, well said. It's unfortunate that people write these articles without truly knowing all the facts or seeing both sides. It's also disheartening when everyone else reads articles such as these and then think they are an expert, because this is what someone on said, and so he must clearly be "in the know."

Promoting vaccinations includes a lot of scare tactics and if parents knew there was more to the story of keeping your children healthy & well, I think they'd be a lot less likely to give their children every immunization. But to each their own, I guess.

You should check out this article, too. Think you'd find it interesting!