Surprise! (NOT) There’s a new measles epidemic centered on California’s Disneyland, primarily because of non-vaccinated children. What is not so much surprising as it is interesting (and gratifying) is the way the mass media has by and large come down against the antivaccine movement responsible for the carnage.
More amusing is listening to long-time med bloggers sound off:
I do not have personal experience with the anti-vaxxers. My colleagues in other states tell me that many of these fools are well-educated. Obviously they are anti-science. I believe that many such vaccine deniers believe that diet and supplements will trump modern medicine.
The striking rise in measles is directly attributable to this ignorant selfishness. I am having difficulty explaining how angry this makes me.
Angry? Hello! Welcome to my world:
I have been vilified, cursed, accused of “sucking at the teat of big pharma”, and worse. One of the above pieces generated an (outrageously false) accusation of plagiarism. Talk about angry! I’m still reduced to trembling just thinking about it.
And my experiences are nothing compared to those of Dr. Paul Offit. He’s been fighting this fight longer than all of us combined. Only now are the anti-vaxers starting to get the negative press they so richly deserve.
Here’s the thing, though: anger is not a useful emotion to bring to the interaction with these patients/parents. When you stop to think about it, how likely are you to change someone’s mind by telling them they are being a selfish idiot, even when it’s true? Imagine trying to convince a reluctant patient to undergo what you know to be life-saving treatment. Getting angry at them for being stupid is probably not the best approach.
We need to overcome reluctance and resistance to vaccination. The only way that’s going to happen is to approach theses people with respect, hear — really hear! — their concerns, and do our level best to educate them about the logical fallacies underlying those concerns.
A few months ago, I saw a new patient in my office. This lovely, intelligent 14-year-old had received no immunizations at all. Having now done the research for himself, this boy was requesting all age-appropriate vaccinations. To his parents’ credit, although they disagreed with his decision, they respected his wishes and brought him to see me. We (he and I) sat down together and set up an appropriate schedule. I administered the first set of vaccinations; he returned as requested, and all went well.
I have another family in my practice who just had their first child. They had “concerns” about the vaccines and came to see me before the birth to discuss these issues. They ended up deciding to forego Hepatitis B, but so far their 2-month-old is otherwise “on schedule.” They don’t want her to get MMR or Chickenpox vaccine, but every time I see them we discuss it some more. I try to provide more information and address their concerns with respect. I’m optimistic that when the time comes, the kid will end up fully vaccinated. And even if she doesn’t, there’s always the possibility that she, like the young man above, will transcend her parents’ limitations and eventually choose vaccine protection for herself.
I understand the anger — and I share it. But it’s not helpful. And we are supposed to help.