Friday, 1 August 2014

A Jab At the Anti-Vaxxers on Black Box

We've been watching the summer series Black Box, which appears to be a cross between House and a soap opera.  I'm not entirely comfortable with the series, not sure if it's the characters or the fact that I've caught them in some medical errors.  Or maybe it's because I started watching at the 8th episode and missed a lot of the setup.

There was one episode recently which caught my attention, the 11th episode, "Emotion".  One of the secondary plots was of a mom who comes in with her seven year old son, who has stopped speaking.  She quickly rattles off how conscientious a parent she is, controlling her son's diet to be all-natural and organic, and how the school is insisting on testing her son but he's just shy and quiet.

The doctor asks if her child is up to date in his vaccinations and the mom says he's never been vaccinated.  When the doctor asks why, mom snaps off "Because I don't want my child to have autism."  As if it's the most obvious answer in the world.

The doctor immediately tells her autism isn't caused by vaccines, which the mom scoffs as a lie of Big Pharma.

By the end of the episode, we learn the child has irreversible progressive brain damage from getting measles at 3.  (A real effect which does happen since the virus can remain active in the body after symptoms disappear.)  The kid is going to die from not being vaccinated.

Of course, most people who don't vaccinate their kids end up killing other people's kids.  Their child has measles and infects an infant too young to have the vaccine.  It's fairly easy to do since measles is contagious for 3 weeks before symptoms appear.  Children under 2 are particularly vulnerable since they've lost the passive protection of their mother's antibodies but haven't received the vaccine yet.  In the developing world, where death rates can be as high as 30%, infants receive a two step vaccine at 6 and 9 months.

Whenever I deal with an anti-vax campaign, I find it sad for two reasons.  One, it's socially irresponsible.  And two, it acts as if a child with autism is worse off than a dead child.  I find both of those presumptions very hard to swallow.

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