Tag: herd immunity

Bad Vaccine Analogies

Analogies can help explain how vaccines work, especially good vaccine analogies.

Not having a cookie doesn’t make you immune to getting cookies…
Not having a cookie doesn’t make you immune to getting cookies from someone else…

They can also help explain how folks who do not support vaccines think.

Bad Vaccine Analogies

I wonder if all of their bad analogies will end up on tee shirts…

Would you use a parachute that was only 9% effective? Or would you just jump out of the plane and hope you can fly?
Would you use a parachute that was only 9% effective? Or would you just jump out of the plane and hope you can fly?

What do you think of Larry Cook’s analogy?

To be fair, the flu vaccine, in some years, can be as low as 9% effective.

Does that mean you can compare it to using a condom, parachute, or alarm clock that is only 9% effective?

How about this scenario:

You are on a plane that is about to crash and there is something wrong with the only parachute that is left on board. You inspect the stitching but estimate that you only have a 9% chance that it will deploy and get you to the ground safely. There is no backup parachute. Do you use it anyway, jump out without it and see if you can fly, or take your chances in a plane that is barreling towards the ground?

In most other situations, unless it is a life and death situation, you wouldn’t risk using a parachute that was only 9% effective. But what if that was your only option?

What if there is only a 9% chance that the parachute will get you to the ground without any injury, but a 80 to 90% chance that it will get you to the ground without dying? Would you use it then?

Would you use an alarm clock that was only 9% effective? No. I’ll set the timer on my phone to wake me up…

And that’s why we sometimes get a flu vaccine that is far less than 100% effective.

What’s the alternative?

Being unprotected and at a higher risk to get a severe case of the flu.

More Bad Vaccine Analogies

Larry Cook isn’t the only one to come up with bad vaccine analogies.

Why would you let your kid eat a poisoned cupcake?
Why would you let your kid eat a poisoned cupcake?

Of course, vaccinating and protecting your kids is not analogous to giving them a poisoned cupcake.

While vaccines are not risk free, serious reactions are extremely rare.

In fact, for this analogy to make even a little sense, you would have to have one million kids eating one million cupcakes.

Even then, the analogy falls apart.

Who would give their kid a cupcake if there was a chance that it was intentionally poisoned, even if the risk is just one in a million?

What’s the benefit of eating the cupcake?

Is this the last cupcake on earth? Is your child starving and is this cupcake the only thing he can eat? Is it a magic cupcake that can cure them of a life-threatening disease?

We vaccinate our kids, even if there is a one in a million chance of a severe, life-threatening reaction, because of all of the benefits they get from being vaccinated and protected.

Vaccines are not 100% safe, but they have few risks, and are safer than getting the diseases they protect us against.
Vaccines are not 100% safe, but they have few risks, and are safer than getting the diseases they protect us against.

How about all of the vaccine analogies about cars and seat belts?

Anti-vax folks like bad car and seat belt analogies.
Anti-vax folks like bad car and seat belt analogies.

Why don’t we call people who push for safer cars anti-car?

Jay Gordon doesn't think that that he is anti-vaccine.
Jay Gordon doesn’t think that that he is anti-vaccine.

Do these car safety advocates tell people to stop riding in cars or that a safe car can never be made?

Wanting safer vaccines doesn't make you anti-vaccine.
Wanting safer vaccines doesn’t make you anti-vaccine.

Do they say that kids will be hurt every time they ride in a car? Do they tell parents to just drive one day a week or one block a month?

Peanut butter or the plague??? Vaccine advocates aren't immune to bad vaccine analogies...
Peanut butter or the plague??? Vaccine advocates aren’t immune to bad vaccine analogies…

Unlike folks who are anti-vaccine, those who want safer cars generally still drive and ride in cars!

Making Sense of Vaccine Analogies

Have you heard the folks who say that they won’t set their kids on fire to keep someone else warm? They somehow think this is analogous to getting vaccinated and keeping herd immunity levels up to protect those who can’t be vaccinated.

No one wants to set your child on fire...
No one wants to set your child on fire…

You understand why that’s a bad analogy, right?

In addition to protecting others because your child doesn’t get sick and won’t expose them to a life-threatening disease, by vaccinating and protecting them, your own child doesn’t get sick!

Unlike setting your child on fire, it’s a win-win deal.

Well, it’s a win-win unless you believe classic arguments against vaccines, such as vaccines are poison or that vaccines don’t really work to prevent disease.

And maybe that’s why these bad analogies actually do work very well for some of these folks. They believe the misinformation and propaganda that help prop them up.

More on Bad Vaccine Analogies

Immunization Lesson Plans for Teachers

Having everyone learn more about immunizations and vaccine-preventable diseases will likely go a long way to help them understand that vaccines are safe, with few risks, and necessary.

Immunization Lesson Plans can help Teachers with topics like herd immunity, vaccine preventable diseases, and the scientific method.

Unfortunately, waiting to start teaching parents about the importance of vaccines once they have kids of their own leaves those kids at risk if parents have already decided to skip or delay any vaccines.

That’s why its important to learn about vaccines early on, before you can be mislead by misinformation and propaganda you might hear and see online.

To help learn about topics from informed consent and how vaccines work to herd immunity and the scientific method, parents and teachers can use these lessons plans to help their kids understand why it is important to stay up to date on their immunizations.

More on Immunization Lesson Plans

Bob Sears Was Right

Are you surprised that I think Bob Sears was right about something?

This quote about measles returning was eventually removed from the first edition of his vaccine book that was published in 2007.
This quote about measles returning was eventually removed from the first edition of his vaccine book that was published in 2007.

You shouldn’t be…

Bob Sears Was Right

Unfortunately, one of the few things he was right about is the only thing most folks didn’t seem to hear.

“With the growing mistrust of vaccinations in our country, more and more parents are saying no to vaccines. They’re refusing all vaccines altogether. And I think if more and more parents keep making those decisions, we’re going to run into a lot of trouble with these diseases. Illnesses that are very rare right now, that most parents don’t have to fear, could escalate and could start killing babies left and right if fewer and fewer parents are vaccinating.”

Dr. Robert W. Sears: Why Partial Vaccinations May Be an Answer

He repeatedly warned that measles and other diseases would come back if parents didn’t vaccinate their kids.

“As parents’ fears of vaccines grow, I think we may see fewer and fewer parents decide to vaccinate. And then we could see what used to be very rare illnesses become more common. We might see measles escalate. We might see diphtheria come back into the United States. God forbid, we might see polio come back. Then children are going to start dying. And then a lot of those parents that had chosen not to vaccinate might change their mind, and they might start vaccinating again, and then new parents might be more inclined to vaccinate their babies if we see these diseases come back.

Now, I hope and pray that doesn’t happen. I hope that we can maintain adequate herd immunity in our country so we don’t see these diseases return. But that worry of diseases coming back into our country, and the worry of diseases running rampant and killing a lot of babies, I don’t think that supersedes the parents’ basic right to choose what they want to do for their children. And if parents want to accept the disease risk because they don’t trust the vaccines, I think they have the right to make that choice.”

Dr. Robert W. Sears: Why Partial Vaccinations May Be an Answer

Were you surprised when they did?

“Why is it that every time there are a few cases of measles, everyone panics? I just don’t get it.”

Bob Sears

And predictably, folks like Sears have downplayed their return.

“This measles outbreak does not pose a great risk to a healthy child. And quite frankly I don’t think it poses any risk to a healthy child.”

Jay Gordon on Doctor explains why he lets kids avoid the measles vaccine

Were you expecting them to start recommending that kids get vaccinated and protected?

Larry Palevsky spoke at an anti-vax rally in New York during their record setting measles outbreak.

Ironically, folks like Bob Sears thought they were helping to get more kids vaccinated by pushing their non-standard, parent-selected, delayed protection vaccine schedules, but in reality, all they did was scare parents even more.

To be fair, Bob Sears wasn’t the only person to predict the return of vaccine-preventable diseases.

“I do believe sadly it’s going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe. If the vaccine companies are not listening to us, it’s their f*cking fault that the diseases are coming back. They’re making a product that’s sh*t. If you give us a safe vaccine, we’ll use it. It shouldn’t be polio versus autism.”

Jenny McCarthy on Autism and Vaccines

Nor the only person folks blame…

But he may have been one of the first to predict what would happen if parents actually listened to what he was saying…

More on Bob Sears and the Return of Measles

Getting Vaccinated to Protect Those Who Can’t Get the Vaccines

Most people get vaccinated because those vaccines have the direct benefit of reducing their risk of getting a life-threatening vaccine preventable disease. Protecting those who can’t get vaccines is a secondary benefit.

Should you get vaccinated to protect those who can't get the vaccines?
Does rationalizing your decision in anti-vax Facebook groups help you feel better that you are putting kids with cancer at greater risk to get sick?

A secondary benefit that anti-vax folks go to great lengths to convince themselves isn’t real and justify their decision to leave their kids unvaccinated and unprotected..

Getting Vaccinated to Protect Those Who Can’t Get the Vaccines

Of course, none of their explanations really hold water.

None of the vaccines that are routinely used on the CDC immunization schedule are a risk if you are around kids with cancer or other immunodeficiencies, except for FluMist and those with severe issues, like being in a bone marrow transplant unit.

One of the biggest misconceptions though, is that in getting vaccinated, parents are putting their own kids at great risk to protect someone else.

Don't set your kid on fire to keep mine warm!
Don’t set your kid on fire to keep mine warm!

Of course, that’s not true.

Remember, vaccines are safe, with few risks.

That why the analogy of setting their own kids on fire to keep others warm doesn’t make any sense.

After all, unlike vaccinating their own child, setting their child on fire offers them no benefit!

And they should understand that the one and only reason that their kids don’t get more vaccine-preventable diseases in this dog eat dog world is because the vast majority of us vaccinate and protect our kids.

Herd immunity is indeed real. In addition to protecting those who can’t be vaccinated, it protects the free-riders, those who just don’t want to get vaccinated.

What about the idea that it is unrealistic for folks who are immunocompromised to expect that they can lead normal lives and avoid infections?

You can't avoid all risks of infection, but why not avoid those that you can?

While it is true that there are other infections out there besides those that are vaccine-preventable, wouldn’t you want to at least reduce those risks that you can?

But could it be, as much as they seem to believe in shedding, that they think they are being altruistic in not vaccinating their kids?

Anti-vax folks are all about the shedding...
Anti-vax folks are all about the shedding

They aren’t.

In most cases, there are no restrictions on vaccinating people who have contact with those with immune system problems.

What about the idea that vaccines cause cancer?

Vaccines prevent cancer!
Vaccines prevent cancer!

That isn’t true. In fact, there are several vaccines that prevent cancer!

What other misconceptions do they have?

Most of the reasons folks use to avoid vaccines have been refuted a thousand times.
Most of the reasons folks use to avoid vaccines have been refuted a thousand times.

Let’s look at those last few issues…

  • vaccines are not associated with autism
  • vaccines aren’t perfect, but they do work very well
  • vaccines do help those with immune system problems, sometimes directly and more often because of herd immunity
  • people who have cancer are often vaccinated before they have chemo, but that protection gets wiped out during treatment and they can’t get caught up until after they have completed all of their treatments
  • kids with cancer might get some vaccines, but typically don’t get live vaccines

What about the idea that your unvaccinated child isn’t sick, so can’t get anyone else sick?

While that is a very common argument among anti-vax parents, it is very important that if your child is unvaccinated, then they are at much greater risk to catch a vaccine-preventable disease. And since you are often contagious even before you show symptoms, they might unknowingly expose many other people before they even realize that they are sick.

Hopefully you now understand it was never really a question.

That's why you get vaccinated, to protect those who can't get the vaccines!

Vaccinate and protect your kids.

If you don’t, in addition to putting them at risk to get sick, you put everyone around them at risk, including some who are at very high risk for severe complications from vaccine preventable diseases.

More on Risks from Unvaccinated Kids