Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Immunity from Stupid

Vaxer's. Anti- Vaxer's. So much discussion lately about the merits of herd immunity- especially in light of the measles outbreak linked to Disneyland.

We were at Disney during the time frame in question. The news splashed across my mobile- and honestly I sighed and went back to trying to annihilate Phil's score in Toy Story Mania.

Common sense seems to be lost. I have quite a lot to say on vaccines. But it is just that- what I have to say. Each person really needs to find their own voice and what works for them.

Here's some background- after Lily finished treatment- I spent months researching family history, the history of cancer, p53, and Li-Fraumeni Syndrome. During the course of this research- I found myself on a tangential path into the world of vaccines. From Smallpox, to polio and the SV40 contamination link to cancer to Anthrax and Gulf war syndrome. It is fascinating to me how many scientific advances are driven by war and politics. Vaccines are no different.  Vaccines are intricately related to illness and viruses with an undercurrent of social policy. For years it was refuted that viruses could possibly be linked to cancer. Then gradually there is a shift, as data and needs collect- the view alters. One of my more recent research topics- the HPV vaccine- and the evidence of a shift in thinking as the HPV vaccine is to prevent viruses that cause cancer.

I believe in vaccines. I believe they work and I think they prevent a lot of devastation.  I believe they are safe and necessary for the average person. There have been missteps along the way. There were tainted vaccines. There were illnesses caused by vaccines. But there have also been many lives saved.  My kids are vaccinated. I am not a huge fan of the combo vaccines- I think much of our body's confusion(autoimmune/allergy/reactions) can be attributed to throwing too many things at it to build antibodies to at one time. I also believe heavily that the over processed foods we are eating- cause a lot of these problems as well so if you see an anti-vaxxer out there feeding their child a happy meal- please enlighten them there are more chemicals in that nugget than a vaccine. I'm not an immunologist- so my logic could be horrendously flawed- that is just how I feel. I think our bodies are much smarter than we are and we have to find the balance between thinking we know what's best through pharmaceuticals and giving it a defensive leg up.

I've always been on the fence about the flu vaccine. Every year that I've gotten it- I've gotten really sick. So I am of the opinion- I'll take my chances and hope for the best. Mind you- I am immunocompromised, I have 2 "immunosuppressed" kids. I do not weigh the decision to turn down vaccines lightly. Both Phillip and Lily get the flu vaccine every year. Pretty much their endocrinologist has the nurse come in and give it to them.  Generally Bella and Kiera do not.  SO we are half and half in this house. But in my mind- flu vaccines are not the same as other vaccines.

You have to find the balance between letting your body do it's job and the risk management of severe illness. Herd immunity keeps popping up in article after article- blogs-stories.. Social responsibility to get vaccinated to protect the weaker members of society. As much as I believe in this social construct- it is a flawed reasoning pattern to promote vaccination. Herd immunity is a good thing- but the problem is- it is being preached to a self centered audience. The same audience who feels everyone deserves a trophy-yet they can bend the rules to fit their individualized "needs"- that no child should be left out- that bullies should be publicly shunned. To promote vaccination as some philanthropic social responsibility to protect the weaker minority- yet neglect that much riskier every day behaviors put these immunocompromised populations at risk- is short sighted. And being preached on self centered ears.

There is an overwhelming lack of big picture. There is an absence of thoughtful consideration of the forest through the proverbial vaccine trees. Big picture- if an immunosuppressed individual goes to a place such as Disneyland- they are opening themselves to an international myriad of health issues- only a few of which are illnesses that can be vaccinated against. Do we screen international visitors and check shot records- No.  I believe everyone should live their fullest lives- and find joy and LIVE however they see fit. But where on earth did the over-riding belief that the general public is out there to protect you come from? When did we become immune to personal responsibility to protect ourselves or our children by doing what is best for them? And sometimes that means making unpopular decisions and facing the consequences of that.  As someone who has done Disney twice as an "immunosuppressed"(I use this lightly since my counts have been very steady ) and as a mom of a cancer patient on her Make A Wish trip- there are so many places where you are opening yourself up to problems. For one you eat out more- and although there are food safety standards- immunosuppression #1 sucky rule- no eating out. Why is that the case if there are food safety standards- because the standards are for the average masses who can fight off a bit of bacteria. And people are human. And sometimes not too bright and most definitely lacking common sense and hygiene. It is purely about risk reduction.

This absolute disdain and condemnation over the carelessness of antivaxers who exposed children too little to be vaccinated at an amusement park is ironic. At best.  I think if you have the means and desire to take a baby to Disney- Party on Wayne. Party on Garth.  Phillip was 9 months at his first Disney trip- a 50th birthday celebration with his grandma. Of course- phew- he was vaccinated at that time.  BUT you have to put it to the common sense test- it is a big place with lots of people and I don't care how many cast member trash ninjas they have popping up out of secret entrances- that leaves room for a lot of dirt and germs from so many locations. This past visit a kid coughed on my head. So other than taking airborne daily and hand washing like an OCD olympic event- I knew going in- getting sick was a distinct possibility. Heck Bella developed a cough on the plane there. Phillip's nose started running. Perhaps instead of earplugs and candy "I'm bringing my baby who is gonna cry" on an airplane gift bags- we should consider antibacterial, airborne and lysol . Because if you are taking a baby to such a place clinging to an expectation that humans there are all of a certain mindset or social aptitude for biological hygiene- you could be very disappointed. People get sick. The biggest threats are the people who do not know enough or care enough to be concerned outside of their infectious little bubble. How it it we expect a certain accountability of sacrifice from them yet are willing to not apply it to ourselves?

Life is about risk management. The government issues safety guidelines and vaccine requirements. Not everyone fits into the nice neat little box of standards. People who have gotten vaccines have gotten the diseases they were vaccinated against. It happens. Recently a mom blogged complete contempt for whomever exposed her newborn to measles in the doctor's waiting room. First of all- most good clinics try to deconflict well baby exams with sick kid appointments. Unfortunately there are a myriad of germs that can survive outside the petri dish of humanity for quite some time. EVERY time my kids go to their routine endocrinology appointment- they end up sick. We go every 3 months and I did a dance recently when Lily got bumped up to 6. We go into the waiting room- they sit with their homework in their lap, we sanitize as we go.  But I hate to be the bearer of bad news- the sick people are the ones who absolutely NEED to be there. AS much as I promote prevention and wellness exams- a doctor's office is where people who are sick wait. A woman was diagnosed with mumps as I sat getting chemo in the chemo bay one day. Mumps. She had been vaccinated. But her immune system took a hit from chemo. And she got mumps.  I didn't feel angry at her. I felt really bad for her- she looked miserable. Sure I worried I might get sick, but I'm pretty sure she didn't want to be sick either.

There is a lot of misinformation and stupidity everywhere. You cannot fix stupid.  If only there were a vaccine for stupid. You can hope to educate and raise awareness. I do this daily for LFS. DO I think everyone should avoid radiation,oh well that IS a can of worms...let me rephrase. Mutants are especially sensitive to radiation. Sometimes it is the best option- but for screening- it should be avoided if possible. Many mutants have a tough time getting the screening they need or getting it paid for by insurance because the standards of care for treatment do not include it. As a group- we have different needs. Do we think every single person should have to follow our rules since it would be more convenient for us( the world would be a better place- but I digress).  Societal norms are in place to help the majority. When you get diagnosed with a rare illness you immediately ask why? Why is there not a cure? Why is more not being done? Well because the shark closest to the boat gets the attention and for the public in general- communicable diseases are some of the biggest and nearest sharks. You are the captain of your boat. You can steer it into the sharks- away from the sharks or keep it on land if you are that afraid of sharks. You gotta do you. You gotta be you.  Just remember sometimes you don't see those sharks at all- doesn't mean they aren't there waiting. And feel free to yell at the sharks and berate them for their lack of vaccination- I'm pretty sure they will weigh that heavily in their decision to eat you.

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Lily Kay Monkey

Lily Kay Monkey
November 2008 Photographed by Shelley Detton (7 Layer Studio)