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Vaccination, the most popular argument we shouldn't be having

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There are a lot of national conversations these days that feel a little like a step backward. Wind and solar vs. fossil fuels is a reasonable argument, whether or not to increase our reliance on coal does not. Whether or not to flex our military and political muscle in faraway countries to encourage stability is always a tricky issue, whether or not to get into a verbal (or Twitter-based) pissing match with North Korea does not feel quite so complicated or inevitable. The question of vaccinations feels a bit more like the latter than the former, but it affects everyone living and on the way to being born so it's worth engaging until the matter is as dead as the flat-earth... oh wait...

Are they evil?

I think/hope most reasonable people are not as concerned with the conspiracy theory complaints about vaccines as they are the more subtle questions. There is little question that vaccines work. Ask the last person you know who had smallpox. There is also little question that avoiding vaccines results in outbreaks of previously rare diseases. But all vaccines are not created equal. Evil is too strong word, but it is not a given that all vaccines are necessary or even effective.

What should we be asking?

Suggesting that vaccines are some form of mind control or demonic plan to subvert humanity is nothing but counterproductive. But critical thinking invites questions and there are reasonable ones to ask. A good example is the flu vaccine. The CDC page about the flu vaccine is honest about the questionable efficacy of the flu vaccine, but you have to read between the lines to see it. They clearly state that the, "seasonal flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season." While that sounds great, it of course means that the flu you're vaccinated against may never even come near you. It is also known that some people develop symptoms of the disease they are vaccinated against, so the closest you come to that flu could very well be fever you get from the vaccine.

The flu is an important example here because it is the type of vaccine most people, especially in a developed country, can afford to ignore. Some version of the flu are quite severe and we should be on the lookout for those situations: H1N1 for example. But for the most part it's a luxury that pads pharmaceutical pockets. A measles vaccine is something very different. We should of course be skeptical of anything told to us by someone who profits, but we must also trust the science involved. A 30 year old adult can shake off the flu once a year, but a baby tracking measles all over the place is a very different and life-altering problem.

By all means, question vaccines, but do it from a place of perspective and with a proper respect for the science involved.

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