By Doug Porter
Nuts. That’s what the people behind the current batch of measles cases spreading through the country are. And not in a good way, like a zany friend. In a bad way, as in gun nuts, a small group of people whose fanaticism poses a danger to those around them and society at large.
Collectively known as anti-vaxxers, these folks use faux science to justify not immunizing children against highly contagious diseases. Measles, chicken pox, mumps and whooping cough are all on the increase nationwide.
There are 51 cases of measles reported in the latest outbreak, traceable to Disneyland visitors in the week prior to Christmas. Orange county, with 21 cases reported in 2014 is ground zero for one other reason: a pediatrician friendly to parents seeking to exempt their children from public health agencies requirements for vaccinations.
Meet Dr. Bob Sears, the man who many blame for recent outbreaks. Here’s the lede from an LA Times article about him from last September:
Maureen Viereck arrived at Dr. Bob Sears’ Dana Point office with her 4-year-old son, having driven from San Diego to meet the pediatrician and discuss her concerns about vaccines.
She worries that immunizations cause health problems, and friends had told her about Sears and his book.
“I’m vegan,” she said, and in her circle, word of Sears “sort of traveled through the grapevine.”
The Times article says that California parents opting out of vaccinating their kindergarten-age children at twice the rate they did seven years ago. Dr Sears’ book,”The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child,” is often cited as the source for the reasoning behind these decisions.
The Orange County pediatrician does not openly advocate for refusing immunization. He says his role is to “allow parents to get vaccinations in a way they’re more comfortable” with. And for many parents, confused by claims tying vaccines to autism or simply rebelling against what they feel is an intrusion into their lives, the “more comfortable” part of his deal gives them a legal path out of the public health mandates for schoolchildren. All they have to do is say it conflicts with their personal beliefs on a form.
Going back to the LA Times article:
A 2009 article in the journal Pediatrics by Offit and Charlotte A. Moser, assistant director of the vaccine education center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, criticized Sears’ “misrepresentation of vaccine science.”
His book, they said, underplays the dangers of vaccine-preventable diseases, wrongly suggests that vaccines don’t receive in-depth testing and research, and confuses reported vaccine-related side effects with proven effects.
Dr. Sears does respond to media reports of childhood diseases spreading, claiming the accounts are exaggerated. And last week his Dr. Bob’s Daily and Facebook page made the claim that measles is only rarely fatal in developed countries and that serious complications are rare.
The 400-500 people who did not survive their infection with measles annually might beg to disagree, if only they could.
Children’s author Roald Dahl was one of those rare examples, losing a daughter at age 7.
Olivia, my eldest daughter, caught measles when she was seven years old. As the illness took its usual course I can remember reading to her often in bed and not feeling particularly alarmed about it. Then one morning, when she was well on the road to recovery, I was sitting on her bed showing her how to fashion little animals out of coloured pipe-cleaners, and when it came to her turn to make one herself, I noticed that her fingers and her mind were not working together and she couldn’t do anything.
“Are you feeling all right?” I asked her.
“I feel all sleepy,” she said.
In an hour, she was unconscious. In twelve hours she was dead.
The measles had turned into a terrible thing called measles encephalitis and there was nothing the doctors could do to save her. That was twenty-four years ago in 1962, but even now, if a child with measles happens to develop the same deadly reaction from measles as Olivia did, there would still be nothing the doctors could do to help her.
Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, CA. has written an article urging people to react to his claims by filing a complaint with California’s medical board.
California legislators are said to be exploring ways to hold parents of un-vaccinated children responsible when others contract the disease.
In the meantime, a certain amount of social shaming is the best we can do. Not vaccinating your children because you are paranoid shouldn’t be an option. I realize that small number of religious exemptions are granted each year, but for most of these folks asking for waiver so their kids can attend school it’s a matter of choice.
I also acknowledge that there are reasons to be concerned about the safety and effectiveness of immunizations. This year’s flavor of the flu vaccine is only 23% effective. Some variants of whooping cough are apparently not prevented by the current shot.
None of these reasons justify endangering the larger population. Period.
The State of the Nation
President Obama will address the Congress on Tuesday evening. The big news, leaked to the media over the weekend, is that he’s going to ask for increased taxes on the rich and tax breaks for the middle class.
Republicans have already denounced these proposals as reminiscent of “Robin Hood” and “class warfare.” And they are right. It’s about time somebody raised the issue.
I have no illusions that a GOP led Congress will move on legislation proposed by the President. But the larger issue of inequality and the shrinking middle class in this country will not be addressed by GOP solutions which currently include tax cuts for the rich, cutting social programs and allowing more air pollution.
The good thing about the President’s wish list is that it makes these issues central to the next round of elections.
Columnist Suzanne Moore, writing in the Guardian, summed it up nicely:
The rich, via lobbyists and Byzantine tax arrangements, actively work to stop redistribution. Inequality is not inevitable, it’s engineered. Many mainstream economists do not question the degree of this engineering, even when it is highly dubious. This level of acceptance among economists of inequality as merely an unfortunate byproduct of growth, alongside their failure to predict the crash, has worryingly not affected their cult status among blinkered admirers.
Even the mild challenge of Thomas Piketty, with his heretical talk of public rather than private interest being essential to a functioning democracy, is revolutionary in a world which buys the conservative idea that the elixir of “growth” simply has to mean these huge extremes in income distribution.
That argument may now be collapsing. The contortions that certain pet economists make to defend the indefensible 1% are often to do with positing the super-rich as inherently talented and being self-made. The myth is that everyone is a cross between Steve Jobs and Bono; creative, entrepreneurial, unique. The reality is cloned inherited wealth and insane performance-related pay, eg the bankers who continue to reward themselves more than a million a year after overseeing the collapse of the industry.
SDSU Frat Offers Up Lamest Excuse Ever
A majority of guys in the fraternity accused of harassing anti-rape marchers couldn’t have done it because they were busy planning a party sponsored by… a porno magazine.
Today’s UT-San Diego has an article explaining the “other side” of the November 21st incident at SDSU whereby participants in a “Take Back the Night” march were harassed as they marched past the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity house. A series of sexual assaults on and near the campus led Concerned Students of San Diego State University to organize the protest.
The administration at the university has since shut down the frat for at least two years because of this incident and other complaints.
The UT article says the harassment came from just one frat member (and a friend) and that, furthermore, the protesters themselves may have used dirty words. OMG.
What people don’t know about that Friday night in November, the two said, is that most of the members of the fraternity were unaware that a Take Back the Night march had even happened on their street.
Only two people — one fraternity member and his friend from out of town — were on the balcony while everyone else was in a courtyard preparing for a party the next night, they said.
The party was sponsored by the pornographic magazine and adult shop Hustler, which in retrospect Boesgaard said was a mistake because it reinforced negative stereotypes about fraternities.
Hustler sent several items to the house, including the sex toy that wound up on the balcony that night.
Once Again, With Feeling: Jack in the Box Sucks
The People of North Park vs Jack in the Box has a court date scheduled for this Friday. Go support these folks if you can. This is a wrong that needs to be fixed. The city won’t help them. And the corporate lawyers for Gag-in-the-Bag are doing everything they can to stall long enough so everybody forgets.
Friday, January 23, 10 a.m.
San Diego Superior Court, Department 71, Judge Prager
330 West Broadway, San Diego, CA 92101
I’ve written about this fight by North Park residents so many times, I may as well just quote myself:
For all the hand wringing that’s gone on over the inconvenience of protests or the (very) occasional acts of violence in recent days, perhaps it would be instructive to take a look at what happens when a group of citizens try to fight for their cause in court.
Back in 2013 residents in North Park sued Jack in the Box over a rebuild re-amok. It was (and is) a classic case of powerful interests running roughshod over the law and city officials doing little or nothing about it.
They’ve been patiently waiting for their day in court. New dates for hearings get set; Jack in the Box lawyers ask for a postponement at the last minute after activists have invested great effort at making the community aware of the hearing.
A November 21st hearing was rescheduled for December 5th. The hearing was cancelled on December 3rd, due to an unspecified conflict with the attorneys representing Jack in the Box. This little game has been played four times now.
It’s especially frustrating because the court date is a hearing for summary judgment which they requested on the grounds that the plaintiffs had no grounds to sue. Each cancellation creates more frustration and discouragement for neighborhood activists, and generating enthusiasm is becoming more difficult.
Happy Martin Luther King Day
Segregation, San Diego style:
Map Via Dustin Cable at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service
On This Day: 1793 – King Louis XVI was tried by the French Convention, found guilty of treason and sentenced to the guillotine. 1957 – Philadelphia comedian, Ernie Kovacs, did a half-hour TV show without saying a single word of dialogue. 1973 – Yuba City, Calif., labor contractor Juan V. Corona found guilty of murdering 25 itinerant farm workers he employed during 1970 and 1971
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