BLOGS

Herd Immunity...

CDC%252Bmeasles.jpg
Everyone who was in the Fullerton, CA, movie theater, not just those at the "Avengers" screening, may have been exposed to the contagious disease. (Source: CDC/Twitter, KCRG)

 

Topics: Biology, Civil Rights, Human Rights


Normally, I save this type of commentary for Fridays, but...

As measles cases rise, more vaccine exemptions are being demanded by parents concerned about government control or worried about the now-debunked link between immunization and autism.

This year’s back-to-school season coincides with the worst measles resurgence that the nation has seen since the disease was declared “eliminated” nearly two decades ago.

At least 1,241 people — many of them school-age children — contracted the viral infection across 31 states so far this year, according to the most recent count by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which called it the highest number of reported cases in nearly a generation. [1]

Here's what I was looking for:

Measles was declared eliminated (absence of continuous disease transmission for greater than 12 months) from the United States in 2000. This was thanks to a highly effective vaccination program in the United States, as well as better measles control in the Americas region. [2]

The declaration was a bit hyperbole and grandiose: we again, increased the likelihood of protection from it via herd immunity.

You can reduce the incident of things when you respect the science.

This resurgence of measles, with an R0 of 18 versus Ebola's R0 of 2 - is due to the rampant conspiracy theories spread online and hyped by celebrities that has impacted herd immunity - simply, if 95% of the population go for their vaccinations, it protects the 55 or so that for various reasons good only to them, refuse to get them.

When the numbers increase in the un-vaccinated and the numbers decrease in the vaccinated, you have the situation we're currently not enjoying.

This lack of respect for science has analogies: climate change and mass shootings.

In each case, there is a disrespect for the science that preceded any announced conclusions. In the case of climate change, it enjoys the same treatment the cigarette industry used to sow doubt (and in many cases, the same PR and law firms to do it).

With gun lobbyists that did NOT exist at the founding of the country, science is discouraged and the useless channeling of 'thoughts and prayers" follows any massacre, as if they know our attention spans are fleeting and the carnage has already been factored into their business models.

Though it thought triumphant in 2000 to declare ourselves measles-free, this predates 9/11 when our sense of safety was ripped away like a scab of useless flesh. Fear gripped the nation and irrationality became the norm. Fear of the "other" drove gun sales then, and they always will.

My "societal inoculation" to reduce (not eliminate) gun violence:

1. License and insurance - this logical step is resisted by the aforementioned gun lobbyists as the "slippery slope" to totalitarianism, yet no one has proposed we NOT regulate vehicle or business licenses.

2. Universal background checks - of in-store and straw one-to-one purchases.

3. Buy-back programs to those that don't want to go through the hassle of 1 or 2.

4. Confiscation - for the knuckleheads that will invariably try to go out in a "blaze of glory."

No one law or set of laws will eliminate gun violence any more than one vaccine, even at 95% herd immunity will totally eliminate a disease: it simply reduces its frequency; the current R0 for guns has to be around the mid thirties.

The above is slightly better than the thoughts and prayers that haven't traversed higher than the myriad ceiling under which they have been uttered.

 

1. Across the nation, hundreds of thousands of kids are going to school unvaccinated, Jayme Fraser, The Columbus Dispatch
2, Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Measles History

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