Vaccines are Like Seat Belts

“We have seat belt rules,” [Offit] says. “Seat belts save lives. There was never a question about that. The data was absolutely clear. But people didn’t use them until they were required to use them (http://www.wired.com/magazine/2009/10/ff_waronscience/all/1).”

Vaccines are like seat belts if seat belts were made of arsenic that *may* or *may not* seep into your skin and kill you.

Vaccines are like seat belts if seat belts sometimes randomly caused your car to drive into oncoming traffic. But this wouldn’t be called a car accident because everyone knows seat belts CAN’T cause car accidents.

Vaccines are like seat belts if seat belts had not one, but two government organizations that exist specifically to “market” and “recommend” their use.

Vaccines are like seat belts if not wearing a seat belt and getting in a small fender bender caused ER staff to “assume” you have a worst case scenario and insisting on a spinal tap, MRI, tracheotomy, and a mandatory stay in the ICU.

Vaccines are like seat belts if not wearing one caused people to accuse you of causing other people’s cars to lose control and thus killing innocent children.

For the record, I try not to be one of those people who hate Paul Offit (or anyone for that matter).  I’ve read his story and know he has good reasons for being a vaccine advocate.  He is clearly not an evil man out to harm children.  I respect his right to vaccinate.  Where I strongly disagree with him is that he does not believe in vaccine exemption.  He thinks it should be mandated and forced.  He does not believe in informed consent or parental choice.  That sickens me way more than his belief in vaccines.

I feel the same about parents who vaccinate.  I’m not anti-vax in the sense that I think everyone should not vax.  It is a difficult decision.  It is balancing the risks of now vs. the risks of what if and that is a soul searching experience.  I don’t, however, have a shred of respect for someone that thinks their choice is the only one and I (or my baby) should be forcibly vaccinated and/or quarantined.  When I hear people call exemptions “so called” as in “the so called religious exemption” that is truly insulting.  It implies that I’m hiding behind a shield to excuse my choice.  My choice doesn’t need an excuse.

So, I really didn’t want to talk about the Swine Flu vax because it is a no-brainer for me.  I certainly won’t be getting it for me or my family.  This decision isn’t driven by fear of the vaccine or the belief that the swine flu is some type of government conspiracy.  I’m not getting the vaccine for the same reason I don’t wear a helmet (or bubble wrap) everywhere I go.  A helmet could save me in an accident or slip and fall, right?  I choose to live out from under the cloud of what could happen and live with what is happening.

Right now?  There is a particularly virulent flu going around.  I’m living in the now by washing my hands (but not too much), coughing in my elbow, eating right, getting enough sleep, taking my vitamins (including a healthy dose of D), etc.  I’m not worried enough to make extreme choices like never leaving the house, wearing a face mask, not letting my kids eat their Halloween candy*, and injecting pathogens int my body.

*obviously, my 8 month old isn’t getting any candy anyways.

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3 thoughts on “Vaccines are Like Seat Belts

  1. Interesting post. It really is a poor analogy IMO. I think the swine flu vaccine (and any vaccine) should be looked at in terms of the risks of getting it vs. not getting it and I don’t think those risks are the same for the entire population all of the time.

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  2. Interesting post. It really is a poor analogy IMO. I think the swine flu vaccine (and any vaccine) should be looked at in terms of the risks of getting it vs. not getting it and I don't think those risks are the same for the entire population all of the time.

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  3. I refound your blog and I remember this list of your comparison of vaccines and seatbelts from MDC, back when you were a member. I liked it then, and I like it now.

    I agree that the individual risk benefit assessment will look different for different people and different families.

    However, there is precious little information on the risk of the vaccine, not because it is so safe, but because it has not been studied.
    And there is an overemphasis on the risks of the disease.

    Even though pregnant women are at a higher risk for death and hospitalization with swine flu, that does not mean every pregnant women is. There are other factors that need to be considered, such as coexisitng health concerns, smoking (active or passive), diet, vit D levels, to name a few. And yet those issues are not reported. Only whether the woman was pregnant or not. There is also no data on the efficacy of flu vaccines in pregnant women, making the risk benefit analysis hard for this group.

    And with the lack of data on the long term safety of vaccination for babies, children and adults, the risk benefit analysis is hard for everyone to do.

    I do not think there is a ‘right’ decision. Some people like to look at the available information and make a decision based on that. Others like to look at what information is not there and make a decision looking at what is known *and* the holes in the knowledge.

    Anyway, I am happy to have found your blog again, and to catch up with what you are doing.

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