Last week I talked about the anti-vaccination groups and the problems they cause. Yesterday, Phil Plait over at Bad Astronomy had a much more detailed diatribe about that, and one of their media spokespeople:
McCarthy is the most famous face of the anti-vax movement. More than perhaps anyone else she has mainstreamed the incredibly dangerous claims of the anti-vaxxers, saying vaccines gave her son autism and that she cured him using what are known to be noneffective treatments. She decries vaccines as toxic, yet boasts about getting injected with Botox, which in reality contains the single most deadly protein toxin known (botulinin). What she says is phenomenally dangerous, and I consider her claims to be a substantial threat to public health.
I recommend reading the entire thing, along with the imbedded links.
Way back in the early 60’s, I, along with my classmates, had to stand in line for a nurse to jab us several times with a pronged needle. Almost 20 years later, I stood in another line while an Army medic did the same thing. Yes, I was vaccinated against smallpox. Today, of course, most people don’t get this vaccine because the risk isn’t worth it.
There are side effects and risks associated with the smallpox vaccine. In the past, about 1 out of 1,000 people vaccinated for the first time experienced serious, but non-life-threatening, reactions including toxic or allergic reaction at the site of the vaccination (erythema multiforme), spread of the vaccinia virus to other parts of the body, and to other individuals. Potentially life-threatening reactions occurred in 14 to 500 people out of every 1 million people vaccinated for the first time. Based on past experience, it is estimated that 1 or 2 people in 1 million (0.000198%) who receive the vaccine may die as a result, most often the result of postvaccinial encephalitis or severe necrosis in the area of vaccination (called progressive vaccinia).
The reason is that smallpox no longer exists as a disease. There are two known stocks of it in freezers, but as a health threat, it isn’t. But at the time, the risk of the disease far outweighed the risk of vaccination.