Monday, November 28, 2011

Dangerous Lows

As my followers know, I am a critic, not of vaccinations, nor even  of compulsory vaccination programs per se, but of the gulf between the invective some vaccination proponents hurl at non-conformists and the demonstrable risk such non-conformists pose to vaccinated individuals.

Yet these numbers concern me:

It’s probably a bad idea to crowd together this many unvaccinated kindergarteners – most of whom are still learning basic hygiene like washing their hands, using tissues, covering their mouths when they cough, and, you know, not licking doorknobs – all in once place.

But having said that, can any of my readers point me towards a mathematical model of epidemics that account for vaccination rates, breadth and depth of social contact, and virulence?  I’ve looked around a bit, but haven’t seen one that was especially compelling.

4 comments:

Professor Hale said...

I can't say for certain. Coding your own shouldn't be that difficult. There is the old Sharks vs Prey model that can be tweeked to come up with something.

The difficulty would be validation. We can easily track total number of cases, but we don't have a clue regarding number of cases prevented by vaccination. Vaccination tends to get all the credit. Oddly enouogh, I have never heard anyone talk about resistent diseases being created by vaccination like they supposedly are by anti-biotics.

Search for West Nile Virus examples. The CDC put a lot of effort into tracking the flight of infected birds, not because there was any human health risk, but in order to better understand generic transmission patterns.

Dr. Φ said...

That's a good point, and while I'm not an expert in immunology, I am not especially impressed with the validation of vaccinations in general.

I remember attending a briefing on the anthrax vaccine back in 2003. The controversy over the mandatory vaccination program had mostly dissipated by that point; ultimately, I think, the services had dropped the requirement unless a serviceman was being deployed. But I asked the briefer about validation, hoping for an answer along the lines of, "we gave the vaccine to Gitmo inmates followed by injecting them with anthrax to see if they got sick." But it turned out that it was a lot weaker: basically, they measured infection rates among people who may have been exposed to the virus in the operational environment.

samsonsjawbone said...

It’s probably a bad idea to crowd together this many unvaccinated kindergarteners – most of whom are still learning basic hygiene like washing their hands, using tissues, covering their mouths when they cough, and, you know, not licking doorknobs – all in once place.

Uh, ya think?

The other day, one of my former medical school classmates, now in a pediatric residency, posted on Facebook a comment exhorting parents to vaccinate. I saw many of my other classmates (and Facebook friends) "like" the comment. Fair enough for a bunch of doctors - although I do agree with you that the science behind all this stuff is not as sound as people seem to think it is, because this kind of science is *never* as sound as some people want to make out.

What I will say, though, is this: not only are my own kids vaccinated (because I think any putative risk of harm is outweighed by the risk of catching a terrible, life-altering disease - ever seen anyone who had childhood polio? I have), but the anti-vacc trend has produced an unanticipated consequence: kids who aren't vaccinated NOT because the parents have reservations about safety, but because the parents are simply too LAZY to bother with something whose importance hasn't been sufficiently impressed upon them (because all of the controversy has made these parents think, well, it can't be *that* big a deal not to get vaccinated - lots of people are doing it). I literally saw a guy just last week who brought his son in and when I asked why the son hadn't received his immunizations, dad said, "Oh, I just haven't gotten around to it." Kid was in a Montessori school, of course.

I know that's a poorly-written paragraph, but I'm awfully pressed for time tonight and I trust the point is still discernible. I'll try and address your other request later.

samsonsjawbone said...

I have never heard anyone talk about resistent diseases being created by vaccination like they supposedly are by anti-biotics.

Actually, neither have I! I wonder why not. Likely it has to do with the fact that antibiotic mechanisms are pretty crude and clumsy compared to the body's fine-tuned and efficient immune system.