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Posts tagged ‘Public Health’

Get a flu shot

Get a flu shot. I got mine. They work. By spreading disease, you might kill someone by giving it to them.

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Something that should be illegal

I found this article advocating that parents who don’t vaccinate their kids be subject to criminal charges or civil sanctions.

The article makes a good point. Anti–vaxxers are a threat to public health. There are certain people, such as those with weakened immune systems, or the extremely young, who cannot take them. Those people are therefore dependent on herd immunity to avoid getting sick and possibly dying. Anti–vaxxers therefore are potentially giving a disease to people who might die from it.

And people who (falsely) think vaccinations cause autism are either outright malicious or haven’t thought through to the logical consequences of their beliefs. I mean, vaccines prevent deadly diseases. And by refusing vaccinations for their children, they are in effect choosing a greater risk of dying over (according to their beliefs) a lower chance of autism. In other words, they’d rather their kid die than get autism. Do those people even know what they’re saying about themselves?

So yes, there should be no “philosophical” or religious exemptions for vaccinations, and refusers should be criminally charged. Anti–vaxxers are a threat to themselves and others, and in this respect are clearly unfit parents.

And while we’re at this, can we also treat refusals of newborn screening and choosing faith healing over modern medicine for dependent children? Far too many children have ended up dead because of this.

At least someone’s bringing the hammer down for public health

A hospital in Indiana has fired eight employees because they refused flu shots (via). Good. It’s about time someone grew a spine and stood up to religious extremists who put the health and lives of the public at risk. And can we start doing this in BC, now? Update: My apologies, I didn’t read the date carefully enough. This is from a year ago. But still, the principle behind it still holds.

And to those who want religious exemptions from doing the job the voluntarily signed up for, be careful what you wish for. (Indeed, I think that it is pretty likely that the same people who support the people in Indiana would object to this second group, even though both are using the same justifications for not doing what is necessary for their job).

Thanks a lot, anti–vaxxers

2012 was the worst year for whooping cough in the United States in generations, according to preliminary figures released today. There were at least 41,880 cases yeast year. Of those infected, eighteen died, including fifteen infants younger than one year. The last time numbers were this bad was in 1955. Considering that a record–breaking outbreak had been ongoing for much of the year, this year’s figures are not a surprise and very foreseeable.

The report mentions that this is in part due to cycles in incidence, as well as the fact that protection from the newer vaccine lasts for a shorter period of time. However, the report doesn’t mention something else that is likely responsible for the increase in the number of cases: the increasing number of people refusing vaccinations (especially for their kids, as children are most likely to suffer and die from the disease). The states with the easiest opt–out provisions have the most cases. And considering that whooping cough kills kids, anti–vaccination is one deadly denialism.

So, anti–vaxxers, how many kids will you kill this year?

Something that should happen, but won’t

This will probably one of the very few times I might have something nice to say about Republican obstructionism. ThinkProgress reports (my emphasis):

House Republicans let the five-year farm bill expire at the end of September without a new law to replace the massive measure covering billions of dollars in programs, including food stamps and agriculture subsidies….

I’m against cutting food stamps, but in the unlikely event that this obstructionism results in the end of American agricultural subsidies I will be really glad. Agricultural subsidies are one of the worst possible things a government can do with its money. For the most part, these line the pockets of agribusinesses and cattle barons. Contrary to popular believe, only a minute fraction of agricultural subsidies go to family farmers. The chief effect of these unnecessary subsidies is to distort the food market, mostly by artificially lowering prices. The effect is to give an income to agribusiness that the free market won’t (or can’t). In almost every other circumstance, wingnuts would be screaming “SOCIALISM” until their vocal cords broke. But in this case, we usually end up with bipartisan agreement to squander government money. It should come as no surprise that an overwhelming majority of economists agree that agricultural subsidies should be eliminated.

In many cases, these market distortions skew people’s food choices, especially towards unhealthy foods. Elimination of agricultural subsidies would hence improve public health.

Eliminating agricultural subsidies has an additional benefit. Agriculture is one of the few areas where poor countries have a comparative advantage. Eliminating agricultural subsidies (in all countries, not just the US) would allow farmers in those countries to make more money, causing economic growth and development. This is exactly what foreign aid is supposed to do. Therefore, if agricultural subsidies are eliminated, we will get most if the advantages of giving foreign aid, without any of the costs. Indeed, since eliminating these subsidies would have much of the effect as giving aid, we could even cut foreign aid, therefore saving more money.

These people should know better

In today’s paper, I read this story. The actions of some people in it are absolutely mind–blowing and very much a threat to public health:

The B.C. government has temporarily backed away from a controversial plan to force thousands of provincial health workers to get a flu shot before they can work with patients.

Health care is the exact sort of industry where flu shots should be mandatory. The only way out should be a medical exemption, none of this personal choice bullshit. You would think that nurses and other health care workers would know better than to fall for anti–vaxxer bullshit. This is how we get (as reported in the article) more than half of all health care workers not getting a flu shot. But few things surprise me anymore.

And the position of the head of the Health Sciences Association (a union) is dangerous:

“[Members of the HSA (who are health care workers)] are entitled to that choice [to have a flu shot or not because they should make their own health care decisions] and they’re entitled to the privacy of that choice. Under this new policy people had to be identified as having had the shot, in fact the employer was publishing a list of people who had the flu shot. We just said that was a violation of people’s privacy.”

I agree that people have a right to privacy. But what you don’t have is the right to give the flu to someone who might die from it.

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