Speaking of Infectious Diseases…

It would do us well to remember that chosen ignorance isn’t confined to the uneducated, Fox-“news”-watching, fearful folks who tend to be the butt of liberal disdain.

 A new study confirms its presence in tonier liberal precincts as well.

When it comes to science illiteracy in the form of Creationism, we know what kind of people are more likely to believe it: Those who attend church frequently, the elderly, and people without much formal education.

But when it comes to parents who refuse to vaccinate their children, the demographics are very different, according to a new study in the American Journal of Public Health.

The people most likely to refuse to have their children vaccinated tend to be white, well-educated and affluent.

Although this particular data point was not in the study, I’d be very surprised if the same people who are rejecting the overwhelming scientific consensus about the value of vaccination aren’t also sneering at the “anti-science” folks denying the reality of climate change.

At both ends of the political spectrum, we have people picking and choosing the scientists and scientific conclusions they are prepared to accept. I’m neither a sociologist nor a political psychologist, so I’m unprepared to offer a theory about why liberals choose to reject one set of conclusions and conservatives another, although I have a sneaking suspicion that in each case, tribal identity plays a large part.

And independent–let alone critical– thinking plays very little…..


  1. I’m white, well educated and affluent enough. I do not disagree with the value of vaccination. My disagreement comes with the “one-size fits all” vaccination schedule prescribed by big medicine and insurance companies. I have two children that vaccinations effect very differently. We’ve slowed the schedule down for one and it has made a huge difference. Kids aren’t cattle and parents need to be free to make decisions with their doctors.

  2. I think Marin county CA is kind of the epicenter of that problem. MONEY does make people smart.

  3. I always considered the conservative positions that go against science are specifically there to protect a world view that is being challenged. Tribal identity and maintaining a simpler world are primary motivates. The Bible is the word of God; creationism must be true. The free market works better than any other economic system and its problems are minor and self correcting; global commerce can’t be damaging the environment that badly and companies will naturally fix the damage if it gets too bad.
    While there is some of that thinking on the liberal anti-science positions, natural is better than manufactured, I see most of the causes come from a place of elitism. First world problems if you will. Families in countries where communicable diseases are common or in areas where poverty is so deep that a sick child means missed work and possibly missed meals, there is no discussion. You vaccinate your kids to keep them safe. In places where it’s hard to believe an outbreak can occur, the equation shifts a little. No longer are you weighing the risks against if your child gets sick. you are comparing the risks to a healthy child who will probably never face the illness and who has doctors who can aggressively heal if an illness does in fact hit. A person who lives in a food dessert who takes one trip a month to the market doesn’t have the luxury of opting for fresh, non-processed foods, organically grown with no GMOs. They have to buy what is cheap and can last for a month. It’s the people who are food secure with a variety of options they can afford who contemplate about GMO safety. Despite the fact that new agricultural products and methods have to test to form a prima facia case for safety. The fact that they haven’t done an 80 year longitudinal study before said products come to market confirms the fact that these products aren’t safe and the corporations are evil and knowingly selling poison.

  4. Science reveals reality. It’s not an ego trip or a conceit, it’s merely mankind’s progress in knowing what’s always been, and always will be, true and real – like the process used by earth’s explorers who finally mapped all of the oceans and continents on earth’s surface. Now we know.

    Some is common sense, that is discoverable by our five senses, most is not and requires the most significant and complex equipment to extend the range and scale of our senses.

    One of the inventions by engineers applying science is the Internet and as importantly search engine technology like Google. The good news is that now what’s known to scientists is available to everyone capable of understanding it. The bad news is that way more people think they understand it than do. Now that’s conceit.

    Everyday everyone of us falls further behind in understanding or even being in a position to potentially understand what we jointly understand. The technical term for that is “ignorance” and it’s rampant and growing. Again that’s just reality revealed.

    Like all reality there is no option to accepting it and dealing with it. How? Straightforward collaboration and professionalism and intellectual slogging. The mythical eating of the elephant but typically requiring joint personal effort between folks who have invested time in learning science and those who have invested their time learning other things.

    That requires collaboration but another reality of today’s culture is immense ego which is very much in our way.

    I think that we need more science but less ego and we are in the process of discovering that now.

  5. Joe; good parents are aware of the individual reaction their children have to medication the same way they know which foods they do and do not like. Sharing this information with a good doctor will result in medication/vaccinations being administered to their individual tolerance level…or changed or discontinued if necessary. This used to be the normal medical treatment provided by the “family doctor” who knew more about the children than their vaccination record. Sadly; this is a thing of the past for all but very few patients as medical care is now big business. Medical care itself will become a thing of the past if the GOP gets its way in the 62nd vote to repeal the ACA.

    There is no vaccination or medication for the current “infectious disease” in this country which has become epidemic in proportion…because it is political, no medical research is being done on the current Republican party’s chronic pseudo religious infection or Trumpitis. Apparently we must suffer through it running it’s course like a severe case of diarrhea caused by eating rotten food – or listening to rotten diatribes by fools.

    Trump; being super wealthy and proud of it, has much of the American public believing that his rants, promises of salvation from lower life-forms and feeding their innate bigotry, will lead them to his level of wealth. I see him dragging them along behind him like an incomplete miscarriage by a junk yard dog. No cure in sight for this infection and no law can legislate common sense to the common man and/or woman who follow his bogus campaign platform.

  6. My grandkids got their vaccinations, and I’m glad they did and without incident. I hope all children do, but I also want researchers to keep working on why some children have developed problems soon after vaccinations. Large, multiple doses on very small bodies does raise questions, and I worry that where the bottom line of large financial concerns are involved, inertia may play a larger role than small infants.

  7. As a child of the 50’s who suffered from some of these diseases we now vaccinate against I whole heartedly support vaccinations. I’m now losing my sight from the after affects of measles. I hope my children will see this and vaccinate their children.

  8. Thank you Nancy Papas; I have the same hope. My cousin lost the hearing in her right ear due to measles at age 9; later developed Meniere’s disease and had to have her right inner ear removed surgically. I am disabled due to Meniere’s; have wondered if measles or another childhood disease could have been the start. My son developed chicken pox encephalitis when he was 11 months old; a very dangerous and frighting time.

    MJane; I was born in 1937, long before vaccinations were even a dream. Suffered all childhood diseases including whooping cough and I do remember how sick I was. At that time these diseases had to be reported to doctors who reported to the Health Department who came to our homes and placed large yellow Quarantined signs on the front. No one was allowed in but family. I wish the anti-vaccination group could know how fortunate their families are today.

  9. I’m with the others that if I had children, I would slow down the process of vaccinations but not eliminate them. I don’t believe in never vaccinating, but giving a 6 month old baby 8 vaccines at once is uncalled for. I know several babies that have died as a result. One was 3 months old. I’ve been studying my DNA and have my results saved on my computer for future advances in medicine and hopefully, someday they will find a cure for my multiple auto immune disorders just by virtue of having my DNA mapped.

    Living in poverty might give me a different perspective as vaccinations may be few and far between which can also be deadly. I had mumps, measles and chicken pox as a child as did all of my siblings. I don’t know if my DNA was a trigger for those illnesses or not. Hopefully, some day the science will know even though I don’t have any descendants.

  10. Skepticism is worn as a badge of intelligence, and takes the place of actual investigation or thought.

    The difference between the Left and the Right is that leaders of the Left don’t condone anti-vaccinationism, while leaders on the Right frequently do validate it and regularly affirm climate change denialism and creationism.

  11. I think that a large component of the anti-vaccine movement is an issue of trust. It’s difficult for a modern society to function efficiently when its citizens cannot trust its institutions. As the world gets more complicated we have to rely more and more on our politicians, businessmen, and professionals to act on our behalf. However, the internet has made it much easier and more timely to see how frequently that our institutions have betrayed our trust. I can easily see how people can misplace their trust on the side of the anti-vaccine advocates rather than the businesses that manufacture vaccines and the agencies that regulate them. It is revealed weekly, even daily, how drug companies push profits over efficacy and safety – rigged clinical trials, withholding negative trial results, bribing doctors, and price gouging for example. Drug companies spend more on marketing than on research. Finally, politicians undermine the ability of regulatory agencies such as the FDA to do their job. It’s an easy sell for the anti-vaccine movements when so many of our institutions have been shown to be corrupt.

  12. It’s a real shocker when we realize that parental socio-economic levels, university degrees earned, and Full Scale IQ scores exceeding 130 as documented by either the Wechsler Intelligence Scales or the Stanford–Binet Intelligence Scales have little to nothing to do with common sense. Perhaps these folks from the lucky gene pool occasionally believe the anecdotal stories of their similarly situated luck gene pool friends rather than the stodgy medical researchers. It’s so easy to be sucked into the trendy hype as delivered by the silver tongue of a Dr Oz type who’s more about media ratings than about scientific medical research.

    As someone above mentioned, this is a first world problem, a first world problem of the well-educated upwardly mobile professionals who occasionally are observed to latch onto an anecdotal story overheard at the trendy gym or the trendy health food store. In third world countries, mothers will stand in line all day holding their infants in hopes that the medical clinic in the tent will not run out of vaccines. In short, there’s little correlation between intelligence and holding on to a myth. Smart people can believe the dumbest things.

    IU School of Medicine here in Indy maintains a highly regarded Children’s Health Services Research Department led by Dr Aaron Carroll, MD, MS and Dr Rachel Vreeman, MD, MS. Both Drs Carroll and Vreeman are pediatricians, are on staff at IU’s Riley Hospital for Children, and are recognized for their research publications including a growing number of easy to comprehend books that debunk common medical myths. No, sugar does not cause a child to be hyperactive.

    Three books authored by Drs Carroll and Vreeman are available on Amazon.

    “Don’t Swallow Your Gum!: Myths, Half-Truths, and Outright Lies About Your Body and Health”
    “Don’t Cross Your Eyes, They’ll Get Stuck That Way”
    “Don’t Put That in Here: and 69 Other Sex Myths Debunked”

  13. At 70, I remember the very serious public health concerns about, e.g. polio. It crippled many people. When I was in second grade the first Salk was developed and we received the shot at school (I still have my Polio Pioneer Card somewhere). Against the backdrop of the effects of polio on the un-vaccinated, there wasn’t much negativity about the the new vaccine.

    Maybe as public health has improved in most places, the generations that followed have forgotten about the devastating effects of polio and other childhood diseases (as some other pointed out above). Maybe this is part of the cycle and if enough people refuse vaccinations we’ll have a resurgence in some serious diseases and we can start the cycle over. But, I’ll add that starting it over in our electronic age may be significantly more challenging with talk radio and certain columnists sharing their unscientifically supported opinions with all.

  14. My mother made me wear a black velvet ribbon around my neck until I was six years old. She said it was to prevent me from contracting the croup. When I reached the age of six, I was happy to be rid of the ribbon. Years later, when I accused her of cruelty in the form of exposure of me to childhood taunts, she simply pointed out I never contracted the croup. On the other hand, she had survived TB when she was a kid in the 1920s. Her parents’ doctor said she should live in a house surrounded by clover. Fortunately, my maternal grandfather was a fireman on the Monon and could afford to buy a small farm. He planted clover around the whole place. My mother later went to nurses’ school and was a Registered Nurse. (I really don’t make this stuff up.) I had measles, chicken pox and a couple of other then-common childhood illnesses. I wish I hadn’t experienced those. I was lucky and lived. Then again, if to avoid them would have meant wearing a black velvet ribbon, I’m not sure.

  15. Mark Small; I had to laugh about your embarrassing black ribbon around your throat childhood, not at you but…remembering my misinterpretation of this old-wives-tale preventive medicine. My first husband’s family were country people, some farmers, family dinners there with country cooking was a memorable experience. I was always aghast by all of the young children with dirt rings about their necks…till I was told, “If you wrap a black thread around your child’s throat nine times, they will never have the croup.” I never asked if it worked but didn’t use that remedy on my five.

  16. My eldest child had access to some vaccinations. He did not have access to vaccinations against mumps, chicken pox and pneumonia. He had both mumps and chicken pox. He also developed three serious auto-immune diseases over several decades. We were led to believe that mumps may have been one trigger for that to happen. It has since been discovered that another male relative (who also had childhood mumps before vaccinations were available) has developed those same auto-immune diseases and that genetics have played a larger part in both of their medical histories than previously thought.
    I, like JoAnn, am old enough to remember a time before vaccinations against what were often lethal childhood diseases. Measles, whooping cough, diphtheria, rheumatic fever, typhoid, polio and others, all were real possibilities for all families without regard to economic status. Smallpox had been greatly reduced by the late 1960s. Tuberculosis and diarrhea still kill children and adults all over the world every day. To deny children access to vaccinations is abuse unless there is a real medical reason for not doing it.
    Distrust of government and institutions may well be justified in some cases. However, the last 80 years of vaccination history and its real world results should be enough evidence for any thinking person, not only for their own children, but the other children in their community.
    As my eldest son’s case demonstrated, complications from childhood diseases may not manifest until many years later. Genetic predisposition may increase the possibility of those complications. If a parent can reduce those odds for their child even by 50 or 60 percent, it is irresponsible not do so.

  17. Like most science, reality is in the data. Feelings are informative in what we can sense but virtually all medicine and most science is beyond their reach. Data is made informative by statistics. Typically the best one can do is play the odds. That’s what good Drs and scientists do. It doesn’t guarantee being corrects all of the time but it does guarantee being right as often as possible.

    Unfortunately people would like being certain. The old ego thing. One of God’s little jokes.

  18. I don’t think affluent, educated persons shun vaccination because they don’t believe in the science behind it, but rather, it is a lack of trust in drug manufacturers and the government, coupled with a perception of little risk of contracting a contagious disease. We no longer live in a time when children were stricken with polio, or when whole families came down with diphtheria and some died, so the risk of adverse results from not vaccinating seems lower than the unknown risks of harm due to vaccination. You really can’t argue with people who are skeptical about the ethics of drug and device manufacturers or the government. When I was a child and the polio vaccine came onto the market, there was a bad batch of the vaccine that actually gave children polio, killing some of them.

  19. The comments here today remarkable reinforce the conclusions of the study you cited, Sheila. I’m liberal but maybe because I sure as heck ain’t affluent that I believe in vaccinating children, full stop.

  20. Well, gee, Sheila, at the risk of being branded ignorant, we are also the group sold such things as HRT, which, as far as I can tell pretty much put at risk the health of women like yourself–all for the sake of profit. And as long as we have a for-profit health care system, I am as concerned about my medical providers’ investments as I am their medical credentials. When I see how cavalierly women are treated by the health care ‘professionals’ I’m pretty underwhelmed. Also, why is the HPV vaccine remains so expensive (hint—not because of the cost to produce, but the ‘savings to the entire health care system which they apparently feel entitled to pocket)? Once a profession has shown it lies easily when it comes to profit, it’s pretty easy to believe the worst. We are seldom disappointed.

  21. Almost none of the discussion about vaccines in corporate media discusses Thiomersal, a mercury compound used to preserve vaccines until relatively recently. The absence of discussion on this vaccine component may have more to do with it’s perceived billion-dollar corporate liability than it being a benign preservative.

    I am personally am allergic to Thiomersal, and in 1981 suffered the indignity of having my eyelids swollen five-fold due to it’s inclusion as a preservative in contact lens solution. My optometrist was appalled but insisted on taking pictures of my distended eyelids for a professional journal.

    I had my daughter vaccinated nearly on schedule, but insisted on preservative-free vaccines, and I read the ingredient list on their labels to ensure compliance with my wishes.

    May science triumph over newspeak and corporate PR campaigns!


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