Juilia Ioffe wrote a candid blog post for New Republic about coming down with whooping cough at age 31 and the perils associated with this vaccine preventable disease. “I have been coughing for 72 days. Not on and off coughing, but continuously, every day and every night, for two and a half months. And not just coughing, but whooping: doubled over, body clenched, sucking violently for air, my face reddening and my eyes watering. Sometimes, I cough so hard, I vomit. Other times, I pee myself.”
Ioffe continues to describe her symptoms and the odd and embarrassing situations it has created for her. She states, “And while my having pertussis at my age seems absurd, it can also be tragic: in babies, the infection can easily be fatal.” Ioffe notes that whooping cough had been conquered in the developed world until the anti-vaccination movement frightened parents with propaganda about autism. Vaccination has now become another consumer choice, like drinking coconut water.
“The problem is that it (vaccination) is not an individual choice; it is a choice that acutely affects the rest of us,” Ioffe continues. A recent study in Pediatrics indicated that areas with high concentrations of conscientious vaccine objectors were 2.5. times more likely to have an outbreak of pertussis (whooping cough). In Ioffe’s case, she was vaccinated as a child, but the vaccine wears off by adulthood. In the past, this wasn’t an issue because children were vaccinated. However, she came into contact with an unvaccinated child, who had the disease and spread it to her.
Ioffe concludes: “I understand your wanting to raise your own children as you see fit, but you’re selfishly jeopardizing more than your own children. …what gives you denialists the right to put my health at risk – to cause me to catch a debilitating, humiliating, and frightening cough that, two months after I finished my last course of antibiotics, still makes me convulse several times a day…”
After reading Ioffe’s posts, Razib Khan wrote a blog postfor Discover about the pressure he and his wife experienced from their peer networks not to vaccinate. He recalls that they were able to resist and rebuff peer pressure because of their strong scientific backgrounds. He also notes that he can imagine someone with less of a scientific background trusting the people they normally trust – their peer network – on vaccination.
Khan suggests that the denialism be countered by shaming and recommends parents investigate the rate of vaccination in their community. If the vaccination rate isn’t high, he recommends moving away from the dangerous critical mass, and telling people why you are moving.
Vaccine preventable diseases like whooping cough have devastating consequences. Parents should be aware that these vaccines have a purpose. Vaccine Watch encourages parents to consult their pediatrician about vaccine choices.