Monday, March 12, 2018

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Anti Knowledge, not Anti Science

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

As expected, the anti-vaccine crowd came out in force on the comments on my previous article - basically the first I've written in almost 2 years.  Thanks for commenting, and engaging on discussion on Mystical Paths!

Let's play statistics.  And while statistics can be manipulated, they are particularly good at showing evidence of a situation.

HPV is a virus that causes over 90% of the cases of cervical cancer in women.  And approximately 1% of women in recent times have developed this cancer in a lifetime - which because of it's non-visible location was often life threatening.  Interestingly the same virus is also responsible for a majority of the cases of throat cancer in men.  (Yes this story tells itself.)

A vaccine has been created for this virus, and it has resulted in a 50% reduction in incidents of the virus and pre-cancerous lesions in the population that has received the vaccine (a younger group unlikely to be subject to the cancer because of their current age - so the statistics can't say it's eliminating the cancer...yet).

The statistics demonstrate that this vaccine is (likely over time) to result in a 50% reduction of cervical cancer.  But, it's not so cheap (someone's making a profit!), it only works before exposure so must be given before sexual activity commences in life, and at least one government has reported that 0.06% of people given the vaccine will have a moderately uncomfortable side effect.

And this is exactly like saying if we give every child in school vitamins, 99 out of 100 will have positive benefits, and 1 child is going to throw up.  Do we avoid the positive benefits because of the negative ones?

Let's phrase that as another practical example: I knew a young woman who would not wear a seat belt...because she had a friend get in a car accident with a fire who was unable to release their seat belt after the accident and was severely burned because of it.  THEREFORE SHE UNDERSTOOD THAT SEAT BELTS ARE A SAFETY RISK.  And one cannot deny that in a small number of incidents, a seat belt may cause harm or prevent someone escaping from a car after an accident and coming to harm because of it.  But almost every other time, that same seat belt will be preventing someone from receiving serious harm during an accident.

This is exactly what is happening with the vaccine debate.  Yes, a small number of people receive negative reactions, and a very small number receive even life threatening or damaging reactions.  But almost everyone else is receiving life saving protections - protections which to some extend are dependent on the majority receiving it to work as a protective group.

From a Jewish stand point, we do bear a communal responsibility.  And just as we would not be allowed to open the door in the wall of a besieged city to receive some fresh air and possibly allow the city to be overrun through our entry way, we are responsible to take common steps to prevent disease and are not allowed to avoid those steps...even though we are taking a small risk to provide the greater communal protective reward.

This DOES NOT mean every vaccine should be accepted or are needed (in our example above, the threat spreads through activity - no activity, no threat...which of course assumes a perfect world but even in an imperfect one such rates tend to be much lower in our communities), it also DOES NOT mean some pharmaceutical companies are not taking advantage, creating unneeded treatments and/or charging absolutely prohibited excessive outrageous profits.

If you want to teach your child at home and keep them unvaccinated and away from others...you have such freedom.  But you can't avoid a very statistically small risk and thereby put the greater community at risk.  That is not freedom, it's negligence.


1 comments:

Anonymous said...

"But you can't avoid a very statistically small risk and thereby put the greater community at risk. That is not freedom, it's negligence.:

If the "greater community" has been vaccinated then they are not at risk from the unvaccinated, negligent apikorsus, because the vaccinations grant them immunity. ...... Right? Stingray.

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