It’s odd how public figures can make a series of untrue or insane statements, and they don’t get hurt by them, and then they go one more, and it sticks. Is it cumulative, or does the one statement (which is not really any crazier than all the others) just resonate?
I don’t know that she ever lives this down:
When Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) recently suggested that the human papillomavirus vaccine — recommended for girls and young women to protect against cervical cancer — was dangerous and might cause mental retardation, the American Academy of Pediatrics pushed back hard. The AAP, which represents 60,000 pediatricians, issued a statement saying the claim had “absolutely no scientific validity.”
As I wrote here, I was enormously grateful for that strong, unequivocal rebuttal, not really on public health grounds, but just because it was like music to hear someone say “this is not true”. I fully expected pundits to be asked for their opinions, then we’d look at the poll numbers, and if 56% of Americans polled thought there was scientific validity to Bachmann’s claim we’d have to listen to her for weeks.
When repeated efforts to educate parents fail, some pediatricians are now taking action: They’re refusing to treat children unless their parents agree to have them vaccinated according to guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pediatricians who go this route say they’re concerned about more than the health of the children. They’re also worried about other patients in the waiting room, some of them too young to be immunized or with health problems that compromise their immune systems. Unvaccinated children put those kids at risk.
“It’s my job to do the very best we can with patients in this practice,” says Dr. Harry Miller, a pediatrician with Four Seasons Pediatrics in Clifton Park, N.Y., whose practice stopped treating unvaccinated children last year. “Exposing that small percent who don’t vaccinate to those who do is a disservice.”
When vaccination rates fall below roughly 80 or 90 percent, a population loses the benefit of “herd immunity,” which protects even those who can’t be vaccinated or for whom the vaccine didn’t work, experts say.
According to the CDC, vaccination rates for children ages 19 to 35 months were at or above 90 percent for many illnesses, including polio; measles, mumps and rubella (MMR); and hepatitis B. Fewer than 1 percent of children received no vaccines. Vaccination rates for teens are significantly lower but increasing, the CDC found.
Although overall refusal rates may be low, they vary widely by location. In Washington state, for example, the rate of nonmedical exemptions from school vaccination requirements was 6 percent in 2007, with one county recording a 27 percent refusal rate.
States require that children be vaccinated before attending school, but in 2008, 48 states allowed parents to sidestep the requirement for religious reasons, and 21 states permitted exemptions for philosophical or personal reasons, study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. (All states permit exemptions for medical reasons.)
I assumed there was a religious exemption and the medical reason exemption makes sense, but “philosophical or personal”?