Before I saw this news story, I was talking to a friend of mine whose girlfriend is a pharmacy student. He mentioned that she hasn’t been vaccinated. At all. Against anything.
My mind was boggled.
1) I thought it was required for all students, particularly those in the medical field, so they don’t endanger their patients — immunocompromised individuals are susceptible to these diseases even if they are vaccinated. I was required to be vaccinated against several specific diseases as a condition of being accepted to pharmacy school. The requirements were different if you were a pre-med or a PA student (which makes sense).
2) Why would a pharmacy student not be vaccinated against things like polio? MMR? Sure, there’s the old (unfounded) worry that MMR vaccines increase rates of autism, but the benefits clearly outweigh the consequences.
It seems there are loopholes: students can apparently opt out of it conflicts with their personal or religious beliefs. I think this is a danger specifically to one’s patients, and to the public at large: by it’s very nature, the medical profession exposes personnel to more sickness and disease than would otherwise be the case. I’d almost go so far as to call not being immunized unethical.
“Most parents today have never seen the physical and emotional devastation caused by vaccine-preventable diseases and have a skewed view of the perceived risks associated with vaccines versus the actual risks of the diseases the vaccines are designed to prevent,” said Dr. Gary L. Freed, chairman of the U.S. National Vaccine Advisory Committee and director of the Pediatrics and Child Health Evaluation and Research unit at the University of Michigan Healthcare System.
What’s worse is that many of the diseases that we immunize children against are highly contagious, and when one comes down with measles, for instance, it puts the entire community at risk — especially those in specific demographics where immunization may not be common. Church groups spring readily to mind, as they tend to have higher percentages of home-schooled children.
Pastor Del Broersma of the Upper Room Christian Fellowship in West Lafayette, said the outbreak had a tremendous impact on the Indiana community.
People who had small children who had not been immunized were asked to not come to church. Sunday school and the meal after services were suspended for three weeks.
After the outbreak, many families decided to immunize their children, while other families remained unconvinced about the low risk of autism, Broersma said, noting it was not church policy to withhold immunizations.
Stories like this makes me cringe. In fundamentalist circles, there’s a heavy anti-science sentiment. Those most opposed to modern medicine at the pharmacy are, almost invariably, highly religious. I wonder if the disconnect has anything to do with creationism vs. evolution? I suspect it does, and as a result, all science is suspect. Even medicine.
Readers of this site know I’m a fan of vaccinations. I’ve talked about Gardasil, the new HPV vaccine from Merck quite a bit here. I personally think it should be mandatory until there’s a compelling reason for it not to be. But maybe we need to place more emphasis on the old standbys while the topic of vaccines is on the table.
In this case, I’m thinking a grassroots education campaign via a well-respected religious foundation might be the best way to reach the folks who have opted out of vaccinating their children. It’d have to be an organization that they trusted, of course. In the end, these people aren’t just hurting their children, they’re also hurting their chosen communities. And I don’t subscribe to the “chlorine for the gene pool” because these unvaccinated children ultimately never had the choice — it was made for them by someone else.
Beyond even all this, there’s another aspect to consider:
In the United States, many doctors have never had the opportunity to see some of these diseases firsthand, which means it can take longer to diagnose them properly.
That doctors are unfamiliar with diagnosing vaccine-preventable diseases is a “testament to the success of vaccinations,” said Dr. Lance Rodewald, director of immunization services at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
I don’t know how true this is, having not gone to medical school, but I can safely say that my children will be vaccinated, thanks.
[tags]Medicine, pharmacy, vaccines, MMR, polio, religion[/tags]