Here's the thing, parents, it's the 21st Century.
It's not the Dark Ages, we understand what causes communicable disease. It's not the miasma of bad air, or phases of the moon, or God's wrath, or demons, or an imbalance of the body's humors.
It's germs: viruses and bacteria and sometimes prions.
Yes, in some emerging diseases, and even some that have been around as long as we have, not all of the mechanisms and propagation vectors are understood. But for the most part we have a fairly thorough understanding of what causes infectious disease.
And while we may not know everything about disease, and we may not be able to prevent or cure everything, yet, there are some things we pretty definitely do know about disease prevention:
Disease is not prevented by praying. During the Black Death - i.e. the Bubonic plague pandemic that ravaged Europe and Asia for most of the 14th Century - 75 million people died or nearly 50% of Europe's total population and, trust me here, those pious bastards were praying their infected asses off. They sang hymns and flagellated themselves until they bled and prayed for deliverance and prostrated themselves before God almighty - and still they died, in great festering, pus-filled masses. Religion, faith, prayer, and all the cathedral building in the world did exactly jack shit to save those people. All the belief in the world will not prevent the spread of infectious disease, especially when you're shitting in your water supply or kissing the bishop's ring along with every other sneezing gomer in the area. Period. What's that? Oh, I'm wrong am I? Prayer does work you say? Okey Dokey, let's take the Pope and drop him into the middle of Panama and see if his prayers keep him from getting malaria, or sleeping sickness in the African Congo, or yellow fever, or anthrax, or etc. In fact, during the Black Death, one of the hardest hit populations was the clergy due to their proximity to large numbers of the infected. Their supposed piety didn't help them at all, and in point of fact their very beliefs were in large part a contributing factor in their infection. Again, your religion will not, in any way, prevent or reduce your chances of being infected if you come in contact with a communicable disease vector. Period.
Disease is not prevented by 'alternative' medicine. All the organically farmed homeopathic herbal supplements in the world won't keep you from getting diphtheria, amoebic dysentery, measles, mumps, or the common cold. I don't care if you 'treat the whole body' by eating a bale of raw saw grass and purging the 'toxins' from your system by drinking a gallon of pureed wheat germ every day under a bank of broad spectrum sun lamps. If somebody with whooping cough sneezes in your face, there's a pretty high probability that sooner rather than later you're going to be yakking your fluid filled lungs out on floor.
Disease is not prevented by ancient remedies, 'natural medicine', harmonic resonance, roots, bark, crystals, star alignment, or juju magic. Ancient Native Americans did not have some secret cure for disease now lost to modern civilization. Their lives were brutal, short, and not in some kind of 'harmony' with nature - it only appears that way due to the insulation of time and the biased nostalgia of a certain type of predisposed perception to see pre-industrial Native Americans, Aboriginals, and and other native peoples as some kind of magical people who lived in peace and harmony at one with the universe. It's not true and never was. When Europeans first came to the New World, they brought with them all of the diseases of their world. Those diseases decimated the native populations. All the Ghost Dancing, shamanic magic, and native cures were useless. When British General Jeffrey Amherst, later Lord Amherst, led the Redcoats against the Ottawa and their native allies in what is now New York and Pennsylvania, he had his men distribute smallpox infected blankets to the Indians. All the juju magic and ancient remedies did nothing, nothing, not one damned thing, to stem the resulting decimation among the tribes of the Great Lakes. If you believe that ancient tribal medicine will keep you from getting smallpox, well, then you are an idiot, and really, good luck with that.
The Government, the Pharmaceutical Companies, and the Insurance agencies are not in some big secret global conspiracy to make you sick and keep you that way. Scientists are not a bunch of evil bastards bent on turning your kids into autistic zombies or giving gay people aids so that the pharmaceutical companies can make billions off of your suffering. The vast majority of the folks at the CDC and government labs, commercial research organizations, and the like have dedicated their lives to making the world a better and safer place - and in large part they have done just that. From about 1910 to the mid 1950's, polio epidemics ravaged America, Europe, New Zealand, and Asia. Millions were infected and hundreds of thousands were killed or crippled - in 1952, there were nearly 60,000 cases of polio in the United States alone. Government and private industry poured billions of dollars into research and eventually Scientists like Salk and Sabin found a vaccine. That vaccine has saved millions and reduced the number of polio cases to less than a thousand world wide annually. If that vaccine had not been found, and widely implemented, polio would be a full blown pandemic in our modern world of high population densities and easy global transportation. If the government and pharmaceutical companies were really truly bent on placing profit over public health they would have been far better served to withhold the cure and keep making iron lungs - a complex medical machine costing hundreds of thousands of dollars - vice the paltry couple of bucks they make off each polio shot. Something I want to point out here: Just because pharmaceutical companies make a profit, does not automatically make them evil bastards or engaged in conspiracy to steal your money by making you sick. What? What's that you say? Pharmaceutical companies should just give that shit away? Out of some kind of humanitarian ideal, right? Bah. Blow it out your ass. Pharmaceutical companies are just like any other company, altruism is all fine and well, but unless you've got a big fat endowment or, you know, actually make a profit, you won't be in business very long. Here's the thing that kills me about that particular mind set: homeopaths who sell bottles of powered roots and blended saw grass smoothies make a profit, the churches make a profit (100% tax fee here in the US, and don't try to tell me that the major churches, TV evangelists, and the tent preachers aren't making a profit), the folks who sell crystals and snake oil miracle cures on the home shopping network and the Internet make a profit - so why aren't they evil bastards too? Seriously, if everybody was healthy all of these people would be out of business - how come they're not part of the global conspiracy instead being the ones leading the charge? In fact, the people who stand to gain the most from a global conspiracy are conspiracy theorist themselves. Without a pharmaceutical company conspiracy, all of these people would be nobodies. Now, do pharmaceutical companies charge too damned much for their products? Well, that depends entirely on your view point doesn't it? Let's look at an example: the cocktail of protease inhibitors that are used to treat AIDS costs literally thousands of dollars per month, and they cost the pharmaceutical companies billions to develop - a condom costs about fifty cents. A rather large number of folks with AIDS got the disease through risky behavior, and are demanding that somebody, anybody, but especially the pharmaceutical companies pay for the cure. Another example, a pack of cigarettes costs about $6 here in the Alaska. A pack a day smoker spends about $200 a month on smokes, give or take, and over two thousand a year. What's that? Sixty, seventy thousand over thirty years? The drugs, Spiriva (tiotropium) used to treat COPD, a form of emphysema, can cost well over a hundred dollars a month, or about the same as the habit that gave the victim the disease in the first place. So, let's dispense with the bullshit that pharmaceutical companies are villains, shall we? Should there be regulation? Sure. Should there be some kind of assistance for folks who need medicine and can't afford it? Sure. And etc. Now, I don't want this post to wander off into some kind of discussion of socialized medicine or national insurance or health coverage. But the bottom line here is that there are enough diseases and emerging diseases without the either the government or the pharmaceutical industry colluding to make you sick and keep you that way - in fact, they make an even larger profit by doing just the opposite.
And last: The Internet is biased. The sea of information is vast and limitless. Some of it is accurate, some if it is widely off the mark, some of it manufactured whole cloth by the deluded or the insane or the stupid, some of it is outdated, and some of it is generated spontaneously by hysteria, fear, and ignorance. If you believe something, and you search for it - you'll find plenty of reasonable sounding information to support your belief. The results of the following searches produce completely different results: Vaccines cause autism and autism. Both are biased for a variety of reasons. The first phrase is indicative of a bias in search criteria, i.e. the searcher already suspects that vaccines cause autism and is looking for supporting information. Additionally, all modern search engines are biased, deliberately so, with search results weighted by a large number of factors. In many cases this deliberate bias is an advantage to the search when looking for basic information or services. However, when it comes to the foundation of belief systems, this bias can be a form of self reinforcing information warfare and unintended manipulation of perception.
Now to the point of this post, which is this: Get your Goddamned kids immunized or keep them home.
No. Shut the hell up. Shut up and go out right now and get your kid immunized. Drop the hysterical, pseudo scientific, mumbo jumbo, juju, herbal homeopathic, religious bullshit. Get your kid immunized or keep him the hell away from my child. Keep him or her out of the public school system. You want to home school or send your kid to one of those religious schools where they pray away disease, fine by me, but keep your goddamned kid out of the public schools.
Should you use reasonable caution? Yes, absolutely. Should you get your information regarding vaccines from your doctor instead of some on-line forum full of crazed conspiracy nuts who believe exactly as you do? Hmmm, yeah, might be a good idea. Should you look at family history regarding sensitivity to certain types of vaccines? Yes. Should you ask about side effects and be observant for a reaction in your children? Yes, of course.
But for the love God, Parents, there is no damned reason whatsoever for your kid to show up at my son's school with a full blown case of fucking whooping cough.
You might think you're protecting your child, but not getting him or her immunized is no different than all of those people who ripped the flesh from their own backs in order to become more Christ-like during the Black Death. Their actions came from ignorance and a lack of real prevention methods - your actions come from ignorance alone. You are not protecting your child, you're putting him or her at risk. That's bad enough, but you're also risking my son's health - and that is completely unacceptable.