Article features Ashland’s high vaccine-refusal rate: “A Tale of Vaccination in Two Cities”

I was quoted in an excellent article, “A Tale of Vaccination in Two Cities” by journalist Elaine Meyer, featuring Ashland, Oregon.  The article was written for the 2×2 Project website, sponsored by Columbia University’s Department of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health.  They aim to “inform the health conversation through timely and effective communication of emerging public health science” in terms understandable to the general public.

Ms. Meyer compares Ashland’s and Houston’s very different reasons for low immunization rates.  Houston’s challenge largely entails awareness of and access to affordable immunizations.

Ashland’s reasons for low-immunization are, for the most part, much more complex, as they involve personal beliefs and cultural memes.  For example: (expanding a bit on the article) many vaccine-refusers generally distrust industry and government, and by extension, their vaccine safety and efficacy findings.   Some believe vaccine risks are much greater than their benefits and that non-vaccinated children (or selectively vaccinated, or those with delayed vaccinations) are generally healthier than vaccinated children. 

Some maintain that acquiring these diseases provides superior immunity to them (which is often the case, but at the risk of serious morbidity and mortality).  Some maintain that breastfeeding, eating organic foods, or using herbs and homeopathy provides sufficient protection for children against some or all of the diseases for which there are vaccines.

Although still a minority viewpoint in the US, including in Ashland, I can see how these wrong-headed ideas are reinforced and spread in an echo chamber of like-minded individuals and health professionals.  

You can find the article and comment on it at:

(Just to clarify my quote, I don’t think I was some kind of genius kindergartener who literally thought the words, “I am a pioneer,” but I certainly picked up that I was doing something new and important that everyone, it seemed, had only dreamt possible — a vaccine to prevent horrific polio.)

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