Once a week.
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
Anti-Vaccine Parents Are Less Dangerous Than Low Flu Vaccination Rates
We are far more worried about the problem of parents not vaccinating their kids than low general vaccination rates for flu, which will sicken and kill way more of us, including WAY more kids.
You've heard about the big vaccines problem, right, that some parents aren't vaccinating their kids? Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent trying to solve this threat to public health. But resistance to childhood vaccination isn't close to the most worrisome category of vaccination reluctance in the United States. Yes, it's tragic that hundreds of children are getting sick from measles or dying of pertussis (whooping cough) in communities where vaccine refusal has allowed what should have been isolated cases to spread. Yes, it's infuriating that some parents are, by protecting their kids, putting other kids at risk. But this problem is nowhere near the health threat Americans face because of the astoundingly low number of people getting vaccinated each year against the flu.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that since the 1970s influenza has killed between 3,000 and 49,000 people each year (the severity of each flu season varies), most of whom were 65 or older. An average of 200,000 a year get so sick they have to be hospitalized, 20,000 of whom are kids under 5. Influenza sickens and kills far more children than do measles and pertussis outbreaks caused by childhood vaccination hesitancy.
Between 5 percent and 20 percent of the entire U.S. population gets the flu every year. The health and economic costs of this are staggering. A 2007 analysis in the journal Vaccine reported;
Based on the 2003 U.S. population, we estimated that annual influenza epidemics resulted in an average of 610,660 life-years lost, 3.1 million hospitalized days, and 31.4 million outpatient visits. Direct medical costs averaged $10.4 billion annually. Projected lost earnings due to illness and loss of life amounted to $16.3 billion. The total economic burden of annual influenza epidemics using projected statistical life values amounted to $87.1 billion.
(Population growth since 2003 suggests these numbers are roughly 10-15 percent higher now.)
The Centers for Disease Control recommends an annual flu vaccination for anyone over 6 months old (annual, because flu vaccines target only one strain and new strains arise all the time). Herd immunity for flu vaccine — where enough people are vaccinated so if one person gets sick the disease can't spread — would be achieved if roughly 80 percent of us, four people out of five, are inoculated ... 90 percent for those 65 and older, the age group most at risk. There isn't a single age group that meets any of those targets.
- Children 6 months to 17 - 59 percent
- Adults 18-49 years - 34 percent
- Adults 50-64 years - 47 percent
- 65 and older – 67 percent
Why are these numbers so low? Nearly half the respondents in one study said either, “I don't need it," or “I didn't get around to it." This translates to, “It's only the flu. I'm not worried." That's the same selfishness those parents who don't vaccinate their kids are accused of. People with flu spread can spread the disease to others. If you get the flu, you might only get sick — REALLY sick — but that grandparent or baby who visited could get it and die. Fourteen percent said, “I don't believe in flu vaccines." (Flu vaccines aren't 100 percent effective, but even the lowest efficacy rates significantly reduce your chances of getting really seriously ill.) And 14 percent said “I might get the flu from the vaccine." (Like the association between childhood vaccines and autism, this common myth is incorrect.)
In addition, other surveys also suggest that general public worries about vaccine safety may also be contributing to low flu vaccination rates.
The public health authorities working so hard on the childhood vaccine problem have to do much more to increase flu vaccination rates, such as;
Such programs would undoubtedly be cost effective. They certainly would protect public health — including childhood health — far more than efforts to increase childhood vaccination rates (work that should continue). A CDC report in December 2014 found that;
If influenza vaccination levels had reached the Healthy People 2020 target of 70 percent (for the 2013-14 flu season), an estimated additional 5.9 million illnesses, 2.3 million medically attended illnesses, and 42,000 hospitalizations associated with influenza might have been averted.
It's understandable that the childhood vaccination issue is getting more attention. We worry more about risks to kids than risks to adults. We worry less about risks that are familiar — like the flu — and less about risks if we feel like we have some control, as in “I can protect myself if I want to. I can always go get a flu shot." We also worry more about risks that are in the news, like the childhood vaccination issue, than those we don't hear about. And unless there is a huge epidemic of influenza, or a new variety of flu going around, or a shortage of flu vaccine, this huge health threat doesn't make news.
So far, this flu season (which runs from December to May) has been a quiet one; only roughly 2,000 pneumonia and influenza-related deaths, 11 of which were kids. It will be great — and not so great — if things stay that way. Great because fewer of us will get sick or die. Not so great, because without greater public awareness, we'll slide though yet another flu season without sufficient public concern to press our public health officials to do as much to increase influenza vaccination rates as they've been doing on childhood vaccination for years. Which leaves us all at much greater risk.
What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
Scientists find that bursts of gamma rays may exceed the speed of light and cause time-reversibility.
- Astrophysicists propose that gamma-ray bursts may exceed the speed of light.
- The superluminal jets may also be responsible for time-reversibility.
- The finding doesn't go against Einstein's theory because this effect happens in the jet medium not a vacuum.
Jet bursting out of a blazar. Black-hole-powered galaxies called blazars are the most common sources detected by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
Cosmic death beams: Understanding gamma ray bursts<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cu2knVEk" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="c6cfd20fdf31c82cb206ade8ce21ba3f"> <div id="botr_cu2knVEk_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cu2knVEk-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Philosophers have been asking the question for hundreds of years. Now neuroscientists are joining the quest to find out.
- The debate over whether or not humans have free will is centuries old and ongoing. While studies have confirmed that our brains perform many tasks without conscious effort, there remains the question of how much we control and when it matters.
- According to Dr. Uri Maoz, it comes down to what your definition of free will is and to learning more about how we make decisions versus when it is ok for our brain to subconsciously control our actions and movements.
- "If we understand the interplay between conscious and unconscious," says Maoz, "it might help us realize what we can control and what we can't."
Puerto Rico's iconic telescope facilitated important scientific discoveries while inspiring young scientists and the public imagination.
- The Arecibo Observatory's main telescope collapsed on Tuesday morning.
- Although officials had been planning to demolish the telescope, the accident marked an unceremonious end to a beloved astronomical tool.
- The Arecibo radio telescope has facilitated many discoveries in astronomy, including the mapping of near-Earth asteroids and the detection of exoplanets.
Bradley Rivera via twitter.com<p>In 1963, the concave dish was built into a natural sinkhole on the northern coast of Puerto Rico. The location was <a href="https://www.space.com/20984-arecibo-observatory.html" target="_blank">picked because it was near the equator,</a> providing scientists a clear view of planets passing overhead, and also of the ionosphere, which is the uniquely reactive layer of Earth's upper atmosphere where the northern lights form.</p><p>Since its construction, scientists have used the Arecibo telescope to map near-Earth asteroids, detect gravitational waves, study pulsars, detect exoplanets and <a href="https://www.seti.org/goodbye-arecibo" target="_blank">search for alien civilizations</a>, among other projects. Here's a brief look at some of the discoveries and accomplishments made using the Arecibo telescope:</p><ul><li>1964: Astronomer <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Pettengill" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gordon Pettengill</a> discovers that Mercury's rotation period is 59 days, significantly shorter than the previous prediction of 88 days.</li><li>1974: Physicists Russell Alan Hulse and Joseph Hooton Taylor Jr. discovers the first binary pulsar, for which they won a Nobel Prize in Physics.</li><li>1974: Scientists use the telescope to transmit the "Arecibo message" to <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Globular_Cluster_in_Hercules" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">globular star cluster M13</a>. The message, when translated into image form, contains basic information about humanity and human knowledge: the numbers one to 10, a map of our solar system, an illustration of a human being, and the atomic numbers of certain elements.</li><li>1989: Scientists use the telescope to image an asteroid for the first time.</li><li>1992: Astronomers Alex Wolszczan and Dale Frail become the first to discover exoplanets.</li></ul>
The Google-owned company developed a system that can reliably predict the 3D shapes of proteins.