COMMENTARY: Skipping vaccinations is betting against the house

If you buck these odds, you’re likely to lose

If you have a million dollars you had to bet on one roll of true dice, what number would you select?  The answer is seven, of course. The odds of rolling of a 7 are one on 6, while the odds of rolling a 5 or a 9 are only 1 in 9.

Betting against vaccinations is even worse odds than betting against the house in all but rare cases. If you have questions or special circumstances always talk to your doctor, but let’s look at the general facts.

“The best way to protect against measles is to get the measles-mumps-rubella shot (called the MMR shot)” says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The MMR vaccine is like any other drug, it can have undesirable side effects, but these are rare. According to the CDC, the most common dangerous side effects of the measles vaccine “are rare. These may include high fever that could cause a seizure (in about 1 person out of every 3,000 who get the shot) and temporary pain and stiffness in joints (mostly in teens and adults).

On the other hand the odds of serious complications from measles itself are very high. “Measles can be dangerous, especially for babies and young children. From 2001-2013, 28% of children younger than 5 years old who had measles had to be treated in the hospital.”

For some children, measles can lead to pneumonia (a serious lung infection), lifelong brain damage, deafness, or death.

Twenty-eight percent is 840 per 3,000 children with measles.  This is not an exact comparison; however, the difference is enormous, 1 out of 3,000 serious effects for vaccinations versus 840 out of 3,000 serious effects for measels.

The CDC states emphatically that the MMR has NOT been linked to autism. “Is there a link between the MMR shot and autism? No. Scientists in the United States and other countries have carefully studied the MMR shot. None has found a link between autism and the MMR shot.”

How does measles spread?

Measles spreads when a person infected with the measles virus breathes, coughs, or sneezes. It is very contagious. You can catch measles just by being in a room where a person with measles has been, up to 2 hours after that person is gone. And you can catch measles from an infected person even before they have a measles rash. Almost everyone who has not had the MMR shot will get measles if they are exposed to the measles virus.”

So, why do some parents oppose vaccination? My personal guess is that many are afraid of the guilt they will feel if their children have a rare, but serious, side effect from the MMR vaccine.  This possibility is often reinforced by fear mongers and purveyors of junk science.  The truth is that measles is a highly contagious disease and if a large segment of the population refuses vaccination it will be even harder to prevent your child from getting it.  Doing the right thing is never an iron-clad guarantee, but it gives your children the best chance to stay healthy by far.

Don't skip vaccinations against contagious diseases, that's a very bad bet.

[Source of medical information: CDC “Measles and the Vaccine (Shot) to Prevent It,” INFORMATION FOR PARENTS, Last updated July 2014]


Marty Richman

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Marty (Martin G.) spent his teen years in northern New Jersey. He served more than 22 years on active military duty, mostly in Europe, and is a retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4, Nuclear Weapons Technical Officer. Marty then worked 25 years in various engineering and management positions in the electronics and energetic materials industries supporting the communications, computer, aerospace, defense and automotive sectors. He is a graduate, summa cum laude, from The College of Hard Knocks, among his numerous awards and accomplishments. He was a regular weekly Op/Ed columnist and feature writer for The Hollister Free Lance for seven years and a member of its editorial board for five years. Marty is a frequent commentator and contributor to BenitoLink on a wide variety of local, state, national and international subjects.   Marty was elected to represent the City of Hollister District 4 on the City Council in November, 2018. Marty and his wife, Joyce, have been residents of Hollister since 1996.