Over on Skewed Distribution, I was not surprised to see a blog post about antivaxxers wishing death upon people who promote vaccines. The antivaxxer in question wrote a comment wishing pro-vaccine people “a slow and painful death.” I jokingly commented that the joke is on them, since vaccines prevent slow and painful deaths. That got me thinking about people dying from vaccine preventable diseases, and how ridiculous it is that we still have measles and polio in the world in a time when we could eradicate them in the blink of an eye, metaphorically speaking.
If antivaxxers want to see a “slow and painful death” they only need to look at the diseases that they are not helping to eradicate. For example, a death from measles can be slow and painful if the person develops Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis (SSPE). What is that? Here, take a look:
SSPE does not happen from the MMR vaccine. It happens from acquiring measles. The virus then hides in the central nervous system and does this to people. While it is not very common (1 case for every 10,000 cases of measles), it is more common than any kind of reaction to the MMR vaccine, no matter what antivaxxers tell you. This is a very real consequence to not vaccinating.
Then there is this other condition called Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CSR). As far as diseases go, CRS is a son of a bitch because it affects unborn children and newborns with such horror that — if you have a heart — it should make you weep:
Unreasonable people who have been sold a story about vaccines causing autism and whatnot will tell you to your face that the two cases above are either not real and made up by some big conspiracy, or that they’re not as bad as being autistic… Or some other delusional thing along those lines. Remember, antivaxxers fancy themselves experts on infectious disease. They even go as far as to say that parents who murder their children are really just being set-up by big pharma because shaken baby syndrome is a vaccine injury.
So the next time that an antivaxxer wishes you a “slow and painful death” because you promote vaccines, remember two things. First, the chances of you and yours having a slow and painful death are greatly reduced through vaccination. Second, they’re really a bunch of sad people who live in a convoluted labyrinth of their own making.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
About History of Vaccines: I am the editor of the History of Vaccines site, a project of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Please read the About page on the site for more information.
About Epidemiological: I am the sole contributor to Epidemiological, my personal blog to discuss all sorts of issues. It also has an About page you should check out.