Friday, January 31, 2014

The importance of vaccination

Here is a fascinating firsthand account of someone who grew up unvaccinated, and who as a result was infected with all sorts of bizarre diseases that most of us have never even heard of, and certainly never suffered from.  It is a strong reminder of the fundamental irresponsibility of not vaccinating your kids.  It also serves to clarify for me my own position on germs and microbiota.  As I've written about in past blog posts, I am increasingly convinced that, by our expanding use of antibiotics and our lack of exposure to soil and animals, humans in modern societies are losing important parts of the microbial life that has traditionally lived on and around our bodies and helped us to avoid certain chronic conditions like allergies and perhaps even cancers that are plaguing us all today.  I believe that people should try to maximize their exposure to manure, farm soil, and livestock so as to inoculate their bodies with whatever good microbes are out there (which we admittedly still know very little about).  Such a pro-microbial stance on my part might seem to overlap with those who don't vaccinate themselves or their children, but my thinking is totally the opposite.  Vaccination is essentially a controlled, responsible exposure to certain microbes so we can deal with them in our environment without suffering horrible consequences, and as such I'm a firm believer in the importance of vaccination.  Vaccination is thus a great complement to intentionally increasing our exposure to other, ambient microbes, because vaccination drastically minimizes the risk from the very small but important proportion of ambient microbes that are human pathogens, while allowing us to benefit from exposure to the rest of the microbial world.

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