Why not vaccinate?

A Shocking Chart on Vaccination – The Atlantic.  The article concerns a the vaccination rates at a Waldorf School in San Francisco.  The chart below that is part of the article compares the vaccination rates at the school and those in the surrounding city and county.  It is amazing that after all the information out on the benefits of immunization there are still people who do not get their kids vaccinated.  And these are supposedly intelligent parents just by the fact that they send their kids to this school. 

This is a very interesting article with some very good comments.    Here is a comment of specific interest from a poster calling himself Carl Pham:

There’s an interesting hypothesis on auto-immune, allergic and inflammatory diseases, like asthma, Crohn’s, IBS, and maybe MS or even diabetes, called the “Hygiene Hypothesis.”  The argument is that these kinds of diseases become more likely as childhood gets “cleaner,” i.e. children are less exposed to random infectious agents from eating dirt in the playground and hanging out with that across the tracks kid who always has the sniffles.  IIRC, there is actual data showing that children exposed to more infection in daycare are less likely to suffer from asthma in school age.

The mechanism is argued to be, very roughly, that the immune system has a sort of sensitivity control knob that gets turned up when the immune system has an unusually low level of challenge.  The idea being that if the perceived challenges are too few, the system is programmed to respond by assuming the problem is that its sensitivity is too low instead of there being an unusually low level of pathogens about, this being a very unlikely circumstance, evolutionarily speaking.   When the sensitivity gets cranked up too high, the immune system starts overreacting to mild irritants — pollen, odd dietary ingredients — and perhaps even ultimately becomes more likely to attack the body itself.

I’ve often thought there should be a Social Hygiene Hypothesis as well.  We have a “social immune system,” a way in which we become excited and generate an “inflammatory” response to social challenges: we invoke government, march and rage, eventually mobilize and actually  fight.

Historically, serious challenges to our comfort have been pretty serious and pretty frequent: we had genuine dictatorships, actual revolutions and robber barons, Viking raiders, plague, Huns, radium watches and thalidomide, world wars, genocide.

What happens when these things just don’t happen any more?  For a wide swathe of Americans, there have been essentially no serious existential challenges to a comfortable life for 50 years or more.  What happens then?  Perhaps the “sensitivity” knob of the social immune system gets cranked up, and people start overreacting to mild irritants, finding nascent dictatorships in merely overbearing Presidents, existential threats in screwy monetary policy or the bombs crazies put in their underpants, and deep Logan’s Run conspiracies in the mild peccadilloes of pharma reps taking  CDC docs to nice lunches.

Unfortunately, this argues our social “health” might be significantly improved if we had a real existential threat to engage our defenses.   A big asteroid heading our way, say, crazy mullahs in Iran launching actual nukes at Florida, a 5% drop in the Sun’s output.

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