Thanks for the fever, Jenny McCarthy

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, October 11, 2011 19:01 EDT
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From an intellectual, political perspective, I really loathe anti-vaccination nuttiness. Just like with anti-choicers, I will never completely understand what compels people to support choices and policies that will objectively create health problems where none need exist. I hate the shunning of evidence for woo, and I especially hate the way parents are encouraged to substitute their own dislike for getting their children vaccinated (kids hate shots!)  for intellectual assessment of the necessity of vaccination.

But now I have one more reason to loathe anti-vaccination nuts. They made me feel kind of hot—and not in a fun, sexy way—all damn afternoon. Though I imagine it will fade in a couple of hours, I am running a slight fever, and Jenny McCarthy and the sea of yuppie no-vaccination parents are to blame. 

You see, I agreed this morning to get a Tdap, which is a combination tetanus, diptheria, and pertussis vaccine. It used to be that adults getting a booster for tetanus (every ten years, people—keep up with your shots!) or tetanus/diptheria alone, but now they toss the pertussis in with it. Pertussis is better known by the name "whooping cough". Just last year, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices  recommended that adults, especially those with regular exposure to small children, start getting pertussis boosters along with their tetanus shots, in response to a surge in whooping cough cases, which have resulted in at least 10 infant deaths in California alone. The reason for the surge in whooping cough cases? Anti-vaccination activists. Yep, because of paranoia about vaccinations, vaccination levels for whooping cough have fallen below herd immunity levels, causing the disease to come back. And it's an ugly one even if you don't die, I'll tell you. From this handy-dandy cheat sheet debunking the nine most prominent anti-vaccination arguments comes this description of the hell that is whooping cough:

Whooping cough is much more than “just a bad cough”. Kids often turn blue from lack of oxygen during coughing fits, they may vomit after severe attacks, and even fracture ribs. There is no cure for whooping cough – antibiotics are given to help stop the transmission to others – you just have to hope your immune system can fight it. Severe complications such as pneumonia and brain damage occur almost exclusively in unvaccinated people and in babies under 6 months of age the symptoms can be severe or life threatening. Whooping cough is also known as the 100-day cough making it a chronic and potentially fatal disease.

Frontline showed a video of a baby with whooping cough who was coughing so hard he was unable to take a breath and nearly died. It took me days to shake that horrible image from my head. Terrible stuff. So when my doctor suggested I get a Tdap, I was like, "Where do I sign up?" I'm not someone who spends a lot of time directly around children, but it still seemed to my doctor and myself like I really should get vaccinated. I live right smack dab in one of the major areas where there are both a lot of young children and a lot of yuppie parents who buy into anti-vaccination nonsense, meaning that I'm simply in an area that probably has fallen below herd immunity levels. I'm somewhat surprised that Brooklyn hasn't had an outbreak to rival the ones in yuppie-thick areas of California, in fact. So getting a shot that helps raise that herd immunity, even by a little bit, seemed like the right thing to do. But I am kind of paying for it a little right now. So I'm blaming Jenny McCarthy and putting the word out there to the adults reading this blog to get your booster shots. If you're feeling like whooping cough isn't that big a deal, please watch that episode of Frontline. And then go get vaccinated. 

Of course, I may have just run a slight fever from a tetanus shot alone, to be completely fair. And that particular vaccine? That one is just for me, because dying of lockjaw seems scarier to me than being burned alive. 

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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