Who doesn’t love a good case of poetic justice?
The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe pointed me to this story at the Times Union, which tells how a mother of seven has suddenly flip-flopped like a foundering fish.
The tl;dr version is this: this mother, while in the midst of a vaccine schedule for her existing three children, got taken in by the anti-vaxxer movement. She stopped vaccinations on her existing children and did not vaccinate any of her subsequent progeny. Fast forward a few years. At the moment, she and her family are under quarantine — quarantine! — because one of the kids caught Whooping Cough and it ravaged the household like a grizzly bear in a sandwich factory. (I know sandwiches aren’t made in factories, okay? Just… geez.) As a result, she has rethought her position on vaccinations and is planning to vaccinate her kids as much as possibly immediately.
Now, look. I don’t endorse the dark, seedy place in our hearts whence comes Schadenfreude, but I’d be lying if I said Schadenfreude didn’t tickle my nethers when I heard this story. I don’t know if there is a more selfish and misinformed segment of the population than the anti-vax crowd; my blood boils when I hear one of them proclaiming with snobbish smuggery that they haven’t vaccinated their kids and they are perfectly healthy! Claims like this fail, of course, to understand that those who self-righteously choose not to vaccinate overlook the benefits they’re reaping from everybody else who does (see Herd Immunity), or quote ridiculous statistics from bogus studies about the incidence of illness or complication arising from vaccinations themselves.
Erg, it would be so easy to derail into a tirade about the lunacy of the anti-vaxxer movement, but that’s not my point. It’s easy to kick a dead horse, but it doesn’t help anybody, least of all the horse.
My point is that there is hope for humanity.
Look, this woman got taken in by some bad information and scare-mongering. She stopped vaccinating her kids. Maybe that’s not you, but any of us could be taken in by information just as bad, scare-mongering just as … scare… mongery. Maybe I start to believe that gay marriage will destroy our society. Maybe I start to believe that the earth is flat. Maybe I go off and do something really crazy, like vote Republican.
The point isn’t that she got taken in, the point is that she came back from the edge. True, it took her entire household coughing like a misfiring Edsel to see the error of her ways, but she saw it.
I think it’s a commonly-held belief that people just aren’t going to change their minds. Try to have a conversation with somebody on the other side of the abortion issue, for instance. We get so caught up in all the extra, non-issuey stuff (“he’s an idiot! How could he possibly think that??”) that a lot of times, the issue itself gets lost in the shuffle. And a lot of the time, that may be true. But not every time.
Not this time.
When I first heard this story, I couldn’t help chuckling just a bit in a self-satisfied, “well, that’s what you get” kind of way. I couldn’t help it — out it burst, like an alien from the chest cavity, ugly and raw. She got what she deserved. But the more productive way to look at it is this: for better or worse, regardless of the circumstances, she is now correcting an error. And while she can’t do anything now to avert the house of plague that’s swirling around her, at least she can do the right thing to protect her family in the future.
Which is what it’s all about, innit? Making the best decisions we can with the information that’s available to us.
If we can do that, we’d all be living better lives.
Also, vaccinate your kids.