On vaccines and a brave new (old?) world of polio, measels and whopping cough

Between 2008 and 2014 there has been a 6000% percentage increase in vaccine preventable deaths. Why? Because parents no longer give their kids the vaccines of the standard vaccination program due to ideas of vaccines being harmful.

Out of 12000 annual whooping cough cases worldwide, 5000 are in California [1]. Worldwide in the last 6 years there have been over 1.2 million deaths that would have been prevented fi they’d been given vaccines [2].

In Oregon and West Virgina, vaccine coverage has dropped below herd immunity [3,4]. Loosing herd immunity leads to deaths among both unvaccinated individuals (who might want to vaccines but can’t get them due to cost, immigration status, access and many other reasons) as well as vaccinated individuals for whom the vaccine isn’t 100% effective [5].

So, supposedly “informed” and “conscious” parents opt out of vaccines, ensuring that people with either poor immunity, poor vaccine cover or lack of access to vaccines die from “their” choices.

And on the basis of what? Often things like that study about vaccines and autism is quoted… well that one could never be repeated by anyone else and was recently retracted as complete and utter bullshit (“study leader Andrew Wakefield, MD, and two colleagues acted ‘dishonestly’ and ‘irresponsibly’ in conducting their research”) [6].

Here’s an interactive map to illustrate the extent of our problems with vaccine preventable death (notice those clusters, like the one in the middle of Sweden? That’s how vaccines spread, they infect groups or clusters of people and that’s why herd immunity is so important):

But yeah, a world with smallpox, measels, polio, spanish flu etc. would be a much better world wouldn’t it? A more natural one I’d say…

  1. http://magazine.good.is/articles/vaccination-preventable-disease-map
  2. http://www.cfr.org/interactives/GH_Vaccine_Map/index.html
  3. http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2013/08/low-state-vaccine-rates
  4. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/too-many-children-go-unvaccinated/
  5. http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2010/08/26/vaccine-exemptions-in-california-threate/
  6. http://www.webmd.com/children/vaccines/news/20100202/study-linking-autism-to-vaccine-retracted

If only the original inhabitants had had an ad-agency like that

It’s remarkable that states – especially those which have sprung up as a result of migration – takes this kind of stance, with this type of communication. I could, perhaps, understand “there are legal and safe routes to migrate to Australia, please don’t get on a boat”. But: “No matter who you are or where you are from, you will not make Australia your home”?

If you want to enjoy the full nastiness of their ad-campaign click through here.

No help from Jesus

Jesus, you were really of no help here:

“Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

via Matthew 15 NIV – That Which Defiles – Then some – Bible Gateway.

Peace prizes are given to those who fit in with the narrative

Obama and Malala are both together against the ‘medieval’ Taliban.

While not diminishing anything about the bravery of a girl taking a bullet to the head for her wish to go to school, lets make sure it doesn’t create blind-spots.

The prizes, attention and celebration is – whether they intend to be or not – a part of a very specific narrative and alternative ones are certainly possible – on the other side of the Taliban stands a violent force as well.

Malala and Nabila: worlds apart

Blurry pujo

First time I managed to be in Kolkata over durga pujo. To say it’s a pretty big deal is a bit of a understatement. Christmas Lighting in shop windows have nothing on the pandals (the temporary structures built to house the gods) and thakurs (the idols of Durga and her children – Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesh and Kartik).

Apparently around 3,000 of these are built around Kolkata, and from a week spent spotting them in every street corner I have absolutely no reason to question that number.  Each neighbourhood has at least one, and there are famed ones with budgets counted in millions of rupees. This year one was 3D printed, another adorned with tens of millions worth of gold, another with diamonds and so on and so forth. There are prizes to be won from a wide range of newspapers, corporates, tv channels etc.

Durga Puja in Bengal is the celebration of the goddess Durga’s (wife of the in western circles more well-known Shiv) visit to her father (Himalaya). Visiting your parents after you’ve been married is of course joyous (can’t be much fun waiting on your husband and his family). Additionally, it’s celebrating Durga’s defeat of evil – in the form of a demon who has taken the shape of a buffalo.

The basic activity involves a) buying, gifting & wearing of new clothes and b) taking said clothes (and yourself) pandal-hopping across the city. While the festival can’t exactly be called secular (since well, you know, the Hindu pantheon and myths feature pretty heavily) for most people it seems to be more a festival/carnival type event rather than a heavily loaded religious one.

Finally, after five days of sweating, crowding, wearing new clothes, eating mishti and too much food the sad day of Durga’s departure from her father (to head back to her husband) comes and Durga (along with her children) is taken – with much ruckus – to the river in which she is then left to find her way back to Shiv in the Himalayas.

Happiness is bread

Vacation days have provided a pinch of time for bread baking (as well as the start of a new sour dough).

IMG_6199Bread