Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Health and prejudice

I'm not sure whom to be more annoyed with - Global TV or Dr Perry Kendall.

Global ran a story tonight about the mumps outbreak in the Fraser Valley and spreading westward, and as you'll note from Tony's "anchor lead", there's a hint that "fundamentalists" may be responsible because they don't get vaccinations for religious reasons.

That point was not developed in the story, except that Dr Kendall, the provincial health officer, made an oblique reference to "conscientious objectors" who don't get their shots.

Having been a reporter, it's possible that he made a stronger reference to "fundamentalists" off-camera, but toned it down for public consumption, but the reporter likely picked up on it and worked it into the story.

Well, you know the impact that's going to have: "blasted Christians! Bible thumpers! Believing that stuff about 'The Lord is my shepherd' and 'a thousand can fall on one side and ten thousand on the other ...'! Making the rest of us sick!"

Oh, really?

Then riddle me this: if those backward, mouth-breathing fundamentalists caught the mumps because they didn't get shots, then why is there a health warning? Why isn't the outbreak contained among those who didn't get shots? Shouldn't those people who have their shots be perfectly safe? Why the fear-mongering?

Or is there really a problem with those vaccinations? Could it be that the safety net broke down, but the medical industry doesn't want to admit that, so with a little sleight of hand, it drops the subliminal hint that "fundamentalists" are responsible?

One more thing: the story didn't actually say that any of the mumps patients are "fundamentalists".

So what's the game? Do we get mad at Dr Kendall for the prejudice-tinged innuendo?

Or do we get mad at Global, for letting it go unchallenged and unsupported?

Actually, we don't get mad at either: we suck it up and forgive, and then pull out Psalm 91 for a "booster shot".

A more complete story can be found on the Global BC website, which actually does pin some numbers on the percentage of the 190 cases that do affect people who weren't immunized "either for religious or philosophical grounds". About half, they say, with half of the rest being those who were "partially immunized".

So how did the other 25% get the mumps?

Well, the print article quotes Dr Kendall as saying that mumps vaccines tend to wane after 15 to 20 years.


Isn't that the real story? That not even full vaccinations are 100% effective in preventing mumps? Talk about burying the lead!

BTW, I haven't been inocculated against anything since 1994. I occasionally get the flu, usually because I've worked too hard and worn myself down: I'm out of action for a couple of days, and then I'm back in the game. I minister on the Downtown East Side, where disease is all around. There's HIV/AIDS, of course, but that's easy to avoid: don't shoot drugs and don't have sex with people you shouldn't. But there's also TB and bedbugs and Heaven knows what all else. But I pray Psalm 91 -- you can never overdose on that -- and I am protected.

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