Jen Pinkowski
Jen Pinkowski

A Growing Number of Parents Think Vaccines Are "Unnecessary"

Jen Pinkowski
Jen Pinkowski

We have good news and bad news. The good news is that, according to a recent study from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), parents are beginning to let go of the harmful and wildly inaccurate idea that vaccines cause autism. The bad news is that even more people refuse to vaccinate their kids; it’s just that their reasons are changing. 

The AAP conducted phone surveys of more than 600 doctors in 2006 and 2013 to learn about the conversations parents and pediatricians were having about vaccination. Ten years ago, 75 percent of respondents said they’d encountered parents opposed to vaccination. By 2013, that number was up to 87 percent. The number of parents citing autism fears has declined, but more parents told their pediatricians that vaccines were simply “unnecessary.” 

This is, to put it mildly, dangerously wrong. Vaccines are the single greatest reason that children in the U.S. can now expect to live past their fifth birthday. They’ve allowed us to eradicate certain diseases and massively reduce outbreaks of others. They’re drastically lowering the rates of certain cancers. But they only work if we use them, and use them widely. 

Pediatricians vaccinate their patients not only to protect those children, but to protect their entire community, especially infants and the elderly, who may have compromised immune systems. Refusing to vaccinate a child risks that child’s life and the lives of everyone around them. 

But it’s far from a lost cause. Respondents to both the 2006 and 2013 surveys said that talking to parents yielded a change of mind in 30 percent of parents who originally refused to vaccinate. And the more the doctors and the families talked, the more likely parents were to shift their stance.

Lolita McDavid is medical director of child advocacy and protection at the University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. She was unaffiliated with the AAP study but said the findings were unsurprising. In some ways, vaccines are a victim of their own success. Decades of vaccination have made many causes of child mortality things of the past, so people fail to recognize the real danger posed by a lack of vaccination. 

“In the past, people were scared of polio and whooping cough,” she told ABC News, “but parents aren’t now because they don’t see it anymore. It’s a very uninformed way to approach a child’s health.”

To bring this point home, McDavid sends vaccine-averse parents home with an assignment: “I want you to go to an old cemetery, walk through, look at the headstones of the babies that died at age 1, 2, 3 years of age.”

Vaccinations are mandatory for public school attendance in most parts of the country, but many states include an opt-out for parents who object on the basis of religion or other beliefs. The AAP released its survey results this week as part of a call for public health officials to eliminate all vaccine exemptions except those that are medically necessary. 

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Yvonne A. Maldonado, vice chair of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases. “We have to protect children if we have the means to do so.”

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Health
Yoga and Meditation May Lead to an Inflated Ego

If you’ve been exasperated for years by that one self-righteous, yoga-obsessed friend, take note: Regular yoga practitioners experience inflated egos after a session of yoga or meditation, according to a forthcoming study in the journal Psychological Science.

Researchers found that yoga and meditation both increase "self-enhancement," or the tendency for people to attach importance to their own actions. In the first phase of the two-part study, researchers in Germany and England measured self-enhancement by recruiting 93 yoga students and having them respond to questionnaires over the course of 15 weeks, Quartz reports. Each assessment was designed to measure three outcomes: superiority, communal narcissism, and self-esteem. In the second phase, the researchers asked 162 meditation students to answer the same questionnaires over four weeks.

Participants showed significantly higher self-enhancement in the hour just after their practices. After yoga or meditation, participants were more likely to say that statements like "I am the most helpful person I know" and "I have a very positive influence on others" describe them.

At its Hindu and Buddhist roots, yoga is focused on quieting the ego and conquering the self. The findings seem to support what some critics of Western-style yoga suspect—that the practice is no longer true to its South Asian heritage.

It might not be all bad, though. Self-enhancement tends to correlate with higher levels of subjective well-being, at least in the short term. People prone to self-enhancement report feeling happier than the average person. However, they’re also more likely to exhibit social behaviors (like bragging or condescending) that are detrimental in the long term.

So if you think your yoga-loving friends are a little holier than thou, you may be right. But it might be because their yoga class isn’t deflating their egos like yogis say it should.

[h/t Quartz]

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Doc_Brown, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. Cropped.
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This Just In
The Honey Smacks In Your Pantry May Be Contaminated With Salmonella
Doc_Brown, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. Cropped.
Doc_Brown, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. Cropped.

Salmonella, a bacterial food-borne illness often associated with raw eggs and undercooked chicken, has been linked recently to a popular children's cereal. According to Snopes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging consumers to avoid Kellogg’s Honey Smacks, citing the brand as the likely cause of the Salmonella outbreak spreading across the U.S.

Since early March, 73 people in 31 states have contracted the virus. Salmonella clears up in most people on its own, but in some cases it can lead to hospitalization or even death. Twenty-four victims have been admitted to hospitals so far, with no reported deaths. Of the 39 patients who were questioned, 30 of them remembered eating cold cereal and 14 of them specifically cited Honey Smacks.

In response to the outbreak, the Kellogg Company has recalled its 15.3-ounce and 23-ounce boxes of Honey Smacks printed with any "best if used by" date between June 14, 2018 and June 14, 2019 (recalled boxes are labeled on the bottom with the UPC codes 3800039103 or 3800014810). The CDC recommends that you take even greater precautions by throwing out or returning any Honey Smacks you have at home, regardless of package size, "best by" date, or whether your family has eaten from the box previously without getting sick.

Symptoms of Salmonella include diarrhea, fever, headache, and abdominal pain, and usually appear 12 hours to three days after the contaminated food is ingested. If you or someone in your household is showing signs of the infection, ask a doctor about how to best treat it.

[h/t Snopes]

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