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Yapeyu is a little town in North Eastern Argentina. The tradition of painting the tree trunks white begun during the periodic polio epidemics when people thought that painting them could help to stop the disease.

Yapeyu is a little town in Northeastern Argentina.
The tradition of whitewashing the tree trunks begun during the periodic polio epidemics when people thought that painting them could help to stop the disease.

She grew up in a farm in Northeastern  Argentina, one of the country’s poorest regions. She had a tough life; she went to school for 2 years, then she was off to work in the chacra (farm). At some point, her gambling father (whom she loathed) lost the chacra and they moved to a town on the border with Brazil, where she worked as a cleaner. She was not illiterate –she used to read before going to bed- but she wouldn’t have been considered an educated person in any time period.

She told me this story:

“Vaccination arrived to town when Roberto was a child. Back then polio was ravaging the cities and many children were left crippled. Some women of the town didn’t want to vaccinate their children; it was rumoured that the vaccine itself caused polio and that it was a government’s conspiracy (A military junta had just deposed General Peron, husband and Argentina’s most beloved tyrant). I spoke to the Dr (Like many people of her condition she had great respect for the title “doctor”). The Dr told me: ‘don’t pay attention to those ignorant people; go and vaccinate Roberto now; it is the best thing you can do for him'” -So she did.

Dr Jonas Salk, developer of the first safe and effective vaccine for polio. Before Dr Salk’s vaccine polio was one of the most frightening diseases in the world, having a child mortality rate of 2 to 5%. Salk did not become rich because of his invention; he decided not to patent it. When asked why he didn’t patent his invention Salk replied “Would you patent the sun?” Jonas Salk and Alert Sabin (creator of an alternative vaccine) saved millions of lifes and prevented immeasurable suffering.

Dr Jonas Salk, developer of the first safe and effective vaccine for polio. Before Dr Salk’s vaccine polio was one of the most frightening diseases in the world, having a child mortality rate between 2 and 5%. Dr Salk did not become rich because of his invention; he decided not to patent it. When asked why he didn’t patent his vaccine Salk replied “Would you patent the sun?” Jonas Salk and Alert Sabin (creator of an alternative vaccine) saved millions of lifes and prevented untold suffering.

Several of the town’s children contracted polio later that year in 1956, but my father was alright. My grandmother was proud of not having paid attention to the town’s folk; so proud, that she thought the story worth telling to her grandson 30 years later. I don’t remember why she told me this story, but I remembered the story and its message quite well: don’t listen to the ignorant; listen to people who know.

Sometimes too much information is unnecessary. I have decided not to waste your time explaining how vaccines work; we all learned that at school (I think). Nor will I talk about . My Grandmother’s story is much more concise: Listen to those who know, to those who dedicated their lives to save lives, to the doctors. Why to pay attention to anybody else? What does some mum (or an actress) know? Don’t follow the advice of isolated, swivel-eyed, “TV-doctors” either. Ask your GP or follow the advice of the World Health Organization: vaccines are safe, and they can save your child much suffering.

Ms Alicia Silverstone, actress in the film clueless and clueless celebrity mum. She has written about vaccines: “…there is increasing anecdotal evidence from parents claiming their child was ‘never the same’ after receiving a vaccine. And I personally have friends whose babies were drastically affected in this way”. Note: In all fairness to Ms Silverstone, the existence of two consecutive sentences without the words “like” and “whatever” in them is suggestive of editorial manipulation.

Ms Alicia Silverstone, actress in the film clueless and clueless celebrity mum. She has written about vaccines: “…there is increasing anecdotal evidence from parents claiming their child was ‘never the same’ after receiving a vaccine. And I personally have friends whose babies were drastically affected in this way”. Note: In all fairness to Ms Silverstone, the existence of two consecutive sentences without the words “like” and “whatever” is suggestive of editorial manipulation.

It is regrettable that ignorant conspiracy theories about vaccines have made such comeback. They have brought back diseases that we had almost eradicated two generations ago. I consider this to be a stain on modern Western society. It enrages me especially because everyone is supposed to be much more educated than grandma Pocha; now in Heaven, she must be struggling to understand what went wrong.

MM682

No-nonsense granda Pocha and me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, the one who sings “Don’t cry for me Argentina” in an infamous musical
Vaccines do not offer 100% protection but 95% protection is better than 0% protection. Vaccines can make you ill but you are much more likely to get seriously sick if you don’t get the jab than if you do. And so on and so for.
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  • Mandy 26/02/2015 at 10:54 am

    Ariel Poliandri
    In reply to some of your comments Charlotte:
    “I find it difficult to read in the texts above that people who are questioning vaccinations are labelled as idiots”
    -I haven’t spoken about “idiots”; I said some are wicked, most are mislead.
    “Every generation has good reasons to chose or not to chose for something. As time changes, opinions can do to.”
    – I am awfully sorry but this is not a question of “opinions” or “past fashions”. This is about reality, science, human health and human rights (the rights of children, as free individuals, not to be subject to the capricious will of their parents who are not their owners but just their guardians). You may be of the opinion that the earth is flat or that homeopathy is a cleaver alternative to modern Western medicine; they are not.
    “Another question I ask myself sometimes: Why being so afraid of diseases? Do we underestimate are own immune system?”
    -Well, I’ll leave other people to answer this if they want to. I cannot be bothered.

  • David 25/02/2015 at 10:30 pm

    It is always the option to listen to those who have the right knowledge about a matter not just someone who knows. I listened to a friend ans it landed me in trouble so be careful of those you listen to .

    • Ariel Poliandri 26/02/2015 at 10:19 am

      Indeed, I always assume that someone who knows has the right knowledge; else I would say “thinks he knows” or something to that effect.

  • Mandy 25/02/2015 at 12:40 pm

    Ariel,
    Thank you for your insight in this very important issue.
    Mandy

  • Klaus Petritsch 25/02/2015 at 11:18 am

    Ariel, welcome back :)
    While you know that I agree with you that scientific progress has brought us lots of good stuff including protection against certain diseases there is also the problem of uncritical scientific worshipping.
    I argue we need to be aware of both ends of the spectrum: overblown fear of science (i.e. chemophobia) and overblown trust in science (science worshipping).
    I think it is easier to see the benefits and you do point many out on your blog and elsewhere.
    So, I feel somewhat obliged to remind readers of the other extreme to be able to move along the reliable middle ground.
    To suggest that big pharma would not push selling their drugs beyond objective reasoning would be like denying the existence of planned obsolescence. Product manufacturers form light bulbs to printers have a long an well documented history of designing products to fail so consumers by more.
    Similar, big pharma will naturally support the creation of new diseases (within varying limits) and not really necessary treatment methods. To expect otherwise would be very naive.
    Thanks to the interests of the big P we now have (practically pandemic long term) “diseases” ranging from (previously natural) hair-loss, insufficient (yet fully functional) anatomic features (boobs, noses etc) to attention deficit disorder (ADD) and fear of public speaking as well as overblown fear of almost anything including the flu.
    Governments greatly exaggerate the threat of terrorism. This is all completely natural, expected and uncontroversial to anyone bothering to look into this – especially if one follows the money trail and motifs.
    To find the right balance requires what I call “critical thinking” (there is no agreement on the definition) which is a method to improve reliability of knowledge and methods.
    Applying this method (which can be taught/learned very effectively), it becomes easier for everyone to find the right balance and chose e.g. the vaccinations that make sense for you while avoiding those that don’t.
    So, while I do not at all disagree with your stance that science has tremendous benefits we must not forget the threats and the limits that come with it.

    • Ariel Poliandri 25/02/2015 at 1:15 pm

      Thanks Klaus,
      As always, I agree with the need for critical thinking.
      Regarding serious diseases like measles, polio, TB (also cancer) the thinking should be quite clear: not trying to prevent them is moronic. I am willing to accept the freedom of individuals to choose not to receive treatment but that freedon can only be excerciced by adults who can make their own choices, out of their own will. That is why I support the right of adults to smoke if they want to but not children.
      I may concede that vaccination for minor illnesses, like flu, can be commercially motivated if aimed at the general population (always bearing in mind that there are cases were flu can be a serious concern).
      Regarding “previously natural” hair-loss, etc., as I always say: “who says that natural is always better?”. I’d like to keep my hair on, thank you very much. This is not a health concern; this is an aesthetic concern and I have no problem disclosing it as such.
      Regarding the epidemics of ADD, gluten intolerance, you name it: That is not big pharma; that is petty bourgeoisie struggling to accept that their offering or they themselves are not special. There was a time when people simply was called stupid and ate whatever they could get hold of. For good or evil, these days are long gone.

      • Klaus Petritsch 02/03/2015 at 6:49 am

        Ariel – we are largely in agreement although with a different focus. I am curious about your opinion on the following question though:

        Why do you think a child that shows symptoms of allergy like itchy skin at night etc.. will be tested for all sorts of natural causes like pollen (apple, birch, grass etc) or natural food (egg, wheat, milk) but hardly ever (if ever) for allergies (or intolerance..) of unnatural things like flavour enhancers, preservatives, dyes or any of the other hundreds of chemicals that are processed into our food and water?

    • Ariel Poliandri 02/03/2015 at 7:08 am

      This is a good question Klaus.
      First, I’d like to remark that we are now moving well away of the clear rationality of using safe, well tested, and effective vaccines to prevent nasty diseases, which are natural –diseases are as natural as dead and pain- but we don’t like.
      Second, as I am not an immunologist, I lack the authority to provide you with a definite answer (if that exists). I will point to two factors though:
      1 – Many “natural” products such as pollen or animal hair are well known immunogens (some have always been, some have become do to the little contact we have with them while we are children growing up in the sterile bubbles our modern parents buy to protect their little treasures).
      Given that these “natural” substances are known allergens, it makes sense for medics to test for allergies to them.
      2 – Not everything can be an immunogen. Generally they are proteins and polysaccharides. If an “artificial” flavour enhancer is say, a modified sugar, it is very unlikely that it will cause allergy. Also you cannot just toss “unnatural” additives to food: They need to be approved by regulatory bodies. In order to be approved they need to be tested first, reducing the likely hood that they will be a problem.
      It is true that some particular “artificial” additives could generate allergies, I don’t know. I guess that as soon as they are well-established allergens, medics will start including them in their tests. In the meantime, you cannot include thousands of substances just in case, it is not practical.
      But this is just my opinion. I’m not making any scientific claims.

  • Garmyn Charlotte 25/02/2015 at 11:06 am

    I find it difficult to read in the texts above that people who are questioning vaccinations are labelled as idiots that can’t read or don’t want to read. My belief says it is good to discuss about is and keep the discussion alive and to hear both sides, the believers and non-believers. If we will stop listening to each other we lose are free choice. And that is what I want, being free to chose. Every generation has good reasons to chose or not to chose for something. As time changes, opinions can do to. Based on the fact that everything evaluates. We should be open enough to accept that and keep doing objective research.
    Another question I ask myself sometimes: Why being so afraid of diseases? Do we underestimate are own immune system?

    • Ariel Poliandri 25/02/2015 at 11:16 am

      In reply to some of your comments Charlotte:
      “I find it difficult to read in the texts above that people who are questioning vaccinations are labelled as idiots”
      -I haven’t spoken about “idiots”; I said some are wicked, most are mislead.
      “Every generation has good reasons to chose or not to chose for something. As time changes, opinions can do to.”
      – I am awfully sorry but this is not a question of “opinions” or “past fashions”. This is about reality, science, human health and human rights (the rights of children, as free individuals, not to be subject to the capricious will of their parents who are not their owners but just their guardians). You may be of the opinion that the earth is flat or that homeopathy is a cleaver alternative to modern Western medicine; they are not.
      “Another question I ask myself sometimes: Why being so afraid of diseases? Do we underestimate are own immune system?”
      -Well, I’ll leave other people to answer this if they want to. I cannot be bothered.

      • Garmyn Charlotte 25/02/2015 at 8:08 pm

        Well, reading your comments I only can conclude that you have got prejudices of people with other opinions then yours. I’m a scientist too, I have vaccinated. I can tell to vaccinate is not as harmless as you think. Every vaccination als might bring individuals in shock. That is an immediate risk, why wouldn’t there be long term risks.
        Western medicine tries to cure with anti-medication, homeopathic medication tries to support the immune system. These medicines don’t work against each other, they can support one another.
        I hope sincerely that research that will evaluate therapies will never stop.
        Why would I fight you to tell you’re wrong, I will not. I only think it is naive to say there is one solution to one problem. Medicine is different from mathematics. We are all individuals, we are all different.

        • Ariel Poliandri 25/02/2015 at 8:09 pm

          “Prejudiced” is such a played-out term…
          You could say -if you wish- that I am prejudiced against reality deniers (flat earthers, creationists, you name it). I am prejudiced against cultural relativism, against “all is the same and everything goes”.
          You comments on short and long term effects are disingenuous. My father is still alive, and he is older than his father was when he died and probably older than his grandfather. So whatever “long term effect” vaccines have doesn’t seem that bad. As for the short term effects: it is much more likely that you will develop adverse effects for avoiding the vaccine than for taking it.
          There is not such a thing as homeopathic “medicine”; homeopathic remedies are just water, and if you are a scientist you should know that. There is nothing in them, nothing. If you know chemistry you know that they dilute whatever potion they prepare so much that it is statistically improbable they contain even a single molecule of whatever hocus pocus they added at the beginning.

          • Hans Huijgen 26/02/2015 at 11:05 am

            One thing bothers me about vaccination. I can’t determin how much data is influenced by commercial value. After all, these producers are the same who give presents to doctors when using their products. So, in order to find vaccination reliable for everyone, their should be no company involved. Even our (dutch) robust national institutes like RIVM or NWO are sponsored by these farmaceutical organizations. It is known that research is influenced by their investors. Just do a google: follow the money with a pharmaceutical name… And be suprised. But of course this can be conspiracy as well, doesn’t it?

            So. Yes vaccination is important. And no. Not every vaccination is as important as described by these companies or countries.

          • Ariel Poliandri 26/02/2015 at 11:23 am

            I agree Hans.
            We know through recent experience that there are serious diseases like measles, polio, TB, etc. that need to be prevented (unless big pharma has a magic wand and has managed to stamp false memories on our feeble minds).
            I concede that vaccination for minor illnesses -like flu- can be commercially motivated if aimed at a general healthy population (always bearing in mind that there are cases were flu can be a serious concern and vaccination can be a good option).
            As for the negative effects of vaccines, again: the likelihood of suffering from those pales to insignificance compared with the risks of skipping vaccination. Saying anything to the contrary is a sign of the most crude and devious scaremongering.

    • George Cartwright 25/02/2015 at 4:31 pm

      Garmyn
      That’s all very well. The children of these people don’t get to choose. They suffer the consequences of their parents choices. Suffer the little children, or perhaps we could shroud their suffering under the umbrella of research! Don’t discard the research already done. Learn from it or we are merely re-inventing the wheel….. at a terrible cost to those that cannot choose for themselves.

    • Michael Kitching 27/02/2015 at 11:25 am

      To answer your point on why we underestimate our immune system. We know the effects of many of the diseases we vaccinate against, measles, mumps etc. These infections are horrible to have and can have serious consequences to a person including death before the immune system can get into gear. It takes time for a unprimed immune response (about 10 days) to mount an effect response to a new pathogen, which by that time a lot of damage has been done. Priming the immune system by way of vaccination dramatically lowers the response time.

  • Ana Melina Vallenilla 25/02/2015 at 6:46 am

    From the article “Several of the town’s children contracted polio later that year in 1956” is it not suspictious that right after the year of vaccination several of the town’s children contracted polio? but were those who were vaccinated?

    • Ariel Poliandri 25/02/2015 at 7:00 am

      No, it is not suspicious. The ones that were not vaccinated contracted the disease.
      Much more convincing is the fact that there were periodic polio epidemics in Argentina. The epidemics died down after the introduction of the vaccine. That is a clear connection.
      If you want the full truth to be stated (it is mentioned in a pop up note in the post), vaccines are not 100% effective. There are a small percentage of vaccinated people that will nevertheless be vulnerable to the disease. However, chances of getting ill are greatly reduced for vaccinated individuals compared with un-vaccinated ones.

  • Mandy DeZoort 24/02/2015 at 10:18 pm

    i have a few “educated” friends that refuse to vaccinate their children. So they are homeschooled as this is an issue for enrollment. They think vaccines cause autism, EBD, LD, ADHD, etc. my view is that vaccines are safe and necessary. I don’t drink alcohol or use drugs and I’m a healthy 39 year old female with no children, by choice. WHO and many organizations saves thousands if not millions of lives by offering vaccines to 3rd world countries. American’s (not all of course) are spoiled. I lived in Africa, I’ve seen the suffering first hand, mostly women and children due to socioeconomic values and corrupt governments. I was in Africa to save the animals through SFS, but quickly learned from a minister there that it was the people who needed saving. That has stuck with me for 17 years.

    • Ariel Poliandri 25/02/2015 at 7:00 am

      Thank you for your comment Mandy. I agree with you, some Westerners are like spoiled children. Their life is so cosy and easy that they need to find trills inventing conspiracy theories. The unfortunate thing is that their psychosis exposes their children to great risk. I think that it is wrong that parents are –by all intentions and purposes- considered the owners of their children rather than their guardians, entrusted with their education until they become fully independent. Vaccines, like seat belts, should not be an option parents can decide on.
      Connected with what you have seen in Africa: I find big differences regarding attitudes to “health risks” between Argentina (where I grew up and people have real, pressing, needs) and Britain (again, a cosy society).

  • George Cartwright 24/02/2015 at 6:29 am

    I become so mad listening to ignorant anti-vaccine pushing idiots that I have to leave the room. I believe the reason is there are far too many people out there who are cashed up bogans, many who either can’t read or couldn’t be bothered to read. For them it is much easier to accumulate their knowledge from fellow bridge players and coffee partners who are equally ignorant of anything other than what they gossip about. Oh, of course one mustn’t forget the valuable information shared on Face Book (between taking selfies!). There is nothing that will get these people to read what needs to be read and understand the content. Many of our grand-mothers will be turning in their graves. The trouble with the people that spread these ignorant conspiracy theories is that they will never understand that you learn nothing new that comes out of your own mouth. And they never keep theirs shut long enough.

    • Ariel Poliandri 24/02/2015 at 6:42 am

      Yes, anti-vaccine campaigners are wicked people.
      I would make a distinction between the well-intentioned parents who are misled by campaigners and the hard-core campaigners themselves, irritant, self-obsessed people without any merit of their own and who will resort to any tactic to attack attention.
      We should not forget that, not so long ago, people used to die like flies of illnesses we very rarely see these days: consumption (TB), small pox, polio, etc. Our grandparents (even our parents) saw it and they embraced modern medicine with all their hearts. If we reject medicine (especially if we go back to hocus-pocus quackeries such as homeopathy) these terrible diseases will come back (with the exception made of small pox which our forbearers were able to eradicate).

  • steven bernstein 23/02/2015 at 11:11 pm

    I have family members who have become conspiracy theorists and espouse this stuff. They’re argument is more economic. The claim is that big pharma is advocating vaccines to make billions, when they are not necessary.
    While big pharma is not altruistic, what gets lost in this argument is that big pharma would make a heck of a lot more providing drugs to treat epidemics, then they make offering vaccines to prevent epidemics.

    • Ariel Poliandri 23/02/2015 at 11:30 pm

      Hi Steven,
      Your relations are right: “Big pharma” is out there to make money; so are big seat belt and big helmet. it doesn’t mean that they sale obsolete or unnecessary products; asserting so is –at best- sloppy thinking.
      What people forget is that our ancestors –and I am not talking about our neolithic ancestors; I am talking about our great-grandparents- used to die like flies of diseases we don’t even think about these days: consumption (TB), small pox, polio, etc. The reason we don’t have to worry about those things now is because our grandparents and parents worked very hard to stop them and almost succeeded in whipping them all out. But the job is not finished yet (except for small pox). The diseases are still lurking around and will come back if we stupidly stop taking care.
      Unless “big pharma” (somehow) managed to fake history to suit its commercial purposes, I would argue that vaccines work and are necessary.

  • Sadri Hassani 23/02/2015 at 2:53 pm

    Great story! The stupid celebrities of today should learn from an Argentinian village mom of 60 years ago!

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