Vaccines against Poor Health Literacy

My father drinks raw milk. I have argued with him, pleaded with him, cajoled, harassed, blackmailed (I kid), bombarding him with journals, articles, reports and evidence to prove to him that historically, pasteurization carries great benefit and little risk, while drinking raw milk puts him in danger of contracting diseases like E. Coli and worse, and all to no avail. He observes me calmly, sanguine, with the slight smile on his face of sagacious serenity that comes with unassailable wisdom, as though accepting with love his misguided and brainwashed son, and in his head I can just imagine his counterarguments. The government has lied to us, he’s thinking, and if we just take our milk from cows raised in healthy conditions, we have no need to fear disease, no need for antibiotics and pasteurization, no need for synthetic concoctions to make us immune to some things while poisoning us slowly. In a way, of course, he’s right. And so am I. I think we can both agree that we want to make the best health choices for ourselves, and we simply differ in our assessment of the available evidence.

This article is not about raw milk, though. It’s about vaccinations. It’s about making good health choices while living a natural lifestyle. Making any choice means accepting a certain degree of risk, and often the full scope of that risk is unclear. For those who live a natural lifestyle, the introduction of complex, often synthesized vaccinations threatens the foundation of how they choose to live. The risk is too great when it threatens compromising their values. I may be biased, but I can certainly appreciate that sentiment.
However, I have to balk at the notion that it is unnatural to accept common vaccinations. Maybe I’m naive, and as a young guy I’ve found that’s often the case, but after looking at the science behind inoculations, it seems to me a perfectly natural thing to do. When we’re children, we run through the world picking up dirt, grime, worms, the occasional pathogen, and experiencing everything. We put things in our mouths, rub our eyes and faces with soiled hands, and revel in the beauty of every moment of life. In the meantime though, our immune systems are operating in overdrive to combat the hordes of foreign bodies entering our bloodstreams. To oversimplify a fascinating process, our bodies essentially “remember” how to recognize the intruder, and for the rest of our lives we have antibodies specifically designed to eliminate that substance, be it dirt, bacteria or virus, before it can do us harm.
A vaccination is simply that process controlled. At its base, it is the introduction of specific foreign substances in order to trigger an immune response so that our bodies can “remember,” just like when we were children, and have a response ready for the next time we encounter that substance. When that invader is a deadly pathogen like smallpox, having a response ready is the difference between life and death. It’s as simple as that.
This article isn’t designed to give you all the science behind vaccines, nor the history, although I think it’s worth pointing out that, in China, they were giving a variation of vaccines as early as 1000 CE. It’s mostly just to point out what I think is a logical fallacy in the notion that accepting modern science means rejecting a natural lifestyle.
In other words, this one’s for you, Dad.

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