Whooping Cough Returns

Well, perhaps not “returns”, as it hasn’t been destroyed in the way that smallpox was, but these kinds of stories are unnerving:

Several children have been sent home from a Greeley school this week for what appears to be whooping cough, and a local health official said Friday that the possible outbreak illustrates the importance of vaccinating children.

As of Friday morning, there has been one confirmed case of Pertussis, the medical name for the disease that can cause permanent disability or death in infants, at University Middle School. Three other middle school students are awaiting lab tests to determine if they, too, have the upper respiratory infection that causes extreme coughing with a whooping sound.


Heidi Musil, health education specialist for health communication, education and planning at the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment, said all immunized diseases have what’s called a breakthrough disease that affects immunized people.

“With Pertussis there can be as high as a 20 percent breakthrough,” she said. “However, the more people who are immunized a (wider) immunity is created and that offers increased protection to those who have not been immunized or who the vaccine doesn’t work for. Immunization is still very important.”

Even if this is an isolated incident, it still makes my blood boil. I knew a guy when I was an undergrad who was convinced that mandatory vaccination was an intolerable abridgment of his liberty, even to protect school children. He also thought taxation was immoral. I was a fairly committed libertarian at the time, but still found his ideas repugnant. I never convinced him that he was wrong, but I did point out that he was protected by herd immunity and he was endangering others by not getting vaccinated himself.

Of course, even the garden variety crank is harmless compared to a know nothing celebrity. Jenny McCarthy is, of course, who I’m referring to. She still seems to be holding to the discredited Lancet study, even though it was retracted and its lead author, Andrew Wakefield, lost his license to practice medicine.

Dealing with people like Jenny McCarthy is very frustrating; it’s frankly like dealing with birthers, who won’t believe President Obama was born in the U.S. no matter what evidence is presented to them. When it comes to a technology that has saved countless lives, the burden of proof to curtail their use, much less get rid of them, is enormous, and lies with the person making the assertion.

For more on Jenny McCarthy and autism, see the Jenny McCarthy Body Count site and it’s associated Facebook page.

UPDATE: A guy named Charles Simmins apparently saw this post and sent the following articles to me via Twitter: Fewer Children in U.S. Receiving Vaccines and California’s Whooping Cough Epidemic Centered in Rich, White Counties. The second article addresses something Michael Reynolds mentions in the first comment to this post.

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Robert Prather
About Robert Prather
Robert Prather contributed over 80 posts to OTB between October 2005 and July 2013. He previously blogged at the now defunct Insults Unpunished. Follow him on Twitter @RobPrather.


  1. michael reynolds says:

    Same thing happened here in Marin County, CA. Unvaccinated kids and adults in one of the richest counties in America. Morons.

  2. Morons, indeed. It just proves that there are cranks everywhere. I wouldn’t go as far as to require every person get vaccinated by law, but it should certainly be required to attend public schools and even universities.

  3. doug says:

    well, you know, even tho I have been vaccinated, & my kids, etc., there is something to be said about the politics of medicine. Here’s an interesting little research paper that discusses not only Dr Wakefield’s studies, but many others. it also suggests that what happened to Dr Wakefield caused many others to think twice about doing related research. When i hear on the radio that there is a 1 in 110 chance of a child being diagnosed w/autism today, something is rotten in Denmark, and it ain’t the cheese. Oh yes, i’m one of those idiot birthers u refer to. You know, a child w/o any fancy degree, but a lot of common sense, could easily point out the forgery. but as Stuart Chase always said “For those who believe no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is sufficient.”
    Whether or not Mr O was born here or not is not what bothers me. What bothers me is the roughshod way it was just pushed aside to do a political takeover, for which now we will be paying thru oblivion for…
    oh wait…it’s all GW’s fault. I keep forgetting that. When will i ge that thru my head? I guess I need to keep listening to the propaganda tapes a bit more.
    Like Goebbels said “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
    Power to the statists! NOT! (Where’s Barry Goldwater when you need him?)

  4. Robert Prather says:

    @doug: For future reference, punctuation, capital letters and paragraph breaks make for a more pleasant reading experience.

    As for the substance of your comment, there is none. There was no forgery and there was no political takeover. Elections were held and President Obama was elected.

  5. superdestroyer says:

    It is more than idiot celebrities. Robert Kennedy Jr is also on the anti-vaccine bandwagon. Of course, since Kennedy is a Democrat, he only speaks for himself and cannot be used to demonstrate that the left is also anti-science.


  6. Herb says:

    Sad this happened in the great state of CO, but……a few points:

    A) The article doesn’t explain whether this outbreak is related to a lack of immunization or this “breakthrough” phenomenon. Now I’m not saying a 20% breakthrough makes immunization pointless….just saying that even in a 100% immunized scenario, a single confirmed case (and a handful of possible others) is not really cause for alarm.

    B) Jenny McCarthy is a fool, but she’s also a celebrity. Not excusing her vaccination views, which are silly, but “political causes” are jobs programs to keep celebrities busy between projects. George Clooney has Darfur, Angelina has the orphans, Sean Penn has Haiti. The only reason we think “autism/vaccine” when we think of Jenny McCarthy is that she no longer does any projects. If she were starring in films (not just appearing, but starring) or racking up awards, we’d think of that first.

    In other words, McCarthy is only “successful” as an anti-vaccination spokesperson because she sucks at being a celebrity.

  7. Herb says:


    “Of course, since Kennedy is a Democrat, he only speaks for himself and cannot be used to demonstrate that the left is also anti-science. “

    I’m sure you thought this was really clever, but wow……it’s pretty obvious that you really, really want to use RFK “to demonstrate that the left is also anti-science,’ and yet deep down…you recognize that would be ridiculous.

    Or at least part of you, anyway. The other part, the part with no filter, is going, “Say it anyway.”


  8. superdestroyer says:


    it was ridiculous of the left to use a video of a single minster or the state of a single school board member in rural Arkansas to indicate all conservatives. There has been books written about the right’s attack on science. Yet, the left has been consistent for decades in using minute or non-existent risks to attack technology, science, and modern society. Yet, no one writes a book on the left’s War on Probability or the left’s War on Risk Assessment.

    I was just pointing out, with the example of Kennedy, is that the left, as usual, are massive hypocrites and that no one really cares.

  9. tps says:

    We’re getting new cases here in Minnesota too.

    “House” had a wonderful scene in an early episode with a mom who thought vaccines were just a big scam:
    Dr. Gregory House: [examining a baby whose mother isn’t vaccinating him because she feels it’s a scam; House takes the child’s stuffed frog] All natural, no dyes. That’s a good business – all-natural children’s toys. Those toy companies, they don’t arbitrarily mark up their frogs. They don’t lie about how much they spend on research and development. And the worst that a toy company can be accused of is making a really boring frog. Gribbit, gribbit, gribbit. You know another really good business? Teeny tiny baby coffins. You can get them in frog green, fire engine red. Really. The antibodies in yummy mummy only protect the kid for six months, which is why these companies think they can gouge you. They think that you’ll spend whatever they ask to keep your kid alive. Want to change things? Prove them wrong. A few hundred parents like you decide they’d rather let their kid die then cough up 40 bucks for a vaccination, believe me, prices will drop *really* fast. Gribbit, gribbit, gribbit, gribbit, gribbit.

  10. Herb says:


    “it was ridiculous of the left to use a video of a single minster or the state of a single school board member in rural Arkansas to indicate all conservatives.”

    Oh, well in that case…..it’s nice to see that you’re concerned with relevance…

    Lemme get it straight: Some lefty did something mean to a conservative one time, so it’s your sworn duty to do the same in any context you can? Is that it?

  11. Best response to the anti-vaccine movement ever, courtesy of Penn and Teller:


  12. michael reynolds says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Great Penn and Teller clip. Teller is actually my cousin, talked to him once, was told his first name, which I promptly forgot.

  13. KariQ says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Thanks Stormy Dragon. I just spent an hour watching Youtube videos of Penn and Teller.

  14. @superdestroyer: For once, I agree with SD. There is a huge blind spot on some parts of the left when it comes to vaccines and, to a lesser extent, the precautionary principle.

    However, it isn’t as widespread as science denial on the right. Science is constantly under attack in state legislatures by either attempting to introduce creationism (mis-labeled as intelligent design) and by denial of global warming.

  15. @Herb: I’m not as sanguine as you when it comes to this. A lack of vaccination is how “breakthroughs” turn in to epidemics. It compromises herd immunity and increases the risk to those who were vaccinated as well.

  16. michael reynolds says:

    @Robert Prather:
    I think that’s right. The left has its own paranoias and conspiracy theories about science, not to mention its own superstitions, largely having to do with so-called alternative medicine.

    But none of that rises to anything like the large-scale, determined assault on scientific knowledge that comes from the right. On the left it’s individual cranks. On the left it’s institutional cranks — parties, churches, etc…

    That said, it is particularly obnoxious given that the left is generally younger, better educated and less rustic. They have fewer excuses for being idiots.

  17. @michael reynolds: Yeah, we’re in complete agreement. It’s institutions on the right and, almost exclusively, individuals on the left.

    Also, there’s some weird stuff that I, rightly or wrongly, associate with the left, like Moronic Harmonic Convergence in the late 80s.

  18. Davebo says:

    I can’t take my dog to the dog park without proving his shots are up to date. Same goes for doggie day care.

    Don’t want to vaccinate your kids, keep them in the back yard and home school.

  19. michael reynolds says:

    Should read:

    On the right it’s institutional cranks — parties, churches, etc…

    Ah, the late lamented edit function.

  20. tps says:

    I’ve heard, from first hand sources, about parents having ‘parties’ where they let their kids play with other kids who have chicken pox and other diseases. That way the kids will get sick and therefore be immune. Goes along with the mail order chicken pox lollipops I guess.


  21. superdestroyer says:

    @michael reynolds:

    this just reinforces the idea that for progressives, each liberal speaks for himself but for conservatives, each one represents all of them.

    Remember when the Congressional Black Caucus was pushing the idea that crack cocaine use in the black community was caused by the CIA. There is a nutty idea pushed by an institution that is a Democratic Party institution. Yet, no white Democrats is ever asked about that nutty idea.