DR. DAVE HEPBURN | MARCH 27, 2013
I recall sitting with my mother in a veterinarian’s waiting room with our Rottweiler-Doberman-Mike Tyson cross, Petunia. I was busy reading “I am Joe’s Ovary” while Petunia was trying to gnaw through his Hannibal Lecter muzzle in order to better scratch ‘n sniff/maul ‘n ingest the skittish waiting room clients. Suddenly, around the corner wheeled the nurse of my dreams.
“Hi, my name’s Kitty. What’s his?”
“Petunia” my mother replied, “Pet for short.”
“No I mean, your son.”
“Oh, David, he’s going to be a doctor one day.”
“Really, how old is he?”
“No, the dog.”
“Is he fixed?”
“Who?” replied my mother, a concerned furrow puckering her brow.
“I see he slobbers quite a bit. Does he do any tricks?”
“Well, he knows a little magic ...”
“No, I mean the dog.”
By the time the interview was over I was so confused I wasn’t sure if I was free of fleas, was house trained or liked my belly rubbed. But we were really stumped by the question “Has he had all his shots?” I’m not certain how the confusion was finally sorted out, but I do know that to this day I have never had heartworms or distemper (though I once threw a tantrum when Josie and the Pussycats was cancelled). Petunia has never had the mumps or whooping cough.
Confusion still reigns in the world of vaccinations.
Have you had all your shots? Are you even aware of what they are now? Should you have more? Should you have less?
Vaccination has become a victim of its own success. There are those who mistakenly feel that diseases such as polio or diphtheria appear to be eradicated, hence vaccination is no longer necessary. Why must we start filling our kids up with vaccines as soon as they are hatched? But in 1990, after an easing up in measles vaccination, the usual 1,500 cases of measles per year in the U.S. ballooned to 55,000 cases. Hundreds were hospitalized and 132 unvaccinated children died. In addition, every pediatrician, it seems, can recall a horror story involving an unvaccinated infant who contracted pertussis.
And so yes, vaccination remains the cornerstone of public health. A vaccine’s goal ultimately is to render itself obsolete. To the few fear mongers still left, i.e., those who consider science an inconvenient nuisance or who yap that vaccines are a CIA plot to turn law abiding citizens into NFL fans, and yet have never had to deal with these diseases ... you’re welcome. Example:
Smallpox: “What’s that scar on your shoulder Dad?” “I was shot.” “Cool!” Those of us with the Sea of Tranquility crater stamped on our deltoids are apparently now safe from Smallpox. And because of us, so is everyone else. Smallpox, all but gone.
Diphtheria: With only five cases a year in North America, vaccination has all but wiped out this dreaded and dangerous disease.
Polio: A once devastating paralyzing illness that claimed FDR amongst its victims, polio is now very close to becoming the next disease that will join smallpox on the eradicated list. Though there have been no wild cases since 1979 in North America, a few pockets, such as a recent outbreak in Haiti, still exist. The amazing polio story of Salk and Sabin has virtually resulted in vaccination victory over a very vicious virus.
HiB: Another marvelous vaccination success story since it was introduced in the 1990’s as routine immunization. Where HiB meningitis killed 5 percent and left another 25 percent of its many victims brain damaged, the HiB vaccine is already close to actually making this common form of childhood meningitis a disease of the past.
Tetanus: Though there are now only 50-100 cases of “lockjaw” per year, 30 percent of those who contract tetanus will die. A booster (along with diphtheria) every 10 years is recommended for everyone but Petunia. Lockjaw would certainly save on muzzles.
Dr. Dave's book The Doctor is In(sane) is now available for those with a sense of humor and half a sense of health. Learn more and meet Dr. Dave or contact him at www.wisequacks.org.