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Thursday, January 20, 2022

The Antivax Toll

In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread  And among those diseases could be COVID-19.

Antivaxxers are sometimes violent, often abusive, and always wrong.  

At LAT, Dr. Venktesh Ramnath, medical director of critical care and telemedicine outreach at UC San Diego Health:
Incredulous families summarily deny that COVID-19 (and absence of vaccination) could be responsible for the critical illnesses I see every day. Patients and their relatives vehemently claim that healthcare workers and hospitals are “poisoning” and “punishing,” as if part of an Orwellian plot, leading to belligerent, abusive behaviors against staff.

Many providers have become inured to uninformed rebuffs of medical recommendations, including vaccination. Educational efforts have devolved into counterproductive debates.

Far from “heroes” or even compassionate advocates for health, providers are viewed as biased technicians with dubious motives locking loved ones behind hospital doors.

One response to this emotional onslaught is, understandably, attrition. Most veteran ICU nursing staff where I work have left, replaced by temporary assignment nurses from across the country. Some physicians who have become ostracized by the very communities they serve now contemplate nonclinical work or early retirement.

Among those of us still in the trenches, some medical professionals are now breaking traditional practice norms. Providers are resorting to less evidence-based practices, desperate to help and also to avoid another conflict. By opening the door to “try everything,” they have become unwitting supporters of anti-science movements, placing additional stress on others who promote well-established, proven practices.

A 2021 release from USC:

Between 37,000 and 43,000 children in the United States have lost at least one parent to COVID-19, a “staggering” 20% increase in parental loss over a typical year, USC research shows.

The scope of deaths “is forever imprinting the lives of tens of thousands of young Americans,” said study co-author Emily Smith-Greenaway, associate professor of sociology and spatial sciences at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. “It’s a social crisis that merits far greater attention, as well as a collective response to slow the tide of loss that’s washing over children.”

The research appeared this week in JAMA Pediatrics.

Three-fourths of children who lost a parent were adolescents, and 1 in 4 were children younger than 10. Black children have also suffered disproportionately from parental bereavement: Although they comprise only 14% of children in the U.S., they make up 20% of those who’ve lost a parent to COVID-19.