I went to a health fair on Thursday at the Travis school. There were lots of different fields represented. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m an acupuncturist; not everything I believe has to have been proven through double-blind studies. I was assigned a table next to the School of Metaphysics, and we had some interesting conversations about dream interpretation and the mind-body connection.

I also have a strong background in science and a twitchy BS-ometer, and I realize how easy it would be to mount a fear campaign against dihydrogen monoxide. (It’s used in the manufacture of pesticides! It’s a major component of acid rain! It contributes to the greenhouse effect! Promotes corrosion and rust! Injection in pure form causes cell death! It’s in our oceans, lakes, and streams! It’s…water.)

At the fair, we were provided with a packet from a clinic, with a refrigerator magnet and an explanation on how nutrition can help the body, with outrage that we spend so much money for drugs against noncommunicable diseases. That, I can’t say I find objectionable. However, there was also a note with instructions about vaccination exemption, lists of various chemicals and biological substances and the questions “Do you really want this in your body and in your children?” “Did you get a swine flu shot? (scary list of things, implied though not explicitly stated as ingredients in said shot) What did you get?”

I hope the community of a TAG school would be interested in learning more and being informed. I hope that people are smart enough to get their information from informative materials, rather than from advertising. Because make no mistake, that packet was advertising. There will be many posts on this blog that are advertising. This is not particularly one of them. But be aware that while we alternative practitioners rail against Pharmaceutical Corporations, it’s still advertising when we suggest your dollars would better line our pockets instead of theirs because _________. Advertising is not a bad thing; without it, the business owner could hardly stay afloat, even those who don’t make a living out of peddling fear. You should still seek information elsewhere. For this, I suggest the CDC, WebMD, and the Institute for Vaccine Safety.

I know that many of my colleagues have issues with vaccination. I admit I am not the ultimate authority on anything, and there is a lot I don’t understand. I concede that people should have a degree of autonomy. However, vaccination isn’t so much about personal choice as it is about protecting public health, which is why there are requirements for kids in school.

I’m glad there are skeptics who ask questions and don’t implicitly trust authority. There would be no innovation if everyone accepted norms. In this case, I’m not sure what the point is except to instill fear for personal gain, and that is not an ethical way to run a practice.

How do vaccines protect public health? Vaccines increase immunity in most people to the pathogen in question. No, they aren’t a guarantee, but as you can see with smallpox, polio, measles, and mumps, fewer people in the population get sick when most have been vaccinated. And, it’s true, vaccines are not as effective in babies, the elderly, the immunocompromised. Which is why it’s so important for the rest of us to get vaccinated, so we don’t pass disease onto them; they won’t bounce back as easily as we will.

Every decision or nondecision in the world will probably expose you to something that someone could convince you is a hazard. Life is a collection of risks. For the individual, the question is, is the risk greater to vaccinate or not vaccinate? Who has calculated those risks? Where are you getting most of your information?

For the alternative practitioner, where did YOU get your information? If you did not stand to profit financially, would that change your reasoning? Are you sure that your patients are going to follow your immune-boosting protocol? Whether they do or don’t, are you confident that you have stopped the spread of the communicable disease in question more effectively than by vaccination? It’s easy to rail against The Establishment, but remember that people depend on you. Wield your authority responsibly.