Adam Piggott

Gentleman adventurer

The cost benefit analysis on vaccinations.

Yesterday on my podcast episode I discussed a recent conversation I had with someone about tricky topics. The usual stuff these days – climate change, government mandated diets, that sort of thing.

Regular commenter Amanda was kind enough to listen and even kinder to leave a comment, the final sentence of which I will include here:

Also, wait until you have kids and then you will have to swallow the red pill about vaccines. I can’t wait for that post.

Well she didn’t have to wait very long. Unsurprisingly I would think to many of my readers, I did not have to wait to have children to form an opinion on vaccinations. I came to my conclusions many years ago, and well before the current vogue of questioning the overriding authority of the science of vaccinations. This was due to the fact that on occasion, surprise surprise, I myself have had to face the choice of getting a vaccination or not. Why do you have to wait to have children to form this opinion exactly? Frankly, I care about my own body just as much as that of any imaginary future child.

I left out one little detail on my podcast on the recounting of my conversation. The two of us did in fact speak about vaccinations. The woman to whom I was speaking has two children, and both of us were in complete agreement at our dubiousness as to the benefits of vaccines. Shock horror!

My caution around vaccines is related to my caution at taking pharmaceuticals. Many years ago, when I was due to leave for an extended stay in Uganda, I had to get a series of shots for things such as yellow fever. These shots were a requirement to enter the country so I was in no place to argue. The doctor asked me which drug I intended to take to counter the threat of getting malaria. I asked him the options, he informed me that Larium was the drug of choice, and I said that I would do some research and make an informed decision.

He looked at me as if I were mad.

After only a little research I discovered that taking Larium for any extended period greater than just a couple of months carried some rather unpleasant side effects. I also found out that it didn’t offer complete protection from malaria, and if you did contract the virus while taking the drug then the outcome was much worse for you.

I then did some research on malaria in Uganda and it turned out that there was one pesky mosquito that carried the virus, (female, of course), and this mozzie was active only in the late night and early morning. As a result of my cost-benefit analysis I decided to forgo the nasty drugs and be extremely careful both to always sleep under a net and to not get drunk and fall asleep in the rose bushes.

Funnily enough, I was the only riverguide not to contract malaria in the entire time that I was there.

I take the same approach to vaccinations but this is where things get interesting. While almost nobody disputes that some pharmaceuticals maybe aren’t such a great idea as with regards to their potential risks, the same can not be said for public attitudes on vaccinations. I suppose this stems from the fact that some vaccinations are of such extraordinary benefit, (the polio vaccine is the first that comes to mind), that this benefit is assumed of all vaccines, warranted or not.

Vaccines, like pharmaceuticals, are a product, and when someone is trying to sell me something then all trust goes out the window as far as I’m concerned. An article by Brett Stevens on the misinformation deliberately spread about diet, fats, sodium, and sugar, attracted an interesting comment from a man who used to work in the pharmaceutical industry:

“… Each drug that comes out has a war chest put aside for the inevitable law suits. Their research has shown them that they can accept X number of fatalities from their drug. If the income from sales exceeds the cost of litigation, they’ll keep selling it …”

Why anyone would think that the vaccine industry would work any differently is beyond me, that is if they are entirely separate industries at all.

Every year the government announces a new “deadly flu virus” and every year, coincidentally, there is a brand new flu shot ready to go for everyone who wants to “protect themselves”, (and be thankful that it isn’t yet compulsory – you know, the old chestnut that if you don’t get the immunization then you will be endangering other people).

It took a very long time for scientists to develop the polio vaccine, but they seem to be able to crank out these brand new flu strain shots at the drop of a hat. Excuse me if I remain somewhat skeptical. To put it bluntly, I’ll take my chances, thank you very much.

As for measles, and mumps, and chicken pox, I had them all as a kid. It was part of growing up. You contracted it, you got a bit sick, you had some time off school, (awesome!), and that was it. But what it does do is toughen up your young body, preparing you for the world ahead with all of its nasty viruses, diseases, and SJWs.

I’m sure that this is where someone will chime in with a comment about how they knew such and such who got measles when they were a kid and it deforemed their brain and turned them into an SJW, (a truly awful fate I must admit), and my response will be the same:

So what? There are no guarantees in life. There are no certainties. Bad things happen to people all the time. But even worse things happen when you try to shield everyone from any bad thing happening. It is exposure to risk and chaos that makes us stronger in the long run. Just as a kid who never was allowed to play outside in the dirt will grow up weak and vulnerable to infection, so too an endless regime of drugs and vaccinations will leave the body with the idea that the job of protecting it from harm will be passed off to an outside entity. Which will not only leave it weak but heaven help it if the outside entity is unable to come up with protection from a very real threat.

As to what I will do when I have kids, my wife and I will make that decision when we come to it. We will conduct a thorough cost benefit analysis. We will not defer to the lazy option of letting the government make our decisions for us, and we will certainly not do that and then get on our high horse and preach at those who have the foresight to make their own decisions.

Is that red pill enough on vaccinations for ya?



Podcast #47 – The vegetarian episode.


Holy Kek! It’s the hawt chick and links!


  1. Adam

    I get your aversion to taking unnecessary medications, but i don’t think it follows that vaccines are quite the same thing.

    Its pretty hard to argue that the virtual extinguishment of many diseases by the use of vaccines is not a great thing for the world.

    While scepticism is a valuable first position in all things, the total rejection of medical science that has taken us from having short sickly lives to the current position is the province of idiot females on facebook groups.

    I am always wary of people with extreme positions, so both those who are totally in favour of vaccinations and those totally against are suspect.

    As you say, making a considered decision after doing your own research rather than blindly following the prescribed course of action is the best way to go.

    Its also interesting that the pro-vaccination camp are very against the idea that anyone should form their own opinion after careful research, rather than blindly accepting medical advice. The crazy anti vaxxer groups are the result of people doing research and finding other idiots, so i guess its probably best for stupid people to follow doctors orders. Thinking can be dangerous for people who aren’t used to it.

  2. Mr Black

    This post, its premise, line of reasoning and conclusion are all nonsense. Unfortunately it is what happens when a person lives in a disease free society, they get to thinking that this is normal. The moment body bags full of dead children start piling up, watch how fast the ‘independent thinkers’ rush for the vaccines. This post really discredits you Adam.

  3. You can’t do that, make a decision based on reason, logic, and good information. You need to make those kinds of decisions based upon anecdote, fear, and other emotions.

    Pestilence, what an apt word. Given that the various viruses that cause the worst diseases in humans have the rather uncanny ability to quickly mutate I’m not sure we can ever rid ourselves of them. As Michael Crichton put it, “Nature always finds a way.”

    Now there’s a question for you. Should we eliminate stocks of any deadly virus, smallpox for example, that appears to be eradicated?

  4. Amanda

    Indeed. Very red pill of you Adam. Totes agreement. Some childhood diseases do toughen our immune systems up – for life. For example, women who had the chicken pox vaccine as children are only protected for 10 years and if they get pregnant and happen to contract the disease, their babies will have congenital defects. Whereas women who got chicken pox naturally are protected for life and so are all their babies. No one talks about the risks for coming generations now that the chicken pox vaccine is mandatory. No bad talk about vaccines. Vaccineaphobe!

    In the 60’s the pharmaceutical companies that made vaccines were killing people and getting sued so they told the US government that unless they were protected from litigation, they would stop making them. So the government changed the laws so people couldn’t sue them. But there was a loop hole and people still sued if they could show that the pharmaceutical company could have made a safer vaccine. So big pharma cried and the US government announced that vaccines were “unavoidably unsafe” so now that loop hole is closed. They have a vaccine fund instead that people can makes claims from if their child dies or is brain damaged, etc… from vaccines. Stringent safety testing on vaccines? I think not. Why, when that is expensive and there are no financial consequences? These vaccine deaths & injuries don’t get publicised by the fake media because that would be bad talk about vaccines and we can’t have that. People might actually start thinking for themselves.

  5. John Ricketts

    I just spent 6 years in Belize. Malaria, Dengue, Chaga’s and Chikungunya were all prevalent.

    I never did take preventative medication, No-one who lives there does. I never caught anything whatsoever, I was careful (mosquito nets and sealed ceilings) and I haven’t burdened my liver, immune system or wallet.

    Nonetheless, on returning to Australia, I find those now going to such countries, are subject to the same med-propaganda. They’re a waste.

    But for the medications that have minimal health-detriment, and massive benefit: go ahead, take them. Polio, TB, Smallpox. Seriously? Just get the shot.

  6. tehy5

    “I’m sure that this is where someone will chime in with a comment about how they knew such and such who got measles when they were a kid”

    “So what? There are no guarantees in life.”

    Except for the guarantee of not getting measles due to the measles vaccine. Sure, other bad things could totally happen to you – is that a license to take unnecessary risks?

    And yes, this risk is unnecessary; I don’t care if it can “toughen up your young body, preparing you for the world ahead with all of its nasty viruses, diseases, and SJWs”, because it’s actually possible to toughen up your kids without putting them at risk of death or deformity from already-solved illnesses.

    Oh, and by the way:

    “Every year the government announces a new “deadly flu virus” and every year, coincidentally, there is a brand new flu shot ready to go for everyone who wants to “protect themselves””

    Every year, 10,000 to 50,000 people die of flu in the U.S. alone. If it was the same virus, this wouldn’t happen, because the survivors would develop antibodies against the flu. And lo and behold, they do, but the flu, as with the common cold that it’s based on, mutates constantly into new flu viruses that your body doesn’t yet know how to combat. Luckily, the new vaccine contains that new virus so your body can learn. I’m not saying that pharmaceutical companies aren’t making out like bandits, but when you sell life-saving medicine that tends to happen.

    “It took a very long time for scientists to develop the polio vaccine, but they seem to be able to crank out these brand new flu strain shots at the drop of a hat. Excuse me if I remain somewhat skeptical.”

    Another thing that tends to happen: as technology improves and our knowledge grows, it becomes easier and easier to make new vaccines – especially when they’re quite similar to old ones.

    Bottom line:

    “As to what I will do when I have kids, my wife and I will make that decision when we come to it. We will conduct a thorough cost benefit analysis.”

    Yeah, not a bad idea. But chances are, you’ll be taking the vaccines.

  7. Dan-0-Lee

    Malaria is caused by a parasite not a virus.

  8. Interesting. Underlying Adam’s post here and elsewhere is a somewhat suspicious view of medicine and medicos generally, and I concur. I had never questioned vaccination at all, but now quite often see argument and evidence against. As well we are beginning to doubt the God like image of the Doctor. I have to come to Thailand to attempt to get Tramdol. My Doctor’s locum in Christchurch last month, an Arab, got everything wrong. And for $45 he told me that Democracy and Kings were not good ways of Government. His second name was Akhuba.

  9. Didn’t realize that there was a “vaccination” post so I actually commented on your most recent post where you mentioned them. I disagree with you less having read this post, skepticism and research is always a good thing but still, smallpox, polio, measles, tetanus, etc still come to mind. They killed millions in their day.

    I do have a quibble with your observation (followed up in your podcast) that somehow the pharmas doing a cost benefit and setting aside a “litigation war chest” somehow shows that they are evil. This is rather a realistic acceptance of the idea that a) western society is litigious beyond belief, especially in America (where most of these drugs are developed) and b) no matter how awesomely effective and safe a drug is, someone is going to be allergic to it and die. You can’t get around fact b) but that doesn’t make the drug less effective for the 99.whatever% of people who it saves from some horrible fate. You could, theoretically, lower the price of the drug and not have a war chest for litigation but then you will be out of business the first time someone has a negative reaction. You could not put any drug on the market that isn’t 100% effective and safe except that this drug does not exist.

    I do agree that we should, in general, take fewer drugs. I take the occasional ibuprofen for muscle aches and I take an allergy pill every morning as I have severe allergies to pollen and dust mites that make life annoyingly uncomfortable but I generally avoid all others when possible. That doesn’t mean that the access to certain drugs hasn’t made life better on the whole, just that people need to be educated into reducing their intake when possible and being educated about the possible side effects and negative consequences.

    • Adam

      I concede your point about the pharmas needing to set aside a war chest due to the ridiculous litigation society in which we now live. But it doesn’t confer squeaky clean status on all of them or their motives for doing it.

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