Predictable Irrationality

If you are ever tempted to think that we are basically rational creatures, acting in accordance with our reasoned self-interest, think of this nonsense.  I can’t imagine caring more about anything than the safety and well-being of my children.  I have no doubt that virtually every parent feels the same way.  Yet a multi-state ring of apparently well-meaning parents, wary of vaccinations that prevent the disease, swapped or even purchased lollipops through the mail allegedly licked by a child sick with chickenpox after connecting via social media.  These suckers’ idea was to give the lollipops to their children so as to infect them with chickenpox and so they would develop immunity without the shot.  Let’s count the ways this is mind-numbingly stupid.

  • It ignores (denies!) modern science. Vaccinations are safe and effective.
  • Chickenpox can cause severe disease and death.
  • Sending a virus or disease through the U.S. mail or private carriers is illegal.
  • It also violates federal law to adulterate or tamper with consumer products, such as candy.
  • Why would anyone buy infected or contaminated body fluids from complete strangers and given them to their children? Is there any reason to trust them or to determine that some crackpot out to hurt their child isn’t scamming them?
  • Although it is possible, it is unlikely to achieve the goal of transmitting chickenpox. William Schaffner, M.D., president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and chair of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University, explains that “chickenpox is not spread through oral secretions but by the respiratory route. You have to inhale this virus for it to be successful. It’s spread through sneezing or couching or just breathing out the virus.”
  • There will definitely be other germs, bacteria and perhaps viruses on the used lollipop. So the child being given the used chickenpox lollipop probably won’t get chickenpox, but may be receiving something else, such as a staph infection or hepatitis.
  • Even if the scheme succeeds in getting a child sick with chickenpox,there may be “worst-case” consequences such as chickenpox encephalitis and chickenpox pneumonia. 

These are parents, doing this for their children.  So much for rational self-interest.

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