“Best Shot” (November) only scratches the surface when it comes to Edward Jenner and the origins of vaccination. Jenner’s use of the term virus recalled its Latin meaning, “poison”; he thought the poisonous material originated with horses but was transmitted to humans through cows. The micro-organisms that we now call viruses first came into focus well over a century later, as microscopes improved.
Why does this matter when discussing vaccine naysayers? It matters because to its critics, Jenner’s procedure introduced “poison” that originated with an animal. More than 200 years later, the offending materials are usually chemicals such as thimerosal, but the fear of “unnatural” stuff remains much the same.
Unlike choosing to eat organic food, or attempting to avoid “toxins” in other ways, choosing not to vaccinate affects more than just your children. It affects the community. The co-owner of Riverdale Homeopathy should not dismiss herd immunity so quickly. If her child gets measles and meets my baby in a pediatrician’s waiting room, my baby may contract the disease and become seriously ill even if her daughter fights off the virus. Her decision adversely affects my child. The anti-vaccination campaign is so focused on the individual’s choice that it forgets that kids and viruses do not live in bubbles.
I am a retired family physician. Like the physicians in this article, I struggled to care for patients whose parents delayed or avoided immunization, because they feared the vaccine but did not fear the real risk of disease itself. I grew up in the midst of the ’50s polio epidemic, and I remember breathing machines and classmates disappearing from my life. Today, parents in North America have lost the memory of how viruses and bacteria “train” the immune system. But some immune systems succumb and are not trainable.
My wife and I have chosen not to vaccinate our children, and I was looking forward to this piece. But cynicism dripped off the page. Traditional medicine is rife with “We used to think X, but now we know Y.” There is good precedent for questioning conventional medical wisdom. It would have been nice if the writer had acknowledged what some regard as reasonable exposure, instead of treating all those who question vaccination as New Age heretics who blindly put the herd at risk.
— Mick Sweetman (@MickSweetman) October 12, 2014
I just took my first tour of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, and the building is spectacular (“Faulty Tower,” November). As for content, I’ll withhold my full judgment until all of the galleries open, but what I did see was pretty disappointing. The curation had very little emotional impact on me, and you could practically taste the apprehension with which it addressed Canada’s rocky human rights history.
With phrases like “delicately veined gypsum’s unfortunate evocation of high-end lavatories” and “Darth Vaderesque cape wrapped around a Gumby-headed sasquatch,” along with the confused juxtaposition of architectural criticism and child poverty in Winnipeg, Weder’s mean-spirited article becomes sophomoric.
In contrast, Larry Towell and Louise Bernice Halfe’s “In Attawapiskat” was a powerful, beautiful piece. Thank you for that—the kind of publishing that keeps me coming back to The Walrus.
Robert G. Smith
If only “In Attawapiskat” (November) were fiction, but it is the tragic truth. Thank you, Louise Bernice Halfe and Larry Towell, for your deep and riveting witness to the devastation and hope of Aboriginal peoples.
— Hibaq (@HibaqG) November 7, 2014
Leader of the Pack
Four years ago, I gave up a forty-year, one-large-pack-a-day habit of smoking. Cessation was painful and was motivated more by cost than by health. Lynn Cunningham’s “Giving Up the Ghost” (November) is great, but it made me want to rush down to the corner store and buy a pack of Craven Menthols. I could taste that first drag! Then a friend told me that they don’t make Craven Menthols any more. What is the world coming to?
— Mayo Clinic (@MayoClinic) November 2, 2014
I disagree with Astra Taylor’s conclusions in her review of Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything (“The Rising Tide,” November). Capitalism is the root cause of climate change? What about the billions in subsidies the oil industry receives? What about the tens of billions spent on roads, highways, and airports, while Via Rail (a Crown corporation) is forced to pay dues to CN (a private company) for the use of tracks?
Capitalism is not the problem. Governments that intervene on the wrong side are the problem. It is difficult to change the way you live when change comes at great cost. But if we levelled the playing field, the cost would be quite a bit smaller.
This appeared in the January/February 2015 issue.