Wow. There were lots of comments on my last post. I had absolutely no idea that it would cause such a stir. Mostly because I was just joking around. Mr. Frisby can verify this - I asked him to read my post before I posted it to see if he could tell I was just trying to be funny. Apparently this is a hot issue, though, and I actually do have strong opinions on it, all joking aside. Since you've all shared your opinions and comments, I will now share how I really feel about this issue.
I believe that trying to be germ-free is a good thing. Cleanliness is next to godliness, after all. I believe that vaccinations are a wonderful, life-saving little invention that has made the world a better place. I am also well aware (more aware than most, as a matter of fact) of the capacity of human beings to have an infinite number of variations in their health and function, regardless of the circumstances surrounding their development.
That said, I also firmly believe that we have a tendency to take things too far. The theory I mentioned in my last post about our immune systems becoming hypersensitive when they don't have to work very hard is completely logical to me. And, I believe, helps to explain the undeniable increases we see in our day and age in the number of people suffering from allergies (that includes hay fever type allergies as well as food or substance type allergies) and in the number of antibacterial/antiviral resistant organisms that attack human beings on daily basis.
In my last post, I joked around with the example of the chicken pox vaccine. However, it just represents all sicknesses that everyone wants to avoid even though they're almost never fatal. Let's use the example of the flu vaccine. (And, as a side note, I've never had a flu shot in my life - primarily because of my opinions on this matter.) I am aware that the flu can be a dangerous illness, especially certain strains of it. However, just the other day, I was reading about how there are now certain strains of the flu virus that are becoming resistant to the vaccine. So, they're scrambling to update the vaccine to try to cover these strains now (by the way, flu vaccinations only protect you against a few strains of the bug. If you've had the shot, pray you only come in contact with those few instead of the hundreds of other strains that are out there). The point is, you have to ask how beneficial the vaccine really is. So, maybe a bunch of people avoid being miserable for a week. It may even prevent a few deaths. However, on the flip side, we're creating circumstances which perpetuate the development of stronger organisms that have a much higher capacity to be lethal. We take medications to beat the bugs that our body can't take care of itself. If those bugs become resistant to our medications, where does that leave us? I'll tell you - up a creek without a paddle, to use the old saying. We're stuck.
Let's go back to the chicken pox example. I would rather all of my kids have the chicken pox and be done with it than to have what I consider another unnecessary vaccine. I had the chicken pox when I was little. I'm sure I was miserable. But, guess what? I don't remember it. And that's one more thing that I'm now immune to. Does this mean that I'm not going to have my kids get that vaccine? No. Society has made that decision for me. With so many kids now getting the vaccine, the chicken pox isn't really going around anymore. So, were my kids to not get the vaccine, it would still be pretty unlikely that they get the chicken pox as kids. However, if they got it as adults, it would be worse - and more dangerous. So, unless I could ensure that my kids would really catch the chicken pox, they've got to get the vaccine.
Now, let's bring this all full circle. I used to be a germ freak - I still am in some ways. Then I served my mission and spent seven months in a third world country. That taught me many things about health. First, vaccines are great. There are many illnesses which are fatal or crippling and sometimes your body isn't strong enough to handle them. Thank everything for those vaccines. Polio, MMR, Smallpox, Tetanus. Those are necessary because those are potentially fatal diseases. And I am thankful that I had those vaccinations because I know that not everyone does. Second, your body is a lot stronger than you think it is. Imagine being a germ freak walking around a third world country amidst diseases and germs of all sorts, sharing the roads (if there were any) with the local livestock, eating from dishes which cockroaches have been crawling on. I realized that if my body could handle those germs, then I really don't have a lot to worry about in relatively clean America. Let's be clear - I am a handwasher. Handwashing is the single most important way to prevent the spread of sickness. I work with stinky, smelly, sweaty athletes with athlete's foot and who knows what else. I am a handwasher! But, there are germs all around. There are germs on your body right now. You can't get rid of all of the germs around you. So, I wash my hands and do my best, but I realize that my body can handle a lot of what gets thrown at it. And, third, I learned that everyone's immune system works differently. This became obvious when my companion and I would eat certain things or be in certain situations and one of us would get sick and the other one would be fine.
With all of that said, I reiterate my point. Avoiding sickness is great. Vaccinations for dangerous and lethal illnesses are spectacular. But, with all of this effort to eradicate germs, we take away the natural processes for beating the bugs that attack us. We create an environment that makes us as organisms weaker and less capable of defending ourselves. We also create an situation which makes it easier for other organisms to become stronger and more lethal. They no longer have to fight against several billion slightly different immune systems. They just have to fight against one little vaccine. For those illnesses which our body can handle itself, I say let it do it's thing.
I told you I have strong opinions.