Day: October 13, 2010

Herd Immunity: The United States and Its War For and Against Vaccines

The Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments in a very interesting case concerning health care on Tuesday.  This case has nothing to do with President Obama’s new health care plan, but is nonetheless important.  The case centers on the very specific question of whether a 1986 law establishing a no-fault compensation system for injuries resulting from vaccines limits the avenues of litigation for such claims; the implications, however, reach far beyond and could have a drastic impact on the health of the nation. The parents of Hannah Bruesewitz brought the case before the court.  The now 18-year-old Hannah suffered seizures and subsequent developmental issues beginning shortly after receiving the DTP vaccine, which protects against diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough, when she was six months old.  Her parents believe the seizures were complications from the vaccine and that the vaccine manufacturer was aware of the dangers but kept a safer version of the vaccine off the market to increase profitability.  Their claim was first brought before the so-called Vaccine Court, the body established under the 1986 federal law, where it was dismissed.  The Bruesewitz family brought the case before lower courts which also dismissed the case, all of them ruling that Congress set forth a specific means for litigating vaccine injuries cases through the Vaccine Court. In arguments that were presented and then tested by the justices, a...

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The Discrimination Against People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Here and Now

We live in a country that prides itself as being the beacon of equality, but as a people we still tolerate, and at times participate in, the discrimination against people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  While we may be far too reverent to use derogatory language when speaking of religion or race, we rarely find it inappropriate to use words like “retard” or “retarded” in casual conversation. Why is this? As Americans, we pride ourselves in living in a country which has largely superseded its indiscretions of segregation. However, many public schools refuse to socialize students with intellectual and developmental disabilities into mainstream classes, regardless of their level of cognitive ability.  Instead these students are often segregated and placed into a single classroom that severely limits their opportunities to socialize with their “non-disabled” peers.  Instead of providing funds to assist in building proper supports for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live independently in the community, we choose to funnel money into state institutions that are consistently under investigation for instances of gross neglect and abuse. These two actions serve to unofficially categorize those with intellectual and developmental disabilities as second class citizens, making derogatory language and unkind actions somehow more tolerable to society. As the younger brother of a person with an intellectual and developmental disability (previously known as mental retardation), I have been given a distinctly...

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Pakistan: Schools Washed Away

Twenty-one million people. Sixty-two thousand square miles of land. These figures have meant little to the international community, but for Pakistan it means unprecedented destruction which has rolled back its already limited development by years. To put these figures in perspective, the floods in Pakistan have affected an area larger than England and displaced a population the size of New York State. The United Nations has termed the Pakistani floods as one of the worst natural disasters in human memory and has launched an unprecedented appeal for $2 billion dollars for immediate relief and reconstruction efforts. The international community’s response has been sluggish at best, due to Pakistan’s reputation for being a haven for terrorism. Charities and disaster relief non-profits have had immense difficulty raising funds from private individuals and organizations. According to initial UNESCO estimates, almost 10 thousand public schools have been affected across the country, depriving up to 3 million students of basic access to education. Considering that the primary literacy rate in Pakistan is barely over 50 percent, the damage done to schools and educational institutions will further reduce this rate in the years to come. The Pakistani government spends a mere 2.1 percent of its GDP on education and is way short of reaching the literacy targets laid out in the U.N. Millennium Development Goals. Many rural areas and large parts of the Balochistan and...

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