"Uh, that's a negative, Jim. I don't have the measles."
I love movies, including Apollo 13. It's pretty rockin'. Many of you may notice a movie quote casually slipped in here and there as I write. I try to keep them subtle, but they're there. This one is not very subtle.
The point of this quote is to remind you all that Ken Mattingly was thrown off of the prime crew of Apollo 13 in early April, 1970 due to his exposure to the measles. He had never had them before, and thus did not have any memory cells to defend against the disease. He ended up not coming down with the measles during that time.
"That's odd." You may say to yourself. "I've never had the measles either!"
Well, we're fortunate enough to live in the future now, and at birth we get something called a vaccine to the measles. It's called the MMR vaccine and also trains your lymphocytes to remember the mumps and rubella. It's a wonder of Science!
Here's how it works.
In fact, here is how most vaccines work.
You are given a shot, and this shot either has a neutered version of the virus or a collection of broken virus parts. The body recognizes this new material as foreign and mounts an immune response (this is why some of you feel a bit under the weather after a flu vaccine, without ever getting a full blown case of the flu). The coolest part is that there are cells called B and T cells. Both of these cells called lymphocytes are born in the marrow from those hematopoietic stem cells I talked about before. The difference is that B cells mature in the (b)one marrot and the T cells mature in the (t)hymus. The B cells are responsible for creating antibodies, small little dudes who latch on to a virus and neutralize it and help with getting rid of it. The T cells are broken into Helper T cells and Killer T cells. Helper T cells initiate an immune response and activate the B cells (among other things). Killer T cells hunt down body cells infected by the virus and kindly ask that cell to commit suicide (gotta keep that LDH down).
Both B and T cells create memory cells that live for decades. If you're exposed to that virus again, your immune system discards it before you even feel anything. It's quite good at this.
But that's the point of a vaccine. You create memory lymphocytes.
Do you know where the word vaccine comes from? Well, the first vaccine was discovered because some doctor/scientist noticed that milk maids were not getting smallpox. More specifically, he found that those who came down with a case of cowpox would not get smallpox. He then purposefully infected people with the much more docile cowpox and found that the cases of the more deadly smallpox began to decline. That's pretty sweet.
What's more sweet? The virus that causes cowpox is called the vaccinia virus.
That feeling you have right now is your mind being blown.
Anyway, what does this all have to do with leukemia? After my bone marrow transplant, I need to be re-vaccinated against all of those things I got vaccinated for as a child. MMR, Hep A, Hep B, etc. Most of these vaccines are scheduled for about a year after the transplant, and the MMR usually takes place about 2 years after. So for 2 years, I'll be like Ken Mattingly. I could get the measles.
"But wait!" you say with baited breath. You have this all figured out. "You don't actually need to worry because now that everyone is vaccinated, the chance of contracting measles from someone is so low."
Aha! You've got it! No?
You're almost right. I am glad that many people have gotten the MMR vaccine. That will help me in my 2 years of susceptibility. But there is a problem, and her name is Jenny McCarthy.
Jenny McCarthy read a study published in the late 1990's linking the MMR vaccine to autism. This study has since been repeatedly disproven. Combine that with the conflicts of interest by those conducting the study, and the fact that the man in charge, Andrew Wakefield, eventually had his medical license revoked due to the study, and it starts to lose a bit of that water that it never had. At this point, there are zero people in the scientific community convinced of this link. At this point, there are zero documented cases proving this link.
Doesn't matter. This McCarthy lady decided that science doesn't matter and has spent a good amount of time trying to scare parents into giving their children the measles.
News Flash: MMR vaccines don't cause autism.
What they do do, is prevent children from getting the measles, mumps, and rubella. They also prevent me from getting those diseases.
But now, due to a fraudulent study and stupid people who don't trust the idea of international peer review, we have a generation of children who can now give me the measles.
That's total crap.
I admit before this I never gave it much thought or worry. Oh how your perspective changes when you get leukemia. I'm all for personal freedom and I don't think the MMR vaccine should be law. But I think if you don't give it to your child you're a dumbass.
Yeah, you. You know who you are.
Let me just go ahead and thank all of you for making the next 2 years of my life interesting.
Also, as of a month ago, a presidential candidate for the United States of America went on national TV and defended the baseless idea of the vaccine-autism link.
I don't mean to get political, but this pisses me off and you can consider this my personal plea to not vote for Michele Bachmann in... well... any election. Ever. She should not represent anyone, let alone everyone.
Jenny McCarthy's Greatest Achievement