Atlanta, GA-New research out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has uncovered yet another assault on public health related to the anti-vaccine movement, this time revealing that children of parents opposed to routine childhood immunizations are significantly more likely to refuse the cootie shot.

“Childhood cooties has been largely kept under control since the discovery of a safe and effective immunization by a 3rd grade Chicago boy in the early 1950’s,” CDC cooties researcher Hammond St. Michelle explained. “Unfortunately in the case of anti-vaccine beliefs, it appears that the organic non-GMO apples don’t fall far from the tree.”

Experts like Dr. St. Michelle have good reason to be concerned. Like most vaccine preventable illnesses, vaccinating enough vulnerable children can result in the development of a herd immunity that helps limit the spread of a disease and protect those who are too young to be vaccinated or who have a legitimate contraindication. As cootie shot acceptance decreases, we may begin to see outbreaks similar to those observed with measles and mumps over the past few years.

Prior to the development of the cootie shot, virtually all children aged 4 to 10 years would be diagnosed with the condition at least once. Once a diagnosis was made, typically by another child familiar with the signs and symptoms after physical contact with an infected individual had occurred, social quarantine was put in place until the disease had run its course. According to St. Michelle, the effects could last anywhere from one recess period to a few years of school depending on the severity. “We are also very concerned about the effects of cooties in susceptible adults, which may be considerably worse than in young children. Just look at what’s happened to Shia Labeouf.”

Why are these children refusing such a safe and effective means of protection? According to the CDC investigation, a variety of reasons are being given on playgrounds all over the country. A common theme that has emerged is the denial of decades of available evidence that should have put any fears to rest. This denial often appears to have been learned from the behaviors modeled by parents who oppose other routine immunizations.

Some children refuse to acknowledge the effectiveness of the cootie shot altogether, and give improved cafeteria sanitation the credit. Others don’t think that they need the shot because they go to an all-boys or all-girls school, and believe that exposure will be unlikely. But modern diagnostic techniques have revealed the belief in gender specific strains of cooties to be false. Perhaps the most common concerns given involve potential side effects from the cootie shot. One study subject simply responded “Circle, circle, dot, dot. Doctors and scientists lie a lot.”


Posted by Clay Jones

Clay Jones, M.D. is a pediatrician and a regular contributor to the Science-Based Medicine blog. He primarily cares for healthy newborns and hospitalized children, and devotes his full time to educating pediatric residents and medical students. Dr. Jones first became aware of and interested in the incursion of pseudoscience into his chosen profession while completing his pediatric residency at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital a decade ago. He has since focused his efforts on teaching the application of critical thinking and scientific skepticism to the practice of pediatric medicine. Dr. Jones has no conflicts of interest to disclose and no ties to the pharmaceutical industry. He can be found on Twitter as @SBMPediatrics and is the co-host of The Prism Podcast with fellow SBM contributor Grant Ritchey. The comments expressed by Dr. Jones are his own and do not represent the views or opinions of Newton-Wellesley Hospital or its administration.