Category Archives: Personal

Is it just me, or…have celebrities got too much control of the media?

April 15, 2016

Is it just me, or…is that deluded British scientist, Andrew Wakefield, really becoming popularised again in the media by yet another…celebrity?

Fact: the MMR jab does NOT cause autism.

When considering the entire story…how Wakefield’s 1998 unfounded paper started a horrendous backlashing of uninformed people from stopping their children getting vaccinated from measles, mumps and rubella based on falsified research, I can’t help asking now, after all this time and the countless hours of campaigning the medical community has done to rectify this really silly mistake, how is it that uneducated celebrities have really got a hold of the attention of the masses on this one? (And yet, I still can’t see how Trump has made it this far, so…maybe it IS just me).

First and foremost, it’s difficult to believe that anyone wouldn’t just quickly Google the World Health Organisation’s website and get the stats on just how effectively it can be shown how vaccines save lives and have eradicated many diseases globally.

Part of the problem is that government regulated mass childhood immunisation (MCI) programmes are controversial because they only work if a large percentage of the population complies (we call this phenomenon ‘herd mentality’), potentially compromising a child’s consensual rights. On the other hand, dissenters such as those with strong anti-conformity or religious convictions (some of whom object to the perceived permissiveness of the HPV vaccine for sexual activity in teenage girls!) might compromise the livelihood of hundreds or thousands of children by spreading often deadly viruses that could otherwise have been prevented. But eradication of preventable or deadly viruses is a priority for the WHO as they are committed to stopping the needless suffering of children. And in that regard, the WHO does not require any explanation as to why immunisation is a public health priority. Mass immunisation is a proven success. The WHO helped eradicate smallpox with an aggressive vaccination program despite anti-vaccinator arguments that better hygiene and clean water were responsible. Also, other successful vaccination programmes, for example the 1995 introduction of the varicella ‘chickenpox’ vaccination in the USA, reduced annual cases from roughly 4 million to less than 400,000 per year.

Another problem is unreliable information and celebrities abusing their ‘celebrity’ by spewing uninformed propaganda into the media. Many parents these days glean vaccination information from these and various other unreliable Internet ‘medical’ sites. Additionally, unreliable media coverage, stemming from celebrities such as former Playboy Jenny McCarthy, connecting the MMR vaccination with autism caused a serious reduction in vaccine uptake in the late 1990s which in turn ended up high jacking the WHO’s mission of measles eradication. So will once again the government and local authorities need to convince parents there is not a better alternative to vaccination now that mega-celebrity Robert DeNiro is questioning it?

I can’t help but look at the education levels of the anti-vaxxers  in the celebrity community. Specifically: McCarthy (failed to graduate Uni) and Robert DeNiro who attended prep school, but dropped out at 16 to pursue acting. When did our culture become so in awe of these poorly educated celebrities who claim to know more about science than actual doctors or the WHO? Does an acting career and extreme wealth now trump research, education, facts and peer review?

Regularly, when considering immunisation, people are more willing to give into something they perceive as risky if they believe there is no alternative action (Spier, 2001). California’s recent foray into making this generalization work well for them has been working well for the Netherlands (with a high vaccination uptake) for some years as they have operated on an ‘opt-out’ only policy. And yes, there are problems with vaccinations (it’s rare, but my next door neighbour died from a Flu jab) and the WHO, an organisation that operates as the health arm of the United Nations imposes significant political pressure on itself to meet targets such as polio eradication. Additionally, both failure to meet targets and clearly communicate its objectives, for example the negative media coverage the WHO received during the H1N1 pandemic, causes an expensive cycle of programme doubt which initiates a new and unnecessary need to re-market vaccination programmes from the beginning. With diseases like polio still needing global eradication, there is no time to re-market measles as viruses like HIV and malaria are beginning to take global precedence. Let’s not let measles slip back into this category.

Vaccination has become an unnecessarily political debate that stops programme momentum and causes harm primarily to its youngest victims. From personal observation, when my child was 1, she contracted chickenpox whilst living in the UK as the NHS does not vaccinate against varicella. Getting anti-vaccination information from the NHS was nearly impossible. However, once retrieved, its argument is medically sound, yet the Department of Health’s decision to not enforce this vaccination is politically motivated due to the post 1998 MMR media fall out. As a parent, one would never want to see her child needlessly suffer when modern medicine has made this illness preventable. Clear communication and education from government and the WHO from the onset – whether it’s a relatively new vaccination like varicella or for a pandemic like swine flu – is key in parental support and advocacy of vaccination programmes and local/global uptake.

Don’t get me wrong, I get that university isn’t for everyone and that’s not my point. For example, I married someone who didn’t attend and who is highly successful, obviously the two things are not necessarily related. But using the media as a global platform to espouse your own, unfounded, personal beliefs or doubts lacks that certain je ne sais quoi…shall we call it that educated edge, and is just plain irresponsible as a revered celebrity. I also understand how some could say then that blogging is in the same category. Kind of. However, any way you look at it, it’s hard to dispute the hard facts of science, especially in the form of verified research and effective medicine. From a sound point of view, one must side-step politics and even personal convictions and surrender ‘faith’ to the system believing that medical and technological advancements will prevail in the future thus preventing deadly viruses.

Today’s tally: Science = 1; anti-vaxxers = 0.

Notes:  Spier, R. E. (2001). Perception of risk of vaccine adverse events: A historical perspective. Vaccine, 20, 78–84. 

ILWL – Being ‘In Love With Life’ as an INFJ

February 5, 2016

Is it just me, or…is being an INFJ totally underrated, especially considering there are believed to be fewer than 1% in the global population?

The title of this post is pronounced ‘ill will’ but what it means is quite the opposite. Everyday I wake up an optimist. It’s something a friend of mine and I labelled ILWL about ten years ago. It stands for ‘In Love With Life’. And then an hour or so after my beloved coffee, when morning time starts to fade into mid-morning, I pretty much loathe life and everyone again as equally as I did at bedtime. I blame this erratic change and my apparent mood swings on the human condition and I also think it’s partly hinged to my Myers-Briggs personality type – INFJ - and how I am able to absorb and process the human condition. Introverts are the shy, silent type, the seeming brooders in the back of the room, hoping whatever it is we are doing in the group will end rapidly and we can be alone, again, at last. And while introverts are considered to have a ‘seclusive social attitude’, it’s the combination of all my personality traits in the INFJ, called ‘the counsellor’ or ‘protector’ that drives me to contemplate the glory of life and want to help people realise their human potential without actually having to interact with anyone for too long a period of time.

But much of civilised life, where I assume this human potential will be actualised, I find difficult in every sense. Fitting in, polite conversation, showering every day, the school run, working in an office, faking my true emotions to appear normal and polite so as not to hurt my daughter’s chances of having normal friendships, etc. I also find it very difficult to maintain my own friendships because people truly exhaust me, even when I love them deeply, but also because regularly their expectations of me are something I find I can’t live up to. I’ve lost plenty a friend over the years to this tragic reality and as I get older, I note those relationships I am able to maintain easily are generally with people who share 3 or all of my Myers-Briggs character traits with me, or who are extreme extroverts and surround themselves with so many friends that I naturally cycle into their ‘needs’ circle once every six months. I also regularly ‘over-extrovert’ to make up for my extreme introversion (you know, just to come across as normal) but that generally backfires later when people figure out the true me. I can’t help thinking I should hand out a pamphlet when I meet someone new I connect with, but then I consider how someone once told me that just because you tell someone you’re a bit of a bitch, doesn’t actually make it okay. Can explaining who you are upfront help ease the pain of disappointment later?

I think INFJs are naturally drawn to one another. We just inherently understand each other and know that when we’re blown off by the other, it’s not personal, it’s probably just that they couldn’t cope with other humans that moment, hour, day, week. Months can go by without any contact, but when we do get together, there’s no explanation needed and we can easily get right back into the good, deep meaningful relationship/passion/ stuff of life talk like we see each other every day without having to go over the tedious details of everything that’s happened at work/kids’ school/etc. since we last saw one another. Some people might just call this a good friend. I call this nearly impossible.

It is nearly impossible for me to stay truly connected with non-INFJs as my thoughts, feelings, passions and positions change nearly on the hour as the world spins around and humanity becomes what I perceive to be more and more depraved and obsequious (which triggers the night time loathing of all humanity). The advent of extreme technology also brings too many selfies and too much bad news into my domain, just like an extrovert’s excessive talking. Just stop. Take stock. Enjoy the silence. Enjoy the moment without photographing it. I am not ready to hear about the drought in Ethiopia (although I will donate £3 to UNICEF) when I am still not over seeing ‘The Cove’ nearly 3 years ago and finding out what’s happening to the dolphins in Japan. People regularly tell me my ‘screen saver’ (my outward standard face) is ‘grumpy’ or ‘aloof’.  Trust me, it’s neither. I’m actually generally happy, but due to my outwardly perceived neuroses, it is nearly impossible for me to maintain any sort of relationship at all and yet, my heart truly aches – bleeds even – for most of humanity and most especially the wounded, mistreated, underdog, small child, and obviously, ever so passionately – the dolphin. But I talk about these things too soon and too early and frighten people and – even worse – come across as a fanatic or political! I might even deeply, desperately want to talk to you or be friends with you, but I lose faith so rapidly in myself knowing I won’t call or text you back in a timely fashion and there are only those few hours each morning I have to reach out, make plans, or rectify and repair any damage I might have done in the previous days. It’s like permanently living in the movie Ground Hog Day, but with only a few hours each day to make the improvements, upgrades, changes, or to even have the awareness before I’m over-stimulated with all the bad news and self-importance that’s shoved down our throats each day. By Noon, I’m emotionally spent.

I write this now for everyone of us who is always generally misunderstood because we come across as bored, uninterested, or unfriendly. Beyond the introvert, it’s the INFJ in me that renders me incapable of making small talk with you. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that I can’t do it because I am probably deeply lost in thought about the friend I lost a few years ago due to my inability to call her back/ visit her/ return a text. So what’s the point in starting something new? I am only setting myself up for failure and disappointment on your part. Find someone else who wants to go shopping with you, is able to happily leave the house and enjoys things like the winter fair, cocktail parties or weddings. I do, but only in small doses. In fact, I enjoy everything, including myself, only in small doses. Call me when you want to talk at length about your passions, your problems, your worst fears, biggest loves and impossible dreams. Those I can make time for, even in big doses.

So then maybe the morning  ILWL is actually perfectly proportioned for me time-wise. It’s nearly 10.30, so I have a few hours to sort out that pamphlet thing. Wish me luck!