The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Friday, February 06, 2004  

She’s Clear of Hepatitis B.
Her Newborn Babe Is Too. But Forever?

Hepatitis B. Eeew. Yuck. Dirty. Poor-people stuff. Not me! Not my newborn “babe”! Not now, not ever.

Michelle Malkin, the right-wing columnist who tears her hair out every time a Mexican crosses the border without her prior expressed and written authorization, is in an entirely new lather this week.

Michelle Malkin would like you to know that she does not have hepatitis B, nor has she been exposed to the virus that causes the condition, nor (at least she implies) has her husband, nor her two “babes,” and they’re just going to keep it that way and the hell with you and your vaccinations and your insinuations and your explanations.

Malkin writes:

Why on earth should we vaccinate our newborn baby against Hepatitis B -- a virus that is contracted mostly through intravenous drug use and sexual contact? That is the question my husband and I had for the doctors and nurses at the hospital where our son was born two and a half months ago.

We didn’t get very good answers. It was “convenient,” “recommended[,]” and “routine,” the medical staff assured us. We wanted more information. . . . [M]y husband and I both work primarily from home, our two children stay at home, and neither we nor our 3-year-old daughter nor our baby (for heaven’s sake!) live the Kid Rock-and-Pamela Anderson Lee lifestyle.

She’s not happy about being “bullied,” but ever the skeptic, the critic, the wise sage, Malkin has a larger agenda:

The “everybody does it” and “for the greater good” arguments worked when we were overcautious, over-trusting, first-time parents who submitted our daughter to every single vaccine without question. This time, we resolved not to be rushed or bullied. We declined to give our son the politically correct Hep B shot, decided to do more research, and then took up the issue with our pediatrician.

There’s a “politically correct” vaccination out there? What the hell kind of insanity is that? Okay, so way back then Stanley Fish, Jacques Derrida, and Andrea Dworkin got kind of carried away, but most of that, Michelle, was literary criticism and theory. It’s all gone on to infect, for lack of a better word, childhood vaccines? In what parallel universe?

Here’s a tip for you, inadequately informed Michelle: You’re worse off than you think, not because “the doctors and nurses” are out to get you, but because “the doctors and nurses” aren’t telling you everything. They’re not telling you the painfully obvious, probably because they assumed, based on what I don’t know, that you already knew it.

Let’s walk down memory lane a bit, shall we, Michelle?

Do you remember when parents took their children to various commercial play areas operating under diverse names, places where dozens of kids, happy and carefree, romped for hours amid hundreds of plastic or rubber balls?

No? I do, and I don’t even have children. I remember friends and family members who took their kids to such play areas, sometimes of their own accord and sometimes because their children’s friends’ birthday celebrations were hosted there.

Oh, it was all fun for a while. The kids loved it, the parents loved it. Even Wall Street loved it.

Eventually, however, these same friends and family members came to call such places “germ warfare zones.”

Why? Because, they told me, within a few days after visiting these establishments their kids, their “babes,” invariably would come down with colds, fevers, rashes, and other obvious and visible, but usually minor, maladies. Putting two and two together, they ultimately steered clear of these places, of which few remain.

What they and most other patrons did not realize was that the “germ warfare zones,” as well as other typical locales where children interact with one another, also offered the opportunity for the transmission from one child to another and another and another of diseases that are most often hidden, with unobservable symptoms, and, sadly, with far more serious long-term consequences.

Now, why is that? Well, as a good parent, I’m sure you, Michelle, know that children aren’t always exactly judicious with respect to where they place their hands and their mouths, nor are they always particularly prudent about the interaction between those two body parts.

In addition, as you are well aware, until a certain age “babes,” toddlers, and even young children typically wear diapers, “pull-ups,” training pants, or similar trappings. And you know why they do this, right? It’s the whole toilet-training thing. Are you still with me?

And, well, I’m sure you know this too, some mothers aren’t as good as you surely are at affixing diapers, pull-ups, training pants, and the like. And some “babes,” toddlers, and children, despite their midsections having been tightly wrapped by diapers, pull-ups, training pants, and the like, being the romp-around types they are born to be, can be observed eventually to be sporting, well, less than tightly wrapped diapers, pull-ups, training pants, and the like.

You see, Michelle, those things, diapers, pull-ups, training pants, and the like, often leak, and they do so through the fault of no one, not the child nor the loving stay-and-work-at-home parents, nor, and I’ll say this before you run to your PC, the single parent or the working mother, or, should I say, the working mother who doesn’t enjoy the privilege of toiling, for what I assume is a very nice salary, in her own living room.

The leakage is a problem. It’s neither pretty nor pleasant, especially if the effluent comes from a child not your own. Moreover, once you have left the rarefied atmosphere, the cocoon if you will, that is the Malkin residence, that presumably perfectly sterile laboratory you have created, the leakage -- And you know what we’re talking about here, right? Number one? Number two? Pee? Poop? -- can be a health hazard.

Now, I know everything is hunky dory at the Malkin house, and that’s just great, but out in the real world to which your “babes” some day will have to be exposed, at least occasionally, not everything is so perfect, so tidy, and so protected. And, believe it or not, you cannot be with your children all the time. I dare say, even as one who has no children, that you will, if you don’t already, sometimes prefer it that way. If nothing else, it is essential for your “babes”’ development that it be thus.

So, while the hepatitis B virus may be not swarming about your precious hearth, it may not even be present there at all, it’s out there, and for a while, probably while you weren’t paying any attention, it was out there a whole lot. And it was being passed from one child to another with an alarming frequency that no amount of parental supervision or career privilege could prevent.

Thankfully, things are different now. Infections have been reduced substantially. I suppose it’s possible this is the result of a sudden proliferation of husbands and wives, daddies and mommies, both working at home and keeping the kids there with them all the time, but I doubt it.

I say that because the world in which you, Michelle, operate every single day, is not the norm. I’m sure it’s wonderful. And I know, for certain, there are millions of Americans, most of them poorer than you and Jesse, who would give anything for the very fortunate life you lead. You are truly blessed. I wish you and your family the very best, including long and healthy lives. I really do.

In the meantime, though, I think it’s better for everyone, even the “babes” Malkin, to be vaccinated against this surprisingly easily transmitted (again: kids, diapers, hands, mouths) and potentially deadly disease.

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