My favorite NPR host pointed out today that Americans have the memory of gnats. His point of reference was that when Ebola was rampant and we in America were concerned about what would happen if Ebola came to the USA it was the #1 news story of the day…every day. Front page, above the fold kind of news story. Then, in a flash, Ebola disappeared to page 6 of the newspapers, and measles took over. Before we knew it we were furious over deflated footballs, and now it is beheadings and the burning alive (seemingly) of an ISIS prisoner. We are fickle, to say the least.
But the measles epidemic has re-emerged, having spread to dozens of states and hundreds of children. And with it has spread the distinction between what science says about vaccination against measles and what emotional parents and public officials say about what they claim to be ” the false information ” of science regarding vaccination.
Basing their arguments primarily upon a decades-old discredited report out of England that said that vaccinations are directly linked to the incidence of autism, people like Chris Christie of New Jersey and Rand Paul of Kentucky are on a rant, indicating that parents should exercise their right to refuse to have their children vaccinated against measles. Their condoning of this myth leads struggling parents to join the throng of those who have refused to allow schools, communities, even states to require vaccination for their children. The claim is that there is proof that the link exists and that they are protecting their children from the scourge of autism.
The reality is that there is no proof. The study quoted has been proven to be false, with officials even discovering in the study of it that the doctor who wrote the study was in the employ of attorneys who would benefit from the boycott.* It has been discounted, the doctor has lost his license to practice, and report after report has been published to try to correct the story for the public. But it persists, and some public persons (particularly radio hosts on the more conservative right) have fanned the myth.
As a result, a large number of people with little children have refused to have their children vaccinated. The further results are:
- Their children have been exposed to measles, a disease that had been eradicated by the vaccine, but has now returned to America and is spreading.
- Children with immune issues who attend school with those who have been exposed to measles but who do not have the vaccine are greatly endangered.
- Schools, amusement parks, playgrounds, and organizations for children have become breeding grounds for this once-eradicated disease.
It is a classic case of anti-science and anti-intellectualism. Those who espouse the scientific facts are being cast as the “Devils” in the situation and are being blasted by “the right” for their support for the basically-harmless vaccination. Politicians, willing to go to any extreme to get votes have appealed to voters who are wary of “big government” and, in doing so, are fueling the misconceptions. Children are contracting the horrid disease. Children are being held out of school, jeopardizing education. It is not a pretty scene.
The truth is that the measles vaccine “The vaccine does not contain a virile and productive part of the disease. The product carries a dead or insignificant bacteria/virus which does not produce the disease. It is shown by legitimate tests all over the world to be 95-97% effective in preventing the disease of measles, which can kill children.
But the battle is not over the content of the facts. It is between facts and fantasies. That is a hard battle to win.
Image Credit: NIH