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Saturday, July 20, 2013

McCarthy and Vaccine

McCarthy is careful to say she is not anti-vaccine on the Generation Rescue website. But she also introduces parents who blame vaccines for causing autism. She doesn’t dispute them. It’s disingenuous at best: She gets to disavow the vaccine connection, while lending her name to a group that promotes it.
The accusation has been debunked by science. Seth Mnookin, co-director of MIT’s Graduate Program in Science Writing, recently wrote “The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind the Vaccine-Autism Controversy,” and has reprinted the chapter on Jenny McCarthy’s crusade on his blog. It’s worth reading to get the full sense of her crackpot views of medicine, and the power she wields over parents desperate for answers.
The danger in abstaining from vaccines cannot be overstated. This is how we virtually eradicated epidemics such as smallpox and polio. And refusing a vaccination isn’t just a choice for your kid. It’s a dangerous choice for everyone else.
The Wall Street Journal provides a telling example from Wales:
When the telltale rash appeared behind Aleshia Jenkins's ears, her grandmother knew exactly what caused it: a decision she'd made 15 years earlier.
Ms. Jenkins was an infant in 1998, when this region of southwest Wales was a hotbed of resistance to a vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella. Many here refused the vaccine for their children after a British doctor, Andrew Wakefield, suggested it might cause autism and a local newspaper heavily covered the fears. Resistance continued even after the autism link was disproved.
The bill has now come due.
A measles outbreak infected 1,219 people in southwest Wales between November 2012 and early July, compared with 105 cases in all of Wales in 2011.
One of the infected was Ms. Jenkins, whose grandmother, her guardian, hadn't vaccinated her as a young child. "I was afraid of the autism," says the grandmother, Margaret Mugford, 63 years old. "It was in all the papers and on TV."

The outbreak presents a cautionary tale about the limits of disease control. Wales is a modern society with access to modern medical care and scientific thought. Yet legions spurned a long-proven vaccine, putting a generation at risk even after scientists debunked Dr. Wakefield's autism research.
From  the CDC:
Before measles vaccine, nearly all children got measles by the time they were 15 years of age. Each year in the United States about 450-500 people died because of measles, 48,000 were hospitalized, 7,000 had seizures, and about 1,000 suffered permanent brain damage or deafness.