Search This Blog

Monday, November 12, 2018

Antivax Movement in New York and Oklahoma

In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.

Julia Belluz at Vox:
Anti-vaccine advocates have swayed parents in New York to refuse immunizations for their kids, sparking two of the largest measles outbreaks in the state’s recent history, according to local health officials.
As of Friday, 17 people in the neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Borough Park in New York City were confirmed with measles, along with 55 people in nearby Rockland County, for a total of 72 cases. Additional cases are currently under investigation, and the number is expected to rise.
What’s notable here is that all of the cases are occurring among unvaccinated or under-vaccinated Orthodox Jews, mainly children. When asked why people are opting out of vaccines, the city health department said anti-vaccine propagandists are distributing misinformation in the community.

The fearmongerers include the Brooklyn group called PEACH — or Parents Teaching and Advocating for Children’s Health — which spreads misinformation about vaccine safety, citing rabbis as authorities, through a hotline and magazines. Brooklyn Orthodox Rabbi William Handler has also been proclaiming the well-debunked link between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism. Parents who “placate the gods of vaccination” are engaging in “child sacrifice,” he told Vox.
Last week, Republican Kevin Stitt won election as governor of Oklahoma.  In September, Sam Stein profiled him at The Daily Beast:
“I believe in choice,” Stitt said, “And we’ve got six children and we don’t vaccinate, we don’t do vaccinations on all of our children. So we definitely pick and choose which ones we’re gonna do. It’s gotta be up to the parents, we can never mandate that. I think there’s legislation right now that are trying to mandate that to go to public schools, it’s absolutely wrong. My wife was home schooled, I went to public schools, our kids go to Christian school, and that’s back to a parent’s choice.”

Stitt’s comments raise the specter that Oklahoma could water down immunization laws should he be elected the state’s governor this fall. They also place him within a growing fringe of politicians who have, in recent years, expressed skepticism over the prevalence of childhood vaccinations—a group that includes President Donald Trump himself.
“Kevin believes the topic of vaccinations is a serious decision that should be made by parents in consultation with their pediatricians,” said Donelle Harder, Stitt’s spokeswoman. She said that Stitt did not believe that vaccinations cause harmful medical side effects —an oft-argued and scientifically baseless claim from vaccine skeptics. The “root of his decision,” she said was the desire for parental choice
Such a position puts Stitt on the opposite side of public health advocates who have warned that immunizations must be a social contract in order to be medically effective. Anecdotal and scientific data has shown a direct correlation between vaccination hesitancy and the rise of diseases like measles.