In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. Antivax sentiment has been strong in the Pacific Northwest.
A measles outbreak in the Pacific Northwest ballooned to 35 cases over the weekend, and officials are bracing for even high numbers in two states where parents can choose not to vaccinate their kids for personal reasons.
The affected area—Clark County, Washington, and King County, Oregon— has one of the country’s largest concentration of unvaccinated residents.
“Oregon and Washington are two of 18 states that can choose not to vaccinate because of ‘personal or philosophical’ reasons,’” Peter Hotez, a microbiologist at Baylor University who has studied anti-vaxxer hotspots, told The Daily Beast.
“The parents who chose not to vaccinate tend to be far-left or far-right politically,” he said. “It seems to be the only thing the far left and far right can agree on.”Shelia Poole at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Georgia health officials on Tuesday confirmed three cases of measles, all within the same metro Atlanta family.
No additional information was released about the family, including the ages of those affected, which county they lived in or where they could have contracted the disease.
The only information released is that none of those who fell ill had been vaccinated.Josh Bloom and Alex Berezow at Newsweek:
Anti-vaxxers claim that if vaccines are so effective, the unvaccinated have nothing to worry about. This is a malicious lie. No vaccine is 100% effective, and many can wear off over time. Additionally, some children cannot be vaccinated because they are either too young—the vaccine is not given before age 12 months—or too sick (for instance, immunocompromised) to receive vaccines. These children rely on the rest of us to protect them, a concept known in public health as “herd immunity.”
The purposeful misinformation that pollutes the Internet is categorically wrong; there is no valid reason whatsoever to avoid fully vaccinating your child according to the CDC’s recommended schedule.
Vaccines do not cause autism. This theory, which was spawned by a fraudulent get-rich scheme in the 1990s, has been shown repeatedly to be without any merit. Another fear, that there are “too many” vaccines, is also false. When your child crawls around on the floor licking his hands, he is exposed to far more antigens than those found in all vaccines combined. He is inadvertently “vaccinating” himself all day long.Meghan Keneally at ABC:
Vaccines are universally backed by respected scientists and federal agencies, but that isn’t enough to convince every parent to vaccinate their children.
The decision to fly in the face of near universal scientific opinion doesn't come as a result of a lack of intellect, however, as experts who have studied vaccines and immunology acknowledge that many parents who don't vaccinate their children are well-educated.
They also appear to be the victims of a widespread misinformation campaign, the experts said.
Daniel Salmon, who is the director of the Institute of Vaccine Safety at Johns Hopkins University, said that existing research suggests that there are some common attributes that many parents who choose not to vaccinate their children share.
"They tend to be better educated. They tend to be white, and they tend to be higher income. They tend to have larger families and they tend to use complementary and alternative medicine like chiropractors and naturopaths," Salmon said.Russia has contributed to vaccine disinformation.