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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Antivax Danger

In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.  TwitterFacebook, and other social media platforms have helped spread this dangerous myth.

Microbiologist Paul Duprex at The Conversation:
What one of the most infectious pathogens on the planet can do to an unvaccinated person in 2019 is biologically incredible. Yes, that’s right, an unvaccinated human. But why would anyone decide not to get vaccinated or refrain from protecting their children?
That’s because forgetting the past has precipitated selective amnesia in our post-measles psyche. Ignoring scientific facts has tragically brought us to a place where some people fail to appreciate the values and utility of some of the most phenomenal tools we have created in our historical war on infectious disease. Unsubstantiated claims that vaccines like MMR were associated with autism, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, etc., etc., and ill-informed celebrities have wreaked havoc with vaccination programs. Genuine, caring parents unaware of the realities of diseases they had never seen decided that since the viruses were gone from this part of the world shots were so last millennium. Put simply, some people have given up on vaccines.
This has created the perfect storm. Since the measles virus is so infectious and Europe, Africa, South America, and South East Asia are not really that far away by jumbo jet, a case somewhere in the world can lead to an infection anywhere in the world. Failure to vaccinate large groups of people is helping measles come back. From California, to New York from Washington state to Minnesota and Georgia, measles is back with a vengeance. Now we can only live in hope that the last death from this deadly disease in the U.S. remains from 2015. Unfortunately, that is not a given.
Dr. Arthur Caplan writes at NBC:
There are stupid statements. And then there are statements so outrageous, so ridiculous and so dangerous that they standout with startling clarity. This week, just such a rare instance occurred. In the middle of a concerning measles outbreak in Washington state, and with cases being reported in many other regions, Darla Shine, the wife of former Fox News bigwig and current deputy chief of staff for communications in the Trump administration Bill Shine said that childhood diseases such as measles "keep you healthy & fight cancer."
The idea that getting infectious diseases helps one acquire “natural” immunity as opposed to the “unnatural immunity” provided by vaccines is a pernicious lie. Shine went so far as to suggest cancer can be battled by an immune system strengthened by measles. She should tell that to the thousands and thousands of people who have died from a myriad of cancers and who also had chicken pox or measles as children. As anyone even vaguely familiar with cancer knows, cancer couldn’t care less about the measles, vitamins or other mythical notions of immunity. It is nothing short of cruel to suggest that women who inherit breast cancer should have been more willing to catch chicken pox.