In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing disease to spread.
Dr. Peter Hotez at Axios:
Between Jan. 1 and March 7, the CDC confirmed 228 cases of measles across 12 states.
Why it matters: These outbreaks — which have been especially large in Washington, Oregon and Texas — were predictable. A 2018 study of vaccination rates identified a dozen likely hotspots, two of which have now seen eruptions of this preventable illness.
Background: The current anti-vaccine movement began more than 20 years ago after a paper published in The Lancet(but later retracted) claimed that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine could be linked to autism.
Where it stands: Since then it's spawned a media empire that includes almost 500 anti-vaccine websites, each amplified on social media. Almost all of Amazon's best-selling vaccine books are by anti-vaxxers, though the company has removed some anti-vaccine documentaries from its Prime streaming service.Lydia Smith at The Guardian reports that antivaxxers target cities, which are especially susceptible to the spread of measles and misinformation.
Living in a city means being in close proximity with millions of people every day, as you pass in apartment buildings, offices or on public transport. And while most of us have caught a cold at some point, we tend not to worry about catching something more serious like measles, especially if we were inoculated in childhood. After all, vaccines have helped to consign once-deadly outbreaks to history. Yet over the last decade diseases like measles, mumps and whooping cough, once disappearing, have made a resurgence.
“Viruses spread easily in urban environments,” says Arthur Caplan, a professor of bioethics at New York University. “Plus cities are transportation hubs providing truck, car, train and plane routes for infected people to spread disease worldwide.
Cities are also constantly on the move, providing more opportunity for diseases to spread. “Cities often have more transient populations – with people coming and going and sometimes bringing infectious diseases with them which can spread among unvaccinated people,” says Heidi Larson, director of the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “Unvaccinated travellers can also contract infectious diseases from local populations and carry them to other places.”
Around half of all parents with small children have been exposed to misinformation about vaccines on social media, a recent report by the Royal Society for Public Health found. “Cities more typically have higher media saturation and more opportunities for the spread of misinformation,” Larson says.