In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms have helped spread this dangerous myth.
At MMWR, Judith A. Guzman-Cottrill at colleagues explain what happened to an Oregon boy who did not get his DTaP shot:
Tetanus is an acute neuromuscular disease caused by the bacterium Clostridium tetani. Bacterial spores found in soil can enter the body through skin disruption, with subsequent onset of clinical illness ranging from 3 to 21 days (usually within 8 days). In 2017, a boy aged 6 years who had received no immunizations sustained a forehead laceration while playing outdoors on a farm; the wound was cleaned and sutured at home. Six days later, he had episodes of crying, jaw clenching, and involuntary upper extremity muscle spasms, followed by arching of the neck and back (opisthotonus) and generalized spasticity. Later that day, at the onset of breathing difficulty, the parents contacted emergency medical services, who air-transported him directly to a tertiary pediatric medical center. The boy subsequently received a diagnosis of tetanus and required approximately 8 weeks of inpatient care, followed by rehabilitation care, before he was able to resume normal activities.
The boy required 57 days of inpatient acute care, including 47 days in the intensive care unit. The inpatient charges totaled $811,929 (excluding air transportation, inpatient rehabilitation, and ambulatory follow-up costs). One month after inpatient rehabilitation, he returned to all normal activities, including running and bicycling. Despite extensive review of the risks and benefits of tetanus vaccination by physicians, the family declined the second dose of DTaP and any other recommended immunizations.
This is the first pediatric tetanus case in >30 years in Oregon (unpublished data, Oregon Health Authority, 2018).Frank Bruni at NYT:
Again and again, until blue in the face, medical authorities have debunked the renegade assertion that there’s a link between the M.M.R. vaccine, so named because it inoculates against measles, mumps and rubella, and autism. On Tuesday, a group of Danish researchers who looked at more than 650,000 children over 10 years announced that they had found no such association.
Nonetheless, enough parents plug their ears that the World Health Organization lists “vaccine hesitancy” — a euphemism if ever I heard one — among 10 global health threats in 2019.
They choose their own alternative facts. Take Darla Shine, the wife of Bill Shine, who just announced his resignation as the White House communications director. Last month, amid alarms about new cases of measles, she took to Twitter with the cockamamie claim that not being vaccinated and coming down with measles or mumps was a big-picture plus, a hardiness builder that could help a person fight cancer down the line.
There’s also a man in the White House, at the Resolute Desk, who makes grand pronouncements based on random conversations; implores Americans to distrust traditional institutions and conventional sources of information; and promotes conspiracy theories (millions of illegal votes, a celebration among Muslims in Jersey City on 9/11, and on and on). He has specifically echoed and validated the apprehensions of anti-vaxxers. Whether he’s symptom or cause doesn’t matter. He’s dangerous either way.