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Saturday, May 4, 2019

Measles Outbreaks: Blame Wakefield RFK, Jr., and Trump

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

Andrew Wakefield, a British scientist, may be more responsible for the current outbreaks than any other person because of a paper he published in 1998 falsely linking vaccines to autism. The paper was later discredited but it was too late. This false narrative was seized upon by a few irresponsible people opposed to vaccination and has proved as durable, and deadly, as measles itself. Fears about the safety of the vaccinations are driving outbreaks around the globe.
It doesn’t seem to matter that studies have shown again and again — and again — that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine is safe and does not cause autism. Some parents continue to believe that vaccination is a bigger risk to the health of their kids than measles. That’s not just magical thinking; it’s reckless.

Thankfully, public concern about the return of measles is growing. Facebook, one of the most prolific vectors in measles misinformation transmission, is actively working to curtail anti-vaccination propaganda on its platforms. Health officials are ramping up vaccination education and lawmakers in California and other states are tightening up loose childhood immunization requirements.
At Texas Monthly, Christopher Hooks reports on a Texas lecture by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Lights in half the conference hall go off as Kennedy fiddles with his projector screen—in other words, his speech plunges the room into darkness. He begins by addressing recent measles outbreaks across the country. Doctors say the outbreaks are caused by parents refusing to vaccinate their children for the disease, largely because of a now-debunked study that ties the MMR vaccine to autism. “The drop in measles occured before the vaccine was introduced,” Kennedy says, pointing to a blurry chart. “The thing that cured measles was nutrition and clean water, not the vaccine.” Tuberculosis and scurvy had been largely eradicated through similar methods without vaccines, so why was the MMR vaccine necessary? Heads nodded.
Many vaccines are for illnesses that simply aren’t a problem anymore, Kennedy explains in a croaking voice that has a hint of the Jimmy Stewart quaver. “I didn’t grow up with the terror of rotavirus. I had never heard of it,” he says. “It’s basically mild diarrhea.” In fact, Kennedy declares, it’s vaccines that are responsible for the rise in just about every condition you could think of — asthma, SIDS, encephalopathy, Bell’s palsy, autism. Big Pharma had faked safety studies by putting poison in placebos during clinical studies, ensuring that they had negative effects too.
And then there is Trump, who has never retracted his many statements and tweets linking vaccines to autism.