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Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Autism, Antivax, and Influenza

 In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread  And among those diseases could be COVID-19.

UnfortunatelyRepublican politicians and conservative media figures are increasingly joining up with the anti-vaxxers

 Michael Kinch at Technology Networks

In the latter half of the twentieth century and despite exposure of duplicitous motives and data meant to stir up anti-vaccine notions, the DPT (diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus) and later the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccines each were claimed to cause developmental disorders such as autism. Both claims were shown definitively to be frauds foisted by hucksters motivated by greed…and yet persist to this day. Later still, the HPV vaccine (which prevents several sexually-transmitted forms of cancer) was discredited by a belief it would trigger a wave of teenage promiscuity, rumors that again were not based upon fact.


A newly published study suggests evidence of a far more troubling outcome with a dire potential to amplify the suffering. In a recent edition of The New England Journal of Medicine, a team of researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles revealed that changes in the uptake of the influenza vaccine were aligned with political views in general and skepticism of COVID vaccines in particular.

It is generally recognized that individuals in blue-trending states were more likely to embrace COVID vaccines while the populations of red-leaning states were more skeptical. A remarkable and troubling outcome is that these same views were soon applied to influenza vaccines. By comparing the rates of influenza immunization before versus after both the onset of the pandemic and the introduction of the first COVID vaccines in early 2021, the investigators measured the rates of influenza vaccination.

Whereas recognition of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 itself did not alter rates of influenza vaccination in the following autumn, the introduction of the COVID vaccines in early 2021 had a profound impact on adult vaccination rates. Those in red states became less likely to be vaccinated for influenza (than before the introduction of the COVID vaccines) whereas younger adult populations of blue states increased their vaccination rates. Thankfully, these diverging trends in influenza vaccination were not observed with older adults (age 65 and older), who are most susceptible to influenza morbidity and mortality.

As recently reported in The New York Times, anecdotal evidence suggests that COVID vaccine-skeptical parents are contributing to a further erosion of adherence to pediatric vaccination. Such irrationality is not particularly new given that the rates of MMR vaccination had been declining in the years before the pandemic. Indeed as I recounted in Between Hope and Fear, declining rates of vaccination have been contributing to a resurgence of measles in the United States