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.
Michael Hiltzik at LAT:
“We’re on the brink of a collapse in public health because we’re seeing intentional efforts to play politics with people’s health,” says Rekha Lakshmanan, strategy director for the Houston-based Immunization Partnership.
Confidence in childhood vaccination was shaken by the 1998 publication in the Lancet, a leading British medical journal, of a notorious paper by Andrew Wakefield and other researchers asserting a link between the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and autism.
The research was eventually shown to be fraudulent. Wakefield eventually lost his medical license in Britain, but he has resurfaced in the U.S. as a leading anti-vaccination activist. Despite having been consistently refuted by research, the supposed link between the MMR vaccine and autism is continually cited by the anti-vaccination movement.
Emboldened by their success in suppressing COVID vaccination rates, anti-vaxxers have shifted their sights to other childhood vaccinations. The rate of routine childhood vaccinations dropped during the pandemic, in part due to the social disruptions of the period — parents were reluctant or unable to get their kids to the doctor for immunizations, among other factors.
Vaccination rates have begun to recover but still fall short of pre-pandemic levels. In Texas, for example, one-third of children have not been fully protected against seven vaccine-preventable diseases, according to the Immunization Partnership. One factor is that state’s particular leniency toward granting exemptions from the vaccination rules; Texas law allows exemptions “for reasons of conscience, including a religious belief.”
But it’s also true that “anti-vaccine activism is giving parents second thoughts about giving their kids all vaccines,” Hotez says.
“COVID served as an accelerant for anti-vaccine activists,” Lakshmanan says. She cites “a significant increase in the kinds of anti-immunization legislation filed” in state capitols, especially in red states. In 2021 and 2022 most were aimed at blocking COVID vaccine mandates.