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. Examples include measles, COVID, flu, and polio.
"What our team heard from many parents is that they weren't necessarily against vaccines and their children had other age-appropriate vaccines, but they were specifically putting off the MMR vaccine or waiting as long as they could before they had to get it because of fears it could lead to autism," Kelli Newman, director of public affairs & communications for Columbus Public Health, told ABC News.
What Newman is referencing is a myth that was born out of a now-debunked paper from the U.K. in 1998, which allegedly found that MMR vaccines cause autism.
The paper has since been discredited by health experts, retracted from the journal in which it was published, and its primary author, Andrew Wakefield, lost his medical license. More than a dozen studies have since tried to find a link and have not been able to do so.
However, the damage has been done. Numerous outbreaks of measles have popped up -- in the U.K. and in the U.S. -- over the last two decades, vaccination rates have fallen from their peaks and a recent Gallup poll found 10% of Americans do think vaccines cause autism.
"We eliminated measles from the United States in the year 2000 and since then, measles has become back," Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center and an attending physician in division infectious diseases at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, told ABC News.
He added, "I think the summary of all that for me is that while it's very easy to scare people, it's hard to unscare them."
Around 20,000 people may have been exposed to measles at a large religious event in Kentucky, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and said.
In a statement to the Guardian, the CDC said it was “aware of a confirmed case of measles in an unvaccinated and contagious individual who attended a large religious gathering in Kentucky on 17 and 18 February.
“Large numbers of people that attended the gathering from across Kentucky and from other states and countries may have been exposed.
“An estimated 20,000 people attended the gathering on the days that the patient attended. The Kentucky department for public health is actively working with CDC and clinicians to help identify if there are additional cases.”
The event was a multi-week religious gathering held by Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky. The “revival”, which began on campus on 8 February, saw between 10,000 and 20,000 people descend on the 6,000-person town. The event was moved off campus around two weeks later.