Unfounded fears about vaccination which are fueled by media networks who want to show “both sides” of a story without having an opinion themselves are causing the resurgence of measles and other childhood diseases. Parents fear that vaccination will give their children autism (untrue) or that they may develop serious side effects (rare1). At least, with the fear of side effects, parents are dreading well-documented issues, even if they are vastly over-reacting to the possibility of a complication. (there is also the subset of parents who object to vaccination on religious grounds. I won’t talk about them, here)
Parents who fear childhood vaccinations because of the speculative and discarded hypothesis that they cause autism are prey to an emotional response which is the basis for the statement “Correlation does not imply causality”. In other words just because an effect occurs after you do something, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the something caused the effect. Just because some children are diagnosed with autism after they receive vaccinations does not necessarily mean that vaccinations cause autism.
Some anti-vaccination persons claim that the main culprit, so the theory goes, is a preservative called thimerosal, a mercury containing compound. On the face of it, you might suppose they’re right, after all, mercury is a neurotoxin and autism is a neurologic disorder. Let’s assume for the moment that mercury might cause autism. The obvious response would be to remove the mercury-containing substance, thimerosal, from the vaccines that children are receiving. That would make sense, right?
Well, that’s what Sweden and Denmark did. They removed thimerosal from their vaccines and yet the incidence of autism went up. This website has a breakdown of numerous studies that confirm no link between thimerosal and autism rates. There is no link between thimerosal and autism2. None. Zero.
“Ok, then”, you say, “what about vaccines without thimerosal? Those might be causing autism.” True, they might, but how about this Danish study where they looked at a large population of children (nearly all Danish children born between ’91 and ’98) who were vaccinated with non-thimerosal doses and compared them to all the unvaccinated children born during the same years. They found no statistical difference between the two categories when looking at autism rates. A child receiving a vaccination (or not) made no difference in whether she would be diagnosed with autism.
This brings us back to my initial point that parents are killing their children. They are denying them modern (proven!) immunity to life-threatening diseases because of unsubstantiated fears. Furthermore, they are actively fighting the (proven!) vaccination movement while discounting the knowledge of professional scientists and epidemiologists because they know there’s a link between autism in their children and the vaccines that were administered.3
These parents are killing their children and by association are endangering the lives of the children around them. There are kids out there who for various reasons cannot be vaccinated and they are being put in harms way, especially because some of the medical reasons which prevent their vaccination are likely to make them more susceptible to measles or other childhood diseases.
We’ve stamped out small pox. We’ve eliminated polio in America, Europe and China. We’ve reduced measles, mumps and rubella to tiny shadows of their former selves. But measles is popping back up and kids are being infected. We, the population of the world, have a right to live in a disease free environment because we can. It makes no sense to throw away a life saving treatment and have children die because some people don’t believe in science.
The anti-vaccine movement gets my blood up in a way that anti-evolutionists don’t. They’re both wrong, but the anti-vaxxers are presented with flesh-and-blood reminders of what it is they’re fighting against. The anti-evolutionists merely have to ignore complicated (often dry) scientific studies and research.
Don’t be an anti-vaxxer! Your kids might die.
1It’s important to read the list of vaccination side effects from the CDC while keeping in mind that something might be possible, but it’s not likely. Several of the “severe” side effects are listed as so rare that they haven’t determined whether or not the vaccine caused them
2Quoting from the FDA website, and remember that this was issued during the tenure of the most science-fearing administration of recent decades, “In 2004, the IOM’s Immunization Safety Review Committee issued its final report, examining the hypothesis that vaccines, specifically the MMR vaccines and thimerosal containing vaccines, are causally associated with autism. In this report, the committee incorporated new epidemiological evidence from the U.S., Denmark, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, and studies of biologic mechanisms related to vaccines and autism since its report in 2001. The committee concluded that this body of evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism, and that hypotheses generated to date concerning a biological mechanism for such causality are theoretical only [editor’s emphasis]. Further, the committee stated that the benefits of vaccination are proven and the hypothesis of susceptible populations is presently speculative, and that widespread rejection of vaccines would lead to increases in incidences of serious infectious diseases like measles, whooping cough and Hib bacterial meningitis.”
3A side note (not one which I’ll argue) is whether it’s a public good to prevent the infection of hundreds of thousands and the death of hundreds by inflicting [something] on a few. ‘The good of the many’ argument. Note that I don’t think we are inflicting anything on those few, aside from the fortunately rare serious side effects.