Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent report that the MMR vaccine causes autism has resulted in a generation of children (~age 10-16) who have a historically low vaccination rate (below 50% in some places). As a result, the rate of measles infection has skyrocketed in Britain:
The good news is that thanks to excellent public health outreach in England, vaccination rates are improving significantly. But I worry that many people still don’t understand the issues. Let me summarize them for you:
Measles is so contagious that nearly every unvaccinated child who is exposed will develop the disease.
Every one out of 10 children with measles will develop an ear infection
Every one out of 20 children will develop pneumonia.
Every one out of 1,000 will get encephalitis.
Every one or two out of 1,000 will die.
And that’s just measles. Unfortunately, parents’ fears can extend to all vaccines. For example, this couple’s failure to vaccinate lead to their child’s horrible infection with tetanus.
“If you google vaccines you get a lot of pros and a lot of cons, and you start to read all the cons and they start to weigh on you and you start to believe all the things that are said. It looks like a fifty-fifty argument.”
And indeed, there are a lot of celebrities currently running around saying that vaccines are dangerous for children, including Rob Schneider and Jenny McCarthy. They are wrong.
Few things make me more angry than this nonsense. Parents who choose not to vaccinate are doing so with the well-intentioned belief that they’re protecting their kids, but they’re being completely deceived by people trying to make money. Deception on the part of the leaders of this movement is literally killing children.
These are some of their tactics:
Please, if you are a parent with concerns about this issue, don’t listen to actors who don’t even understand the germ theory of disease. All of their so-called evidence is either anecdotal, or fradulent.
I know that searching for reputable sources of information online can be confusing. Here’s a very good summary of places where you can get information that’s trustworthy:
Scientists really do take this issue seriously, and have investigated your concerns carefully. Here is the most recent meta-review of all studies done on the link between vaccines and autism. It concludes:
Based on this body of evidence, the committee concludes that the evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between MMR vaccine and autism.
Here is a great guide for non-scientists to understand all of the most recent studies on vaccines: http://www2.aap.org/immunization/families/faq/vaccinestudies.pdf
And finally, here’s one mother’s story of how she made the decision to vaccinate her child and what the consequences were.
Do you have any questions? Would you like to sound off about websites you’ve seen promoting quackery? Are you confused if a particular study is legitimate or not? Feel free to comment below!
Kata, A. 2012. Anti-vaccine activists, Web 2.0, and the postmodern paradigm – An overview of tactics and tropes used online by the anti-vaccination movement. Vaccine 30 3778– 3789.