While progress has been made unmasking the misinformation and disinformation of the “anti-vaxxer” fad, the pseudoscientific movement against vaccination continues. The irony is that many “anti-vaxxers” are not dumb or uneducated. Many are college-educated, middle-class, suburban soccer moms (and dads) who watch too many daytime talk shows. Their beliefs, though, are dangerous and threatening the health of not only their own kids but others’ as well.
Of course, as with much false propaganda, one needs only follow the proverbial money trail. There is evidence that businesses involved in herbal and other “natural” treatments are helping to fund anti-vaxxer disinformation.
It is true that not everyone can take vaccines safely but that is up to a trained doctor to determine. Sadly, there have been people with unpredicted allergic reactions and there is always the possibility of a batch of bad vaccine. This writer knows a man who is in a wheelchair because of the infamous bad flu shots of the ’70s. But this is rare and becoming even rarer. Any legitimate physician will tell you that, unless you have a medical reason not to receive a vaccine, you run a bigger risk by not taking it.
Many anti-vaxxers are probably well-meaning, but it does not mean they are correct. Most employ poor logic. It is quite understandable that many do not trust the large pharmaceutical corporations. But, while “Big Pharma” may, indeed, be evil, greedy, and look mostly at the bottom line and “gouges” patients in this country, it does not follow that they do not make things that really work.
Not all vaccines are alike in their effectiveness. This writer gets a flu shot every fall. He has gotten the flu despite the shots on one occasion over a period of two decades, but it was milder than it would have been had he not had the shot. Twenty years ago, he did not get a flu shot and he got a flu so bad that it almost put him in the hospital.
Antibiotics and vaccines are keeping us healthier and living longer than our grandparents. The same is true of other drugs. For instance, this writer remembers the days when a diagnosis of AIDS/HIV often meant a death sentence, often in as soon as a year. Now he knows people who have been living normal lives with AIDS/HIV and have been doing so for a long time because of anti-viral drugs. So, even if they are made by predatory companies, many drugs are truly miraculous.
This writer was born the year after Dr. Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine was first used. Thus, of the first generation to have received the vaccine, and he is glad he did, because he did not have to be haunted by memories of polio outbreaks that killed and crippled people of his parents’ and grandparents’ generations. Since Salk did not think it ethical to patent his vaccine (he could have made a lot of money), it is still one of the cheapest vaccines, and polio has been all but eradicated in many parts of the globe. Due to a vaccine, smallpox, which has taken tens if not millions of lives, has been globally eradicated.
The focus instead should be on Big Pharma for overcharging desperate patients for drugs. Access to necessary medication, like other heath care, is a human right.
The answer to the “debate” over vaccination is that there is no real debate. Most, if not nearly all legitimate, peer-reviewed doctors and other medical scientists agree that risks connected to vaccines are very low and getting lower all the time.
As for the false belief that childhood vaccinations cause autism, anti-vaxxers cite ONE discredited British study. It was found that the doctor conducting the research had falsified his data and was disciplined by his professional society.
Of course, there are going to be those say the government “cannot force me to vaccinate my kids. That is an intrusion into my rights.” No, in a civilized, developed society, government has an obligation to intervene in cases of child neglect and to protect the public heath, especially the health of children. Not vaccinating your children unless the doctor has a valid medical reason for not vaccinating is a form of child neglect and should be treated as such.
Already, we are seeing people run out of patience with anti-vaxxers. Many schools will not let kids attend unless they can show proof of vaccination. More and more pediatricians are dropping patients if their parents refuse to vaccinate them. Still, more is required at the state and national levels. Unless a medical doctor advises against it, vaccinations for children should be mandatory, and not doing so should carry some sort of penalty.
Many see requiring vaccinations (unless there is a medical reason to do so) as trampling on “parental rights.” Do parents really have a “right” to deny medical treatment to minor children? What about religious exemptions? Over the years, courts have ruled that, if an adult decides he or she wants to deny themselves medical treatment, they have a right to do so. If you are an adult Jehovah’s Witness and you refuse a life-saving blood transfusion, you can make that choice; but the courts have also ruled that you cannot make that decision for a minor child. The same principle should apply to vaccinations.
As for “medical professionals” — often naturopaths and chiropractors — who tell parents that they should not vaccinate kids who can tolerate the vaccine should lose their licenses (in, of course, cases where these “professionals” actually are licensed).
This writer is proud of The Sun for discontinuing full-page ads for a chiropractor who claimed that all their kids needed were chiropractic to improve children’s immune systems. Anti-vaxxers have complete freedom of speech and press but that does not mean a publisher has to publish them! Moreover, quacks who hide behind the title of “doctor” and whose treatments and advice hurt a patient, he or she should be held criminally liable.
The anti-vaccination movement needs to be opposed and marginalized at all levels. The anti-vaxxers may be sincere but they are erroneously — and dangerously — sincere. Anti-vaxxers threaten everyone’s health if they are believed by people who have done their homework on the subject.
E. Scott Cracraft is a citizen, a taxpayer and a veteran. He resides in Gilford.