I try not to get too serious with this column, primarily because I don’t think anyone finds me believable as a serious person. Similarly, I try not to get on my soapbox in regard to parenting. I am not a parent. I have parents and I’ve known many parents and I would like to one day become a parent, but as of right now, I have no business telling anyone how to raise their children.
I am, however, a member of the human race living in the most developed country in the world. I carry more computing power in my back pocket every day than was in the spacecraft that put American feet on the moon.
We have all the knowledge of the world at our literal fingertips.
So it absolutely sickens and astounds me that a life-threatening and completely preventable disease that the Tallahassee Democrat said “the Centers for Disease Control declared . . . eliminated from the United States in 2000” is making a roaring comeback.
The latest statistic I could find from the CDC is dated Feb. 6, 2015. At that time, there were 121 reported cases of measles in 17 states and the District of Colombia so far this year.
For those of you looking at that number and thinking to yourselves, “that’s not so bad,” I get it. Given the vast population of the US and of the world, 121 people are a drop in the bucket.
Allow me to put this in perspective.
We are 37 days into the new year. That means that an average of 3.27 people have contracted a case of the measles each day of 2015.
Still not that bad? Consider the fact that last year, the CDC reported a record number of measles cases: 644 across 27 states. At the rate we’re going, by Dec. 31, 2015, about 1,193 people will have reported cases of measles.
Consider again that the average annual number of reported measles cases from 2000 to 2007 was 63. In 37 days, we have nearly doubled what used to be the annual average number of cases.
So, you may be wondering, “what changed?” Basically, people have stopped vaccinating their children. This anti-vaccination movement, at its heart, is a combination of bad science, Hollywood hero worship and fear mongering.
According to Ronald Bailey in his article for reason.com, British scientist Andrew Wakefield published research in 1998 that insinuated through fairly insignificant statistics that vaccines caused neurological disorders. Ultimately, he was completely discredited for misrepresenting the facts, or as we journalists like to call it, lying. He lost his medical license and the journal that published the article retracted it in 2010.
Before the official retraction, it seemed to be the general consensus of the rest of the scientific community that Wakefield was full of it. Unfortunately, no one told Hollywood. Celebrity parents of children with autism, namely Jenny McCarthy, have been incredibly outspoken in their belief that vaccines caused their children to have autism as they encourage parents not to vaccinate their own children.
Meanwhile, the Autism Speaks organization has issued a statement, begging parents to vaccinate their children, saying there is no link between vaccines and autism.
Unfortunately, the general public is more inclined to listen to celebrity than to science merely because celebrity screams the loudest. Stars like McCarthy have used their status to perpetuate dangerously wrong information. They have made parents so terrified of vaccines that they would rather put their children at risk of diseases like measles and polio.
Not only do they protect the individual, but they also protect those among us who cannot be vaccinated such as people suffering autoimmune disorders and infants too young to receive certain vaccines.
In my opinion, the bottom line is that vaccines are safe.