The Anti-vaccine movement – one picture is all you really need


Michael Hiltzik, the prize winning journalist and columnist, has a fabulous article in the LA Times entitled … “The toll of the anti-vaccination movement, in one devastating graphic“, you should check it out.

He starts off with …

Aaron Carroll today offers a graphic depiction of the toll of the anti-vaccination movement. (H/t: Kevin Drum.) It comes from a Council on Foreign Relations interactive map of “vaccine-preventable outbreaks” worldwide 2008-2014.

A couple of manifestations stand out. One is the prevalence of measles in Europe — especially Britain — and the U.S. Measles is endemic in the underdeveloped world because of the unavailability of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine.

But in the developed world it’s an artifact of the anti-vaccination movement

OK, you are curious, so here is that graphic …

la-fi-mh-antivaccination-movement-20140120-001

He then goes on to expand upon this the rather shocking and sad state of affairs which is all down to the rise of an anti-vaccine movement that is responsible the reemergence of these very preventable diseases. What is even more worrying is that while the anti-vax claims are simply not true, they never were and been thoroughly debunked, this anti-vaccine belief still persists.

In the end this is not simply about individual choice, it is also a public health concern. When you have individuals who refuse to vaccinate their kids, it creates an opportunity for the diseases to arise and thrive, and that impacts all of us.

So should we mandate vaccines for those that refuse to be vaccinated?

Actually no, I’d argue against that because civil liberties do also matter. So what then can we actually do? We can openly challenge the bad ideas, promote good fact-based information, and also encourage and nurture critical thinking.  It might in many ways feel like a task fit for Sisyphus (the king of Ephyra who was punished for chronic deceitfulness by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this action forever), but pause and consider this … bad ideas are not just abstractions, they have real-world consequences, and so the belief that vaccines are bad for you is illustrated by the statistical facts to be complete and utter bullshit.

The legacy left to us by the anti-vaccine movement is a rising tide of preventable illnesses and also an associated body count – that is why criticism of this and other bad ideas matters.

I’ll leave the last word on all this to Aaron Carroll …

Vaccinate your kids,” he writes. “Please.”

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