This NPR article is upsetting, and not only because looking at the constantly moving graphic is giving me a headache.
(This isn’t a full-on rant, but me expressing my opinion tends to lead to someone feeling like I’m ranting. Hence the graphic.)
I used to write a lot about the anti-vaccine folks. Here’s a post from 2010 that links to a piece I wrote for AOL ParentDish about the retraction of the Lancet study linking vaccinations to autism. And here is the very first Babble Podcast I did way back in October of 2008.
In that podcast I discussed how perhaps Jenny McCarthy is not the person to whom we should be looking to for medical advice of any kind. (I also wrote and recorded the theme song. I’m very talented.) McCarthy was very vocal about the link between vaccines and autism. Her proof was debunked. More on that in a moment.
In addition to being the year when I recorded a podcast, 2008 is also when the Council on Foreign Relations began “tracking news reports” of disease outbreaks. Diseases that had been all but wiped out, if not wiped out entirely.
Since 2008 folks at the think tank CFR have been plotting all the cases of measles, mumps, rubella, polio and whooping cough around the world. Each circle on the map represents a local outbreak of a particular disease, while the size of the circle indicates the number of people infected in the outbreak.
As you flip through the various maps over the years, two trends clearly emerge: Measles has surged back in Europe, while whooping cough is has become a problem here in the U.S.
Whooping cough is back? Seriously? Preventable diseases should stay prevented. So much of the anti-vaccination information has been proven to be 100% false. (It’s possible that all of it has been debunked; I don’t know and therefore am not going to make such a broad statement.) What’s left is parental fear. Statements like “I believe vaccines are bad” don’t have any basis in scientific reality. Are doctors always right? Of course not. I don’t have a gall bladder because a certain doctor couldn’t be bothered to examine me for six months. Eventually the thing grew to the size of a football, became gangrenous, and I needed immediate emergency surgery or I would have died. Does that mean I no longer go to the doctor? Well, I no longer go to THAT doctor. But I haven’t thrown out all science, or the scientific method. Nor do I pretend that I am a scientist.
We should all be able to agree that whooping cough is bad. Whooping cough was gone. That was good. Now whooping cough, which is bad, is back. That is bad. Why is whooping cough back? Because some parents, based on bad information disseminated by a number of people, Jenny McCarthy being one of the more famous ones, are afraid of vaccinating their kids. That’s not good. At all. Stop it.
Here is a Public Health Report document from 1916. The text is as follows:
PATERSON, N. J.
Whooping Cough — Prevention of Spread — Affected Children Under 10 Years of
Age Required to Wear Arm Bands. (Reg. Bd. of H., Mar. 7, 1916.)
1. No parent or guardian of any infant under 10 years of age suffering from the
disease commonly known as whooping cough shall permit any such infant to appear
in the street or in any other public place within the city of Paterson, N. J., unless
such infant shall wear and expose upon the arm a band of yellow material bearing
upon it the words “Paterson health department — Whooping cough.” The band
shall be in a form to be prescribed and supplied by the board of health, and shall
be worn for a period beginning with the earliest recognition o” the disease and con-
tinue until danger of infection is over, but in no event less than six weeks.
2. No parent or guardian of any infant under the age of 10 years suffering from
whooping cough shall permit any such infant to board any street car or other public
conveyance or to visit any house other than the house in which such infant resides,
or any store, school, Sunday school, or building of public assembly.
3. Any parent or guardian violating any of the provisions of this ordinance shall
be subject to a fine of $10 for each offense.
(Source: Internet Archive/JSTOR)
Armbands for kids! Doesn’t that sound fun? That was the best we could do in 1916. It is now 2014. We’ve come a long way, baby. Get vaccinated.
Zero deaths. That’s the goal.
(Above image from The Prelinger Archives.)