Look, I’ve always thought Jenny McCarthy was a hoot, fairly self-deprecating for someone who has shown their vulva to North America. And Jim Carrey gets a lot of props for “Ace Ventura” and “Spotless Mind”, even as he slowly went mad for the last decade or so. But they have GOT to COOL IT on the vaccine talk, because pretty soon, some impressionable Americans are going to start believing them.
I thought with the coming of Barack Obama, we were coming back into the Age of Enlightenment, when people actually started listening to scientists again, not just rejecting them out of hand when they didn’t agree with Creationist fantasies. It’s once again au courant to take scientific studies seriously, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping the Anti-Vaccine groups, and the prideful quack doctors that enable them.
I’ll leave it to Neva or Caitlin or any of the other brilliant medical minds to tell me if I’m wrong, but here’s my take on the “vaccine/autism” research as it stands now: there is no direct connection between the two. It is possible that some children inherit an autism gene (or a combination of genes) that can get “switched on” by a vaccine, as a sort of environmental damage – or a vaccine can intensify a child’s pre-existing condition (like mitochondrial issues) but they’re just as likely to have the same thing happen from another element in the environment (sickness, air quality, bad food, etc.)
The reason autism rates appear to be going up is because diagnosis is much more inclusive, and parents/teachers are finally paying attention to their kids. Anecdotally, I could tell you about many kids in my grade school class who would have ended up on the autism spectrum if anyone had been noticing. Hell, I’d probably have dipped my toe into the spectrum, and one of my brothers as well.
The preservative in old vaccines was once labeled as a potential problem, but thimerosal has not been used for a long time. When presented with that information, the anti-vax crowd will mention aluminum, or some other element in vaccines they mistakenly call a “toxin”. In short, it starts to get very ugly and evangelical the farther you go into the anti-vaccine movement.
All of which would be fine, except they are beginning to put your kids and my kids at risk for some truly ugly diseases like polio, measles, rubella and diptheria. Those sound antiquated and cute? Well, like Megan McArdle writes on her brilliant blog at the Atlantic Monthly, “The vaccines scare us because the diseases don’t. And they don’t because of the vaccines.”
The non-vaccinated are kept safe because of herd immunity – when everyone else shoulders the responsibility of vaccination, they benefit. But only for so long. If their numbers increase, pretty soon they start giving diseases to each other, and since some vaccines have only 90% efficacy, they can give it to your kids too.
And THAT is where I start getting EVANGELICAL RIGHT BACK. If you want to place your own child on the polio roulette wheel and not get the shots, I can’t stop you… but you better be living on an Antarctic island or inside a latex bubble, because your kid shouldn’t be near any of us, or any of our friends. You’re practicing a lazy, dangerous science, more or less in the realm of magical thinking, and if you bring the whooping cough back to America, you will have started the fire that burns down the town.
I’m all for making pharmaceutical companies sweat; they’re all corporations, and corporations could give a fuck about human life, especially if it interfered with their cashflow. But disregarding every independent study, and putting us a step closer to a pandemic? You’re making us lefty, paranoid, conspiracy theorists look bad.