The topic of vaccination invariably provokes polarized debates, often manifesting in Twitter and Facebook. This is the case on my wall at this moment after I posted an article about the recent measles outbreak in Europe which shows 41,000 cases of measles recorded during first six months of 2018 surpassing the annual totals of every year since 2013.
This is not chicanery, this is not scare-mongering. This is a fact. And the level of vitriol surrounding this subject is par with debates about gun control while the debate looks more like faith-based debates around Creationism being taught in schools.
But science and technology are not incidental here as the WHO employs scientists who just a year ago predicted this very situation we find ourselves in. Why do so many people disbelieve proven science and opt for conspiracy theories? Yes, medical research has been in bed with big with Big Pharma to the extent that many doctors and patient groups are distrustful of these conflicts of interest.
But to put one’s faith in a charlatan like Andrew Wakefield, the British surgeon behind the original hypothesis linking autism with the MMR vaccine, would be a tragic error not only because Wakefield has been for some time discredited and stripped of his medical license, but because there is zero science behind his claims.
Technology has a positive impact on our lives if we engage with it honestly. Let’s take a few facts about this year’s measles outbreak in Europe. First, even thought half of the measles cases this year were reported in Ukraine, the infection rates also took a hit in other countries renown for low immunization rates such as Serbia, Greece and Georgia.
Even countries like Italy, Romania, France and Germany have seen outbreaks in recent years. All these areas have issues with getting the population vaccinated with France being one of the highest vaccine skeptic nations on the planet. Hence, France, Italy, and Romania have passed laws making vaccinations mandatory just in the past two years with Italy’s Senate overturning the newly establish law earlier this month. This is a tragic U-turn for Italy since it had 5,000 cases of measles in 2016 occupying 29 per cent of all cases in the EU or European Economic Area as opposed to 870 cases in 2016.
At this point the science is in, and to ignore what medical technology offers us today is quite dangerous for society at large with many people still citing a fraudulent study that has been proven to be pure hokum. The biggest irony of those who resist getting their children vaccinated is that many of these parents work in the science and tech fields, are affluent and have the economic means to buck the system that would have previously prevented their unvaccinated child attending a public school.
For instance, before California’s strict vaccination law SB 277, was passed in 2015 after a measles outbreak that originated at Disneyland in 2013 as a result of parents who refused to vaccinate their children due to vaccine exemptions allowed for private schools. In August 2013, a Texas megachurch was at the centre of a measles outbreak.
To be clear, this church advocated that people refuse vaccinations. And the 2010 whooping cough epidemic in California, this too is directly linked to vaccination refusal. And while there are cases of vaccine failures, it is becoming clearer that people themselves are unaware that you need to have, for instance, two vaccinations against measles—not one. So the information for vaccine failures has not taken into account the masses who believe wrongly that having one jab is enough.
Too many people are treating technological advances in medicine as a belief system with many parents reverting to their skepticism in Big Pharma and others constructing vast generalizations as to how peer-reviews are carried out because of one single flawed study.
We need to speak out in favor of medical technology and call out the pseudo-science that is killing people and dispense with the conspiracy theories that governments around the world have concocted a method to control all members of the human race. Read the reports from this year’s outbreak where only 31% of Ukraine’s infected with measles never had the vaccine as irregular supplies afflicted the country.
Many parents also don’t realize that the “herd immunity” (where enough people from a community have been vaccinated such that the unvaccinated are protected) will not protect their child if more and more of the “herd” decide to not vaccinate. And this is what is happening today with many Americans deciding that the chances of their child getting sick are slim.
And then conversely, of the parents who are aware of the herd immunity, this becomes their reasoning for skipping their child’s inoculations—that others are already protecting them.
We need to stop treating flawed skeptic arguments against medical advice as the new gospel. We also need to inform ourselves of the danger implicit in holding the health of an entire community in our hands all because we read a book or watched a documentary about how evil Big Pharma is.
So too, we need to stop treating vaccination as a taboo topic of debate, as if speaking out is akin to telling someone that their religion is bad. That’s the thing, it’s science, not a personal religious belief.
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