Anti-Vaxxers: Enjoying the Privilege of Putting Everyone at Risk
I like to think that I am not prone to irrational fear. Flying worries me, but mostly because I’m stuck inside a metal cigar tube hurtling five miles above ground at 300-plus mph. Tall bridges unnerve me, on a similar “radically denaturing into a crushed pizza” basis. I was in a 6.9 earthquake and a Category 4 hurricane and am fond of neither for what would appear to be perfectly adequate reasons.
On the other hand, I’ve been sort of shot at — and once had a drunk good ol’ boy reach behind his back for what he most certainly wanted me to think was a gun — and apart from those two instances have never thought, “I need to orient my life around gun anxiety.” On matters of terror attacks, car theft, burglary, giant snakes, killer bees or numerically obsessed serial killers, I am imperturbable. I live across the street from alligators, and I only wish they were larger so that the neighborhood cats might be fewer. SARS, necrotizing fasciitis, Mekong whiskey and Hong Kong Flu do not exercise me.
That said, the United States’ recent entirely optional measles outbreak, even at this early stage of fraught potential, is seriously fucking with my life, fucking with my son’s life, and making everything fucking anxious. I don’t think I’m out of line in saying privileged assholes are to blame.
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If there is one thing the anti-vaccination movement has taught us, it’s that correlation does not equal causation. That being said, let us stipulate a few points. One, that a virus declared essentially eliminated in 2000 does not make a roaring comeback in 15 years without intervening acts. Two, that huge chunks of licensed medical professionals did not all forget how to properly administer injections, the correctly administered remainder of which did not all spontaneously fail. Three, that there’s a relationship between all the people who skipped giving their kids the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine and their kids getting measles, especially since those are the kids who keep getting it.
Whence the anti-vaxxers? Their current movement goes back to a 1998 Lancet article and personal comments by (former) doctor Andrew Wakefield, linking autism and the MMR vaccine. Many people rightly felt disinclined to give their kids autism via a shot, but that paper has since been withdrawn and Wakefield stripped of his medical license, which seems like it could be important! Wakefield’s study featured, at best, a fatuously small sample size, and its conclusions could not be replicated. Worse, some of Wakefield’s patients were recruited by attorneys looking to sue MMR vaccine manufacturers.
It’s science the way “Catherine the Great died having sex with a horse” is history.
If you’ve ever encountered anti-vaxxer rhetoric online, you know that one of their favorite arguments is follow the money, which is a tactic the above detail T-bones like a speeding truck with a slashed brake line. Supplying litigators with proof of lifelong side-effects to a drug administered to virtually every child in England has a direct monetary incentive. Meanwhile, the follow the money whisper makes no sense as regards “Big Pharma.” If vaccines are a money grab, they’re a pitiful one compared to forcing you to put your infected kid in the hospital for days of ice baths, IV drips and expensive aspirin — followed by decades of compensatory care for things like blindness. Big Pharma would do better if we brought back cholera, the black plague and the yellow jack.
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