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The anti-vaccine crowd, who falsely believe that vaccines cause autism despite the fact that there is zero evidence to suggest that and loads to suggest that autism is caused by completely different factors, haven’t been having a ton of success lately. In general, rates of vaccination have been increasing in the past few years, particularly for things like HPV and all doses of the Hib vaccine (which prevents a deadly bacterial infection in babies). Even the MMR vaccination rates have increased a bit, and that’s the main one Andrew Wakefield blamed in his since-retracted and debunked study linking vaccines to autism.
Still, rates for other vaccines have stagnated while the president of the United States expresses distrust of vaccines and meets with known anti-vaccination lunatics like Robert Kennedy to get guidance on future government policy. So the fight is still on, and last week the anti-vaxxers got a big win.
What’s a big win look like to an anti-vaxxer? Like this.
You see, it’s actually kind of hard for anti-vaxxers to convince large numbers of people to go against their doctor’s orders, and against logic and all of recorded science. So they lie, they make up emotional stories, and they get a platform from people like Oprah to reach larger audiences.
Another tactic they use is reaching out to marginalized groups. They hit the jackpot in Minneapolis, where they found a community of Somalis who were insular thanks to language barriers, cultural barriers, and good old-fashioned American xenophobia. This left them vulnerable to liars like Andrew Wakefield, who came to town several times to speak up for the local anti-vaxxers and convince the Somali community that doctors were trying to poison their children with vaccines.
Amazingly, this worked despite the fact that many of the Somalis had direct experience with measles. The Washington Post spotlighted one woman who not only had the disease as a child, but whose sister died from measles. But she took Wakefield seriously, and so she didn’t have her children vaccinated.
Thanks to Wakefield’s efforts, over the past ten years the vaccination rate in the Somali community has plummeted from 92% (which was greater than the general population, probably because they had seen firsthand the ravages of the diseases) down to an astonishingly bad 42%. And that can only have one result: a measles outbreak. At the end of last week, 44 cases of measles had been identified. Because the vaccination rate is so low, experts are preparing for many more cases before the outbreak is contained.
This is a disease that had been eradicated, but now it’s back and putting children’s lives at risk thanks to anti-vaxxers and their disinformation campaign specifically targeted at the most marginalized, at-risk people you can imagine.
It’s only a matter of time before Andrew Wakefield and his brigade of idiots have another child’s death on their hands. It’s now more important than ever to speak out against the misinformation and make sure our game show host-in-chief doesn’t make things worse by making their propaganda a state-sponsored message.