Measles Hits a New Record & Vaccines STILL DON’T CAUSE AUTISM

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Two science news stories came out this week and I just love the coincidental timing: first, measles has hit a new record here in the United States. Nearly 700 people have been infected throughout 22 different states, which is the most of any year since the year 2000. Why is the year 2000 significant? Well, that’s the year that scientists declared measles to be eradicated here. 2001 is when the disgraced British doctor Andrew Wakefield moved to the United States, bringing his anti-vaccine advocacy with him. In 2005, Jenny McCarthy learned her son was autistic (and not a magical fairy from another universe, which is what she had claimed previously) and then started going on Oprah to talk about how autism is caused by the MMR vaccine, and here we are today: 700 people with a highly contagious, previously eradicated disease.

Of course it’s not all the fault of Wakefield, McCarthy, and Winfrey. In order for these complete whackjobs to have made an impact on vaccination rates, the US also had to fail on an educational and legislative scale. Many states have long had loopholes that allowed people to opt out of vaccines, a critical mistake considering that in order for vaccines to work, we need to vaccinate everyone we can. Children under the age of one and many immunocompromised adults can’t get the vaccine, which means that the rest of us need to do it to make certain that the virus can’t get any purchase in our society. It’s how a society works — you have to give up a few individual freedoms for the greater good. We pay taxes so kids can go to school and our roads are paved. We get vaccines so babies don’t die of preventable diseases. If you don’t like these things, you can go live on an island somewhere with no wifi, which is probably fine with you because you probably think wifi causes cancer, you absolute fucking marshmallow.

Despite seeing this coming for more than a decade, states are now hustling to close those loopholes. Washington state, the site of just one measles outbreak (currently at 74 people), is just now passing legislation forbidding people from using their personal “philosophy” to get an exemption from vaccinating their kids, i.e. their philosophy is that Jenny McCarthy knows more than their pediatrician. All states still allow religious exemptions, which you can probably guess I feel is complete bollocks because again, we live in a society. I don’t care if your religion states that you can drive drunk, or sell ice cream cones with shards of glass in them, or any other stupid behavior that leads to the harm of other people. But unfortunately, when it comes to vaccines our government does not agree with me.

In way too many states, it’s extremely easy for people to opt-out of giving their kids vaccines, and the data shows us that the easier it is, the more people do it, and the more diseases reappear.

Meanwhile, there’s the other news story I mentioned that popped up this week: YET ANOTHER STUDY has shown that there is zero link between the MMR vaccine and autism. And yes, we’re still wasting time and money debunking a myth that has been debunked incessantly since it was fabricated by Andrew Wakefield back in the ‘90s. This was a study that followed the birth of every single Danish baby from 1999 to 2010, and they found absolutely no link between autism and the MMR vaccine, or any other vaccine, for that matter.

Actually, hold on, they DID find one link in one subgroup: girls who got the MMR vaccine were actually slightly LESS LIKELY TO HAVE AUTISM. That’s right, getting the MMR vaccine made girls 16 to 21% LESS LIKELY to be autistic. So either the MMR vaccine actually has a protective effect against autism, or it’s a statistical blip that will go away with more study on that particular subgroup.

Any anti-vaxxers currently listening to this are now frantically googling “statistical blip.” Is this, at long last, the study that convinces them that vaccines do not cause autism? I won’t hold my breath. That’s why we need our government to close the loopholes that allow these idiots to put their own children’s lives at risk as well as the lives of millions of babies and adults who can’t get vaccinated.

Before the MMR vaccine, 500 Americans died every year from the measles alone. If vaccination rates continue to drop, that’s the future we can look forward to.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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