Measles, Autism, and the Unhinged Insanity of the Anti Vaccination Movement
Recently I learned about a new anti vaccination children’s book, “Melanie’s Marvelous Measles.” No, I’m not kidding. Its real, unfortunately, and its author hasn’t created a clever satire. It might be hilarious if this was something from the Onion, but its not, and it isn’t the author’s idea of a joke.
The images of the front and back covers of the book are from Amazon, where its currently being sold. Shockingly if you look carefully at the page, you’ll notice that it appears to have won an award for “best children’s book.” It would have been more deserving of an award for “most anti-science propaganda book aimed at children,” or “most likely to harm innocent children if taken seriously.” Contrary to what the person who wrote the story, Stephanie Messenger seems to think, having a child with what is actually a horrible disease, isn’t something to be proud of. Being sick, especially with an illness more serious than the common cold, like measles, certainly isn’t fun at all.
Thankfully some smart people over at Amazon are having some fun by power owning the book’s “Measles are good” message. They left hilarious comments mocking her fantasy. Sadly It won’t stop some people from actually believing the message behind Messenger’s ridiculous fiction. People can literally die from the measles, just listen to the genuine experts at the world health organization. According to them,
Measles is a highly contagious, serious disease caused by a virus. In 1980, before widespread vaccination, measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year.
The disease remains one of the leading causes of death among young children globally, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine. Approximately 145 700 people died from measles in 2013 – mostly children under the age of 5.
Measles is caused by a virus in the paramyxovirus family and it is normally passed through direct contact and through the air. The virus infects the mucous membranes, then spreads throughout the body. Measles is a human disease and is not known to occur in animals.
Accelerated immunization activities have had a major impact on reducing measles deaths. During 2000-2013, measles vaccination prevented an estimated 15.6 million deaths. Global measles deaths have decreased by 75% from an estimated 544 200 in 2000 to 145 700 in 2013.
Just as importantly, if you read through the pamphlet, guess who the World Health Organization points out is the most vulnerable to the disease? That’s right, children, innocent defenseless children.
Unvaccinated young children are at highest risk of measles and its complications, including death. Unvaccinated pregnant women are also at risk. Any non-immune person (who has not been vaccinated or was vaccinated but did not develop immunity) can become infected.
Measles is still common in many developing countries – particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. The overwhelming majority (more than 95%) of measles deaths occur in countries with low per capita incomes and weak health infrastructures.
Messenger is doing a horrible disservice to everyone with her ridiculous anti reality propaganda for children. Even worst through, she isn’t the only one, spreading this type of dangerous anti science stupidity.
Popular comedian, Bill Maher, has also been using his celebrity status to spread anti vaccine hysteria. According to Orac at the Science Blog, Respectful Insolence,
As hard as it is to believe, my first acknowledgment of Bill Maher’s antivaccine proclivities was nearly ten years ago, when Maher promoted the myth that Louis Pasteur had recanted on his deathbed, adding to that a statement that “I don’t believe in vaccination, either because it’s a “theory that I think is flawed.” Indeed, he’s been promoting the lie that vaccines don’t work and that the influenza vaccine causes Alzheimer’s disease since before I started blogging (although it’s been nine years since I first noticed it) and proclaiming his lack of belief in “Western medicine” to the point of telling David Letterman after his heart surgery that maybe he could come off his medications.
A few years ago, though, Maher seemed to have made a strategic decision not to spout off so much about vaccines and his belief that, if you just eat the right foods and keep the body “pure,” you will be magically immune to the flu. Maybe it was because his pseudoscientific invocation of “will” was so ridiculous that Bob Costas mocked him for it on his very own show, dismissing his claim that he wouldn’t catch the flu on an airplane sarcastically by saying, “Oh, come on, Superman!” Or maybe it was the flak so justifiably aimed at the Atheist Alliance International for giving him the Richard Dawkins Award in 2009, which inspired me to liken giving Maher such an award to giving Jenny McCarthy a public health award. Back then, when he tried to defend himself, he just dug himself in deeper and deeper, to the point where Chris Matthews even compared him to a celebrity Scientologist like Tom Cruise denouncing psychiatry.
In addition, speaking of Maher, Mediaite columnist Andrew Kirell also points out,
Strange new alliances have emerged as past histories of prominent politicians holding skeptical views of certain vaccines have been dug up. One public icon who has thus far escaped the scrutiny is HBO’s Real Time host Bill Maher.
Over the past decade, the comedian has repeatedly and openly expressed doubts about vaccinations while lending credence to theories that certain inoculations can cause disorders like autism. Maher, like many other wealthy celebrities, proudly rejects “Western medicine,” which helps explain why a great deal of the anti-vaccination crowd is made up of well-educated, California-based elites
Even if it could be shown that vaccines cause autism, or even the chemicals in certain vaccines cause autism, given how much deadlier diseases can be without them, it would still hardly be worth it to stop vaccinating your kids. If you think that some people getting sick somehow proves vaccines don’t work, do some research on herd immunity. Emily Willingham and Laura Helft do a great job of explaining it.
Just as a herd of cattle or sheep uses sheer numbers to protect its members from predators, herd immunity protects a community from infectious diseases by virtue of the sheer numbers of people immune to such diseases. The more members of a human “herd” who are immune to a given disease, the better protected the whole populace will be from an outbreak of that disease.
There are two ways an individual can become immune to an infectious disease: by becoming infected with the pathogen that causes it or by being vaccinated against it. Because vaccines induce immunity without causing illness, they are a comparatively safe and effective way to fill a community with disease-resistant people. These vaccinated individuals have protected themselves from disease. But, in turn, they are also protecting members of the community who cannot be vaccinated, preventing the chain of disease from reaching them and limiting potential outbreaks. Every vaccinated person adds to the effectiveness of this community-level protection.
Anti vaxxers, are not just left wing. Maher for the most part is a liberal, I’m not sure where Messenger falls on the political spectrum, but Glenn Beck is someone who is clearly far right. He is also one of the most paranoid people out there. Beck thinks the Measles outbreak is all just another conspiracy to get people to obey our “tyrannical” government.
Also he expects us to believe that people who oppose vaccines are being persecuted, even going so far as to compare himself to Galileo. Beck says this despite the fact that no one has been prosecuted by our “tyrannical” government, for simply disagreeing with the idea that people should get vaccinated. We also have to ignore the fact that unlike Galileo, reality isn’t on Beck’s side.
If anti vaxxers were really as persecuted as Beck claims they are, that ridiculous “Marvelous Measles” book couldn’t even get published and sold anywhere other than the black Market. Why isn’t he terrified of being arrested himself? Galileo was tried by the inquisition and could have been put to death for his beliefs. Also how is a government like the one we have here in the United States of America coercing all those scientists to play along, not mention scientists outside the country?
Never mind that there is no real evidence for any of the anti vaccination movement’s claims, including the most infamous one, that vaccines cause autism. As noted by Robbie Couch over at the Huffington post,
“Over the last two decades, extensive research has asked whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism,” Rob Ring said. “The results of this research are clear: Vaccines do not cause autism. We urge that all children be fully vaccinated.”
The definitive claim comes after many anti-vaxxers have linked vaccinations with autism in recent years. The movement has gathered steam in part due to a 1998 British researcher’s claim supporting a correlation between the two — a correlation that was debunked by a notable medical journal in 2010, which said the research had been dishonest and violated research ethics, as The New York Times reported.
A growing measles outbreak in the U.S. that has spurred more than 100 cases — of which many can be linked to a flare-up in Anaheim, California’s Disneyland theme park, according to Reuters — is causing concern among experts and health care providers claiming the anti-vaccination movement is at least in part to blame.
Please do us all a favor, including yourself, get vaccinated, get your children vaccinated and encourage everyone else to do the same. The anti vaccination movement is wrong. Believing their misinformation and acting upon it, could be fatal, not just for you, but everyone else around you.