I was dismayed to read the fear mongering anti-vaccination opinion piece by Ashley Gregoire published in the Homer News recently. She asserts that there was a major Centers for Disease Control “coverup” that recently came out, but she was terribly short on facts. The “coverup” was instead a disagreement on statistical data analysis reporting from one team member on a paper that was published 10 years ago.
It hasn’t been 11 years of data that have been covered up, as Mrs. Gregoire suggests. She doesn’t remind us that the original paper in 1998 that started the crazy anti-vaccination fear mongering was itself a complete fraud and was retracted in 2010 with evidence of data manipulation and ethics violations. We are led down the path of conspiracy despite the huge body of medical evidence to the contrary — how diseases infect bodies, how they spread and how they kill. Most importantly how they can be stopped or slowed. How an estimated 3 million children’s lives are saved by vaccines every year.
Numerous large epidemiological studies have looked closely for links between autism and vaccines. No links have been found. This article: http://cid.oxfordjournals.org/content/48/4/456.full provides a good overview of 20 such studies.
Each one of us is a member of a community. Despite our desires to be individuals who can do whatever we want, we are a social creature and we don’t exist in vacuums. Your choices can affect my life and the lives of those around you. As one pediatrician said, “Refusing to vaccinate a child is dangerous not just for that child but for entire communities.”
Herd immunity is not a scare tactic made up by conspirators to devalue your individual freedoms. That is paranoia. Herd immunity works on a population-level biological basis and is fairly straightforward in its effectiveness — we have seen our collective immunity decrease as fear mongering like what we read from Mrs. Gregoire plays with the emotions of parents.
And in places where parents are electing to not vaccinate their kids, we all should be concerned as it increasingly threatens the collective immunity of our community. Recent years have seen frightening increases in outbreaks of preventable diseases in the U.S. — things like measles and whooping cough. Studies have shown that states that easily allow for vaccine exemptions in schools have up to 90 percent higher rates of whooping cough in children.
Before you decide who to believe, please take the time to read and understand the biology of vaccinations and disease outbreaks. Educate yourself on the basics of epidemiology and ask questions. Be critical, but please don’t let paranoid conspiracy theories, short on fact and heavy in rhetoric, take over.
Parent and member of the Homer community