The Lancet has finally completely retracted a paper published by British doctor, Andrew Wakefield, in 1998 that linked the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism. In Britain measles cases increased by 70% in 2008, largely because families stopped vaccinating kids as a direct result of this junk science.
Alarmist anti-vaccination bloggers and visible celebrities like Jenny McCarthy (Curriculum vitae – high school graduate, Playboy playmate, host of MTV’s Singled Out), who have spoken out against vaccination, have caused many parents to question whether immunizing their children was the right thing to do. These fear-mongering groups latched onto this ONE article with conclusions based on shoddy and unethical research methods (recruiting subjects before the study, cherry-picking subjects, paying subjects), while vocally trying to discredit the 20 subsequent studies that refuted Wakefield’s data.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently published statistics indicating that 1 in 110 children in the United States have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (Jenny McCarthy’s website states 1 in 58 children have autism.). While my heart breaks thinking about the hardships that must be endured by parents with an autistic child, it is not a fatal disease.
Contrast that with data from the World Health Organization (WHO), showing that 164,000 people worldwide died from measles in 2008, mostly children under the age of five. Measles vaccination efforts resulted in a 78% drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2008. That means if Ms. McCarthy and the anti-vaccine crusaders had it their way, in that nine year span, an additional 5 million people would have died from a fully preventable disease.
Granted, the incidence of measles in the U.S. is statistically insignificant. Measles deaths occur primarily in third-world countries without a decent healthcare infrastructure. But if all American parents stopped vaccinating their children, measles would most certainly resurge and we would be in no better shape than those economically downtrodden countries. Countries whose citizens would likely give anything for the access to the resources that Ms. McCarthy and others so malign.
© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2010