Don’t be ignorant: why there’s no debate on vaccination

Dr. Shruti K. Gohil, associate medical director for epidemiology and infection prevention at UCI Medical Center, holds a dose of MMR, the vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella. (Ana Venegas • Orange County Register/TNS)

Debates around medical issues should always be sensitive to the individual beliefs and preferences of the parties involved and approached with the knowledge that it’s ok to have differing opinions. That being said, you’re being an idiot if you don’t get your child vaccinated.

That’s the most accurate and tactful way to put it. You’re not only endangering your own child’s health, you’re endangering the life of everyone else’s. What’s worse is that you’re doing so based on flawed information.

This isn’t about big government telling you what to do. This isn’t about what Celebrity X says her Hoboken witch doctor told them to do. This isn’t even a conversation. This is about you not being responsible for the preventable deaths of kids.

The amazing thing about the politics surrounding scientific issues is that there’s usually a right and wrong answer.

As Neil deGrasse Tyson often says, “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”

What exactly is “true” in this case is black and white. There is no informed debate. One side is hands-down right. Whether so-called “anti-vaxxers,” who baselessly believe that vaccinating their children could lead to autism, accept it or not, there is no link between the two. And it’s not for lack of looking.

Study after study has found no link between autism and vaccinations. Indeed, a comprehensive review of more than 14.7 million children in 2012 confirmed that.

So where did the vaccination myth come from? A single 1998 study that has since been retracted.

“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Furthermore, the total sample size in that study was 12 children, 10 of the 12 original authors have come out against the study, and the leader of the study has lost his medical license. There is no debate. The study was flat-out wrong.

But, somehow science has become a partisan issue, as if it’s a belief system to be accepted or rejected depending on your political preference. People on the right reject the scientific consensus that climate change has been influenced by humans. People on the left reject the vast majority of research that says genetically modified organisms (GMOs) won’t harm your health.

For example, likely Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul said Monday, “I’ve heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children, who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines.”

When asked to cite the cases to which he was referring, his office was unable to give an example. This kind of non-fact-based anecdotal policy making literally has the potential to kill on a mass scale and is another example of the echo chamber that science-denying politicians get stuck in, brushing off facts to fit ideology on a good day and their voting block on a bad day.

Paul took it even a step further saying that making vaccines optional was “about resorting to freedom.” Even by his own pseudo-libertarian ideology — that the government should only make law that ensures the protection of liberty — his proposal doesn’t hold up.

Vaccination is about protecting life. A person’s decision not to get vaccinated puts everyone in danger and is a direct threat to people’s liberty not to be afflicted by life-threatening diseases. After all, what liberty is there without the unalienable right to life.

This shouldn’t be a problem in the 21st century. In fact, in 2000, the Centers for

Disease Control and Prevention declared measles eliminated in the U.S. Fifteen years later, it’s making headlines again for the wrong reason, because the wrong people got wrong information.

We need to be better than this and set the record straight once and for all.

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