Anyone who knows me for any length of time knows that I am irretrievably opposed to capital punishment. Nonetheless, some people just deserve to be taken out and shot: the doctor who published the study linking autism and the mumps, measles and rubella vaccine has been reported to have falsified data to get the results.

I am the mother of a high functioning autistic teenager. Although my son is now doing quite well, it has been a long, hard slog to get to where we are. I understand the frustration and the desire to find an answer — any answer — to “why did this happen?”

The MMR study was pernicious. Aside from creating unnecessary guilt in parents and unwarranted anger towards the pharmaceutical industry, its claims led thousands of parents to refuse to have their children vaccinated, on the grounds that they were risking a disease which was presented as almost worse than death.*

There is a reason vaccines were developed against these diseases. To dismiss them as “childhood diseases” ignores the fact that they can kill. When they strike adults, they can cause sterility, or in pregnant women, birth defects. (One of the questions I plan to ask my sons’ fiancees when they get engaged is “Have you been vaccinated against rubella? If not, why the hell not?”) And it’s not just the MMR — there are parents who refuse to allow their children to have any vaccines.* I have heard some argument about the chickenpox vaccine, and am less dogmatic about that one, but the MMR? And the Diptheria Pertussis Tetanus vaccine? Every child should have those.

Fortunately, we eradicated smallpox — and polio in the Western world, although it still occurs in Africa and parts of Asia — before the anti-vaccination hysteria took hold.

There are people who cannot be vaccinated due to honest to God allergic reactions to the vaccine or the ingredients they are made from. But when most people have been vaccinated (i.e., above 95%), the society as a whole becomes immune, protecting even those few individuals who cannot be immunized otherwise.

Vaccination is not merely to protect the individual, it is a civic responsibility; to shirk it is not just poor parenting, it is a failure of proper citizenship.

*And do not get me started on the people who claim that they can “cure” autism, like Jenny McCarthy. Just don’t.

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