I can tell the measles epidemic has hit the big time: politicians are weighing in on the issue of vaccination.
Rand Paul says that parents should be able to choose, and that he knows many cases of children who have suffered irreversible damage after they were vaccinated. (Even if you accept him at face value, which I don’t given his libertarian base, correlation does not automatically equal causation. For many children the onset of symptoms of autism happen at about the same time as vaccination.) Chris Christie said that parents should have a choice, and then backtracked when hit with backlash from rational parents.
Jack Wolfson, a doctor who opposes vaccination, says getting measles is not that big a deal. He also points out that only a few people have come down with the disease, and nobody has died. He has also said he would have no problem if someone else got measles from his kids and died. Wolfson claims it is the responsibliity of those who cannot be vaccinated to stay out of society, not those who choose not to be vaccinated. He went so far as to call a mother who vaccinated her kids “a bad mother” for “injecting her kids with chemicals.” He asks “Where are all the 80-year-old polio cases? I don’t see many.” Of course not, since polio has been eradicated in all but three countries because of vaccines. (It is worth noting that he is a cardiologist, not an epidemiologist.)
Wolfson is a narcissistic, selfish son of a bitch.
He is also clearly young: too young to remember when polio was a threat every child and parent feared, when measles was a serious disease that could maim, blind and kill, when rubella resulted in severe birth defects, stillbirth, and newborn deaths. He should talk to people older than himself about so-called childhood diseases. I was lucky: my mother got rubella late in pregnancy, not in the first trimester. I was born six weeks early, but without birth defects. She has told me about being too sick to hold me. (I could not get the MMR when it was developed because I was allergic to eggs, with which the vaccine was made. I only recently got the shot to cover me against measles. I got rubella (and chickenpox) when I was a toddler, and I was very, very sick indeed. I have had dental problems all my life, in part caused by the very high fevers I ran when I my teeth were forming.)
Nobody should have come down with measles. The “Disneyland epidemic” should never have happened: in 2000, measles was considered eradicated in the United States.* Then the anti-vaccination craze took hold. And now measles is back.
I can only imagine what people in the rest of the world think about us. Measles kills about one person an hour throughout the world, according to the World Health Organization. It is the leading cause of blindness in children in the developing world. The very fact that there are people in our country who choose not to vaccinate against this potentially life-threatening disease, all the while knowing that (until recently) their child would probably not get the disease is mind-boggling.
It is a first-world problem, and it is an obscenity, a slap in the face to every child (or adult) who died in an area where vaccinations are not carried out.
God help us all: may the particularly American idiocy which places the preferences of the individual over the good of the society be overcome in this case, and “personal choice” or religious exemptions be banned throughout the country.** Otherwise, it is only a matter of time before we see deaths — preventable deaths — among the unvaccinated or immunocompromised.
*I never thought I would feel sorry for Disney, about as monolithic (and litigious) a corporation as you can get, but they didn’t deserve all this bad publicity.
**Mississippi is last in a lot of things, and people make jokes about the state, but it does not allow any exceptions to vaccination requirements other than medical ones, and as a result has the highest MMR vaccination rate in the country.