The anti-vaccination movement is doing more harm than perhaps its leaders intend. Since its leaders clearly are set on pitting their knowledge against that of the medical community, perhaps they should adopt the Hippocratic Oath, just as physicians do — the one that says, “First, do no harm.”
When TV personality Jenny McCarthy and other anti-vaccine leaders cite anecdotal “evidence” or outdated and discredited studies, or simply misapply research findings, they appear, by making the most noise, to be on an equal footing with actual medical experts, which simply is untrue.
Of course, the media bear some responsibility for this, especially 24-hour television news, which rewards the loudest voices in the room with disproportionate air time. But this issue, unlike other debates that are made to appear equally balanced between pro and con, carries deadly consequences.
Childhood diseases once thought to have been eradicated in the United States are clawing back. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites recent outbreaks of measles in New York, California and Texas. Whooping cough, especially fatal for young children, also is making a comeback. The culprits appear to be people who opted out of required childhood vaccinations, who then came into contact with infected people traveling into the U.S. and spread it further within their communities.
The number of cases nationally is expected to triple this year from fewer than 200 five years ago, USA Today has reported. When you consider that measles kills 1 in every 1,000 cases and is one of the most contagious viruses known, there is ample cause for alarm.
Death is not the only threat, either: Since February, doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center have diagnosed seven infants with a bleeding disorder resulting from parents’ refusal to allow their newborns to get vitamin K injections.
Those refusing to get shots unfortunately have the law on their side.
In Tennessee and 47 other states, anti-vaccination groups have managed to bring about opt-out laws from what were formerly mandatory school vaccinations. The state Health Department says that currently, about 2 percent of Tennessee children do not receive shots for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR); whooping cough; and other diseases.
Last week, Tennessee officials reported this state’s first documented case of measles in three years.
For those who simply view vaccinations as a government plot, we have no sympathy at all. As parents and guardians, they owe it to their children not to put them or other children at risk on the basis of fallacious rumor.
-The Tennessean, Nashville