Conspiracy whack jobs have always lived among us. I imagine there were even some neanderthals with some interesting theories. After 9/11 you heard them tell us this was a conspiracy by the Bush administration to start a war against Iraq and other equally ridiculous reasons. They made a video that was watched by millions on Youtube as proof that Bush was behind the attacks. They also told us Obama was born in Kenya and is trying to turn the U.S.A. into a socialist Muslim dictatorship. After the moon landing they told us it was filmed on a Hollywood set and we never stepped foot on the real moon. Kennedy was also apparently assassinated by LBJ with the help of the mafia or was it Russian and Cuban agents?
I forget because it is hard to keep up with conspiracy theories. As soon as they are disproved they morph and adapt to escape the truth not unlike diseases that evolve and require new strains of antibiotics to kill. They are immune to facts, logic, or just good old fashioned common sense. They are not interested in the truth, only in evidence that supports their outlandish views. Don’t bother trying to change their minds as this is an exercise in futility. They exist also on the far right and far left extremes of political ideology. Stupidity it seems is a bipartisan issue.
This brings me to the latest measles outbreak. Unlike their crazy ideas about Obama or the moon landing, this latest conspiracy theory has real potential to harm people not wearing tin-foil hats. Measles has a 90% infection rate! Infected people can spread measles to others from four days before to four days after the rash appears. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected. In fact it can even float in the air for a few hours which means if someone sneezes in a room and leave and two hours later you enter that room you can contract measles just by breathing the air. Worst of all is the knowledge that is was basically eradicated decades ago and is only seeing a resurgence because of conspiracy nutters who refuse to get their kids immunized.
The Background on Immunization Fears that Have Become a Cult
Meet Jenny McCarthy, perhaps the main person responsible for this cult. Jenny McCarthy’s Vaccination Fear-Mongering and the Cult of False Equivalence “On February 28, 1998, a British physician named Andrew Wakefield published a paper in The Lancet that purported to identify a link between the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and the appearance of autism in children. The results provoked a widespread backlash against vaccines, forcing the medical community to spend years attempting to debunk his false claims. Eventually, it was revealed that Wakefield had fabricated his research as part of a scheme that promised him millions of dollars. Wakefield suffered a dramatic public downfall—his medical license stripped, his paper retracted from publication—but the damage was done. His propaganda had led to decreased immunization rates and an outbreak of measles in London.
One of the most prominent promoters of this falsehood is actress Jenny McCarthy. In 2007, McCarthy debuted her views on the national stage when she appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show to discuss autism, which is growing at alarming rates and continues to baffle medical researchers. McCarthy was convinced that vaccines gave her son autism and seizures. In addition to a gluten-free diet, aromatherapies, B-12 shots and vitamins, she also tried chelation therapy, which is meant to remove toxic substances from the body. Her son, she claimed, was “cured.”
McCarthy’s beliefs—that vaccines and mercury cause autism, that a good diet cures autism and that “diagnosticians and pediatricians have made a career out of telling parents autism is a hopeless condition”—have been roundly dismissed and discredited by doctors and scientists, who insist that her claims are based on no scientific data or research. McCarthy wasn’t deterred. “The University of Google,” she said to Oprah, “is where I got my degree from.” The fact that people choose to put the lives of their children at risk and others because an actress that now advertises E-Cigarettes tells them it might cause autism is very alarming.
Let’s be clear: there is no connection between vaccines and autism or any other illness. But to all the paranoid helicopter parents out there who were already hypercondriacs, they took it as the gospel and tried to spread their beliefs like a religion. It reinforced their unjustified fears. They became true believers and inconvenient evidence like science and data will not change their irrational beliefs. They took it and ran with it while ignoring the fact that the British doctor was lying and did so for money. Always follow the money.
Fast Forward to the Disney Measles Outbreak
The Disneyland measles outbreak — which started earlier this month and has now spread from California to six other states and Mexico. Jenny McCarthy recruited a lot of whack jobs and even a doctor by the name of Wolfson. Every respectable expert totally disagrees with him and his anti-vaccine movement and, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, urges parents to get their kids vaccinated. And Wolfson himself, who has quickly become something of a spokesman for the anti-vaxxers, is in no way an expert on vaccines or infectious diseases. He’s cardiologist who now does holistic medicine.
The scariest part of all is the fact that we can get the measles even if you are vaccinated. “Among the 51 measles cases linked directly to Disneyland, six of the people had received their measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The MMR vaccine is very effective, but it’s not 100 percent preventative. Some people who get the vaccine are still at risk of contracting the disease. Large numbers of vaccinated people act as a firewall that prevent the disease from spreading to those who are vulnerable.
The vaccinated protect the unvaccinated. That’s known as “herd immunity.” But as more people opt not to get vaccinated, or not to get their children vaccinated, the virus has more portals to creep through, more people to infect. And those people sneeze and cough, releasing the virus into the air, and that fuels the spread of the disease.”
The ones most at risk of course are people with compromised immune systems. People with HIV, leukemia, cancer, etc.. Here is a letter from a Mom with a kid with cancer that speaks to the anti-vaccine cultists out there. She actually used a creative license to make her point and her kids don’t have cancer but this young boy does and is at risk in California as we speak.
Dear Mom who decided not to vaccinate her kid against the measles,
I get it. You’re like a mama bear. A mama bear that protects her young against any and all dangers. And no one can say you have to give your kiddo some bullshit shot full of chemicals that might have a few side effects.
I totally agree. We should all protect our children from anything that’s gonna hurt them. So I hope you don’t mind that when I see you walking down the street that I might tackle your kid to the ground and shove a big ole shot in his leg with the MMR vaccine. You know, to protect MY baby bear.
‘Cause here’s the thing, MY kid can’t get the MMR vaccine. That’s right. MY kid has cancer and can’t get it, so when your very healthy kid who can handle getting the measles spreads that shit to my kid who can’t, guess what happens to my kid.
What options does the public have to keep our kids safe?
Some states allow exemptions for certain vaccines. Never mind the fact that all these parents not allowing their kids to get protected have been immunized themselves when they were kids. However, when they choose to exercise their freedoms to be idiots that does not give them the right to be free to cause harm to the rest of the population. Imagine a case where we develop a vaccine for Ebola but Jenny McCarthy and Dr. Wolfman say it too might cause autism and urge people not to get immunized. Measles is far more contagious than Ebola but you also have a better chance to survive once you are infected. If the Ebola vaccine is only 90% effective you are talking tens of thousands of deaths.
These people are like a group of human bombers living amongst us. But unlike human bombers who typically wear something visible that you can at least see and hopefully give you enough advance warning to get out of the bomb radius, these anti-vaccine terrorists are completely invisible and blend in perfectly. You have no way of knowing who is a carrier for a potentially deadly disease like measles. Even polio has started to make a comeback and I am sure many other diseases we though were eradicated will now have a chance to spread.
There is at least hope. Like all cults these people can be de-programmed. Here is the story from one ex true-believer. “I now view the anti-vaccine movement as a sort of cult, where any sort of questioning gets you kicked out, your crunchy card revoked. I was even told I couldn’t call myself a natural mother anymore, because vaccines are too unnatural. That’s fine. I just want to be the best parent I know how to be, and that means always being open to new information and admitting when I’m wrong.
I was terribly wrong about vaccines, and I’m thankful my girls never caught anything. I feel like I’m being more true to myself, now, as well. I’m not blindly following what others say, just because we agree on a few other things. I’m putting my trust in science, and discovering who were really my friends all along.
The anti-vaccine cult outbreak is possibly far more dangerous than the actual measles outbreak. This cult has the potential to revive and allow the spread of far more deadly diseases. Prohibitionist John Finch once said, “Your right to swing your arm leaves off where my right not to have my nose struck begins.” For infectious disease, we could reformulate that to: “Your right to be sick ends where my right to be healthy begins.”
Put simply, no person has the right to threaten the safety of his community. Like drunken drivers, the unvaccinated pose an imminent danger to others. They pose a lethal threat to the most vulnerable: the immunocompromised, such as HIV or cancer patients, and infants who have yet to receive their vaccines. Anti-vaccine parents are turning their children into little walking time bombs. They ought to be charged for endangering their children and others. They need to be isolated and shunned and not allowed to go to public schools. Though jail sounds a bit drastic, it might be the only way to send a strong message about the deadly consequences of failing to vaccinate children. I feel bad for their kids since they are also the first ones who will suffer. They are the unwitting time-bombs who have no choice in the matter because they were unfortunate to have parents with some screws loose in their head.