Arguing about anything on the internet, even when you have literally centuries of science and tons of evidence on your side, can be a very exasperating experience. Trolling, lunatics, conspiracy theorists and the Dunning-Kruger effect can be expected to overcome any serious discussions, and as a result many people simply avoid them.
The problem is that certain types of lunacy have consequences. Anti-vaccine activism is already exacting a toll in the US and Europe, and it is only a matter of time until it reaches everywhere (it is already active in certain places in poorer countries, but for different reasons, I’ll get back to this).
As a public health professional, I just can’t let it go. If anyone has been reading what I have been posting here, this is a frequent subject to which I come back very often (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here). Not because I want to, but because this particular kind of lunacy/stupidity keeps popping up over and over again.
I haven’t posted much for a period of time, an inevitably more and more stuff about this subject came about, so it’s time to report on it, once again. I hope that by making this posts I am at least giving subsidies to people fighting this irrational movement.
First of all, a HUGE review of studies on vaccinations found NO LINK WHATSOEVER with autism, as reported in a recent article. The article also links to different reports on the consequences of the "epidemic of stupidity" (their words, although I’d stand by that), such as the comeback of previously eradicated diseases in the US.
Second, from the Atlantic, an examination on the underlying forces of the epidemic of stupidity is presented in a very interesting report: The Psychology of Anti-Vaxers: How Story Trumps Science. As its subtitle ("An anecdote from a friend can hold more weight than a recommendation from a doctor.") indicates, unfortunately most people are ill-equipped to understand the underlying science both of immunology and epidemiology that leads health professionals in general and public health ones in particular to trust vaccines so much. Unfortunately, some of those stories might be not just wrong but totally fabricated, as was recently found out in at least one case brought to a court in the UK, as reported by PZ Myers: Your child should not be your proxy victim. In a nutshell, "A leading British “mother warrior” campaigner, who claimed that the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is responsible for autism, fabricated accounts of injury to her son and persistently lied about his health, a London court has ruled." Although such cases rarely get to court, unfortunately I’m led to believe that such craziness is more widespread than one would think.
Finally, Western politics has also lent a hand to other types of lunacy. Following the utilization of vaccines as a false pretense in the hunt for Bin Lade, vaccinating in Pakistan became a lethal risk for health care personnel: Taliban In Pakistan Derail World Polio Eradication.
Vaccines are a triumph of medical science, please do not waste the achievements of many generations because some ill-informed, crazy person, possibly with monetary incentives to spread this kind of stupidity, as was the case of Wakefield, told you so.