Sometimes, I wonder about the basic intelligence of my people. Americans can be incredibly short-sighted, blind to both future and past. But that just means that teachers like me need to step up and show people what they may have overlooked—particularly when it is not just one problem, but a pattern.
If you haven’t been keeping up, the measles are back. Never totally gone, this disease—which can in fact be lethal, despite what many think—has roared back to high levels in recent years. Most recently measles made the news at Disneyland, where hundreds were infected. Nor is it the only disease to be making a comeback: pertussis (whooping cough) made a major return a few years ago. Why are these diseases, long held at bay, suddenly returning in full force? Because of the anti-vaccination movement, called the “anti-vaxxers.” These are parents who believe that the vaccinations are more dangerous than the diseases they prevent.
There are many reasons for the anti-vaxxer movement. A few prominent celebrities made headlines by decrying vaccinations. A scientific paper made an unscientific link between the MMR vaccine and autism; its author had to retract it for manipulating his data, but the anti-vaxxers haven’t heard, or simply ignore this. The reasonable fear of toxic chemicals has spilled over to an unreasonable fear of anything with the word chemicals, and people may have forgotten that it’s not the substance but the dosage that does the damage (water is toxic in sufficient quantities, though for a few substances there is no safe dosage at all). And in a world that seems to be spinning out of control, parents may be reassured that they can still at least have a say about what goes into their children’s bodies, even if their decisions are just wrong. Continue reading