The Tragedy of the Anti-Vaccination Movement

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Posted on January 28th, 2014

This interactive vaccine-preventable disease outbreak map created by the Council on Foreign Relations has gone viral, showing the impact this topic has on the entire world. The Los Angeles Times recently referred to the graphic as a visual representation of “The toll of the anti-vaccination movement, in one devastating graphic.”

This map (screenshot below) shows the different vaccine-preventable outbreaks that have occurred around the world since 2008 by using different colored dots for each disease.

Screenshot 2014-01-24 09.52.10

Some outbreaks are less surprising than others. Sadly, it is expected that, in underdeveloped countries, where vaccines are much more difficult to get, there are more vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks. That said, the number of red and brown colored dots (red for measles and brown for mumps) in the United States and Europe (largely Great Britain) is startling since these are developed areas where vaccines are much more accessible.

In countries like the US and Great Britain, it is clear that these outbreaks are not a result of access to vaccines, but likely a result of the anti-vaccine movement; more directly, the completely false claim that the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine causes autism. This claim is not new and has shown to be untrue over and over again, year after year, but the fear the claim put into parents’ minds persists.

While there are side effects to vaccines, largely limited to redness, pain, and sometimes a fever, autism is not one of them and never has been. Study after study, with millions of children, has shown absolutely no correlation between vaccines and autism.

Aaron Carroll, MD, MS, a pediatrician and health services researcher at Indiana University School of Medicine, explains why it is so difficult to dispel this myth:

Humans try to make sense of the world by seeing patterns. When they see a disease or condition that tends to appear around the time a child is a year or so old, as autism does, and that is also the age that kids get particular shots, they want to put those things together. Parents watch kids more carefully after they get their shots; sometimes they pick up on symptoms then. But, just because two things happen at the same time doesn’t mean that one thing caused the other.

Dr. Carroll provides an incredibly thorough and clear history of the incorrect MMR-autism link that came from what we now know was a totally falsified study that was later removed from the Lancet Journal, one of the world’s premiere medical journals, and whose lead author’s medical license was revoked for dishonesty and irresponsibility. Dr. Carroll explains this disgrace to science:

This was not a randomized, controlled trial, nor even a scientific study; it was merely a description of a small group of children. To be honest, it’s difficult to imagine that this study could get published in the Lancet today. But, based on the beliefs of the parents of those eight children, a frenzy of fear about vaccines and autism has ensued for more than a decade.

Here at VaxMaineKids, we understand that your child is your most precious possession—you want to do what’s best for them and always keep them healthy. Autism can be scary, and it is natural to be wary of something that someone says could cause it. But since vaccines don’t, you could be putting your child’s health at risk if you buy into the myth that they do.

What will it take for this myth to be squashed once and for all? Graphics like these can show the potential effects of myths like this one on the numbers of life-threatening disease outbreaks worldwide.

We encourage you to check out and share Aaron Carroll’s video—it’s well worth the eight minutes.

And, take a look at this and let us know what you think.

We also recommend you visit our vaccination safety page at www.vaxmainekids.org/vaccination-safety to learn more.

 

Sources:

http://www.cfr.org/interactives/GH_Vaccine_Map/#map

http://theincidentaleconomist.com/wordpress/healthcare-triage-vaccines-and-autism/ (Dr. Carroll offers his own references here, too)

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