Those who have refused to vaccinate their children because of fears generated by a thoroughly debunked idea of a link between vaccines and autism have not really suffered much negative consequences for putting others, especially infants and elderly people, at risk. The anti-vaxxers are threatening the health of all of us while at the same time benefiting from the fact that the rest of us got vaccinated and thus will not pass it on to them. They are the real moochers. While scientists and the medical profession have expressed strong condemnation of the practice of not vaccinating, the public and the media have not been so outraged and celebrity spokespersons for the anti-vax movement still make the rounds of media.
This may be changing due to the recent outbreak of measles that has been traced to Disneyland.
Disneyland is urging the parents of children who are not vaccinated against measles to stay away from the theme park because of the risk from California’s outbreak of the disease.
Five employees at Disneyland, where the outbreak began, have been diagnosed with measles. The company told other employees who had had contact with them to stay home unless they show evidence of vaccination or take a blood test to demonstrate immunity.
The outbreak has been traced to an unvaccinated young woman who became sick and contagious on 28 December while at Disneyland. Soon afterward, she flew to Washington state before returning to Orange County, which encompasses Disneyland.
Orange County is an anti-vaccination hotspot because some wealthy parents delay or avoid vaccinating their children, fearing side effects or because they think the risk of infection is low. The medical establishment insists vaccines are safe.
What makes this resurgence disturbing is that in 2000 the US had been declared free of measles. Measles is a highly contagious disease. As Dr. William Schaffner, infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt Medical Center, says:
[The virus] can float in the air in an enclosed space. And you leave – you’re the spreader – and then a susceptible person can come in a half hour later, breathe the air that contains the virus and they can get sick. No other virus that we know spreads that readily.
Marc Siegel, associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center, is the resident medical expert at Fox News, which would normally make me expect to see him spout whatever medical nonsense the audience of Fox News believes. But he took a recent appearance to lash out at the anti-vaxxers for not taking the measles vaccine. He said that there is no ‘debate’ about the vaccines because it is the greatest vaccine ever invented that succeeded in stamping out the most contagious disease.
We need much more like this.
If even Fox News is having its own people air views like this, there might be some hope for stamping out this dangerous practice.