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THOMPSON: Anti-Vaxxers one of the top ten health threats worldwide

March 18, 2019 - 12:00 PM

 


OPINION


What happens when you accept misinformation on the Internet as your source of truth…as the arbiter of fact…and disregard overwhelming scientific evidence? Well, we’re living that reality right now…here in Canada…in the United States…almost everywhere. The results are - without doubt - bad decisions.

Just over 20 years ago, a now disgraced doctor - Andrew Wakefield - purported in a now discredited study that vaccinations caused autism. Despite several real scientific studies by reputable universities and medical experts worldwide…Wakefield’s propaganda and conspiracy theory live on.

Anti-vaccination supporters - or Anti-Vaxxers - have been around as long as vaccines. A century ago, hundreds of Canadians protested against smallpox vaccinations in Toronto…even though there were 2,864 reported cases at the time. Despite the fact that more than 300 million people worldwide died from smallpox in the 20th century…too many believed the vaccine posed a greater danger.

Those in Toronto who protested 100 years ago cited freedom, government conspiracies, pseudoscience and parental anxiety as reasons to avoid vaccines. Nothing’s changed…today Anti-Vaxxers cite all the same arguments…adding Big Pharma to their conspiratorial reasons.

You don’t need the Internet to spread ignorance and misinformation…word of mouth did the job just fine a century ago. But you really accelerate the process…and even worse…you gain allies…other equally ignorant people who make you feel better about your bad choices and decisions. Society and individuals are best served on this and other topics when we eschew blogs, anecdotes and so-called news feeds on Facebook in favour of facts and news from reputable sources.

In 2011, the Institute of Medicine - a nonprofit affiliated with the National Academies of Science - studied eight vaccines and found all safe for children and adults. In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta determined specifically that vaccines do not cause ASD…autism spectrum disorder. More than a dozen other studies from the most esteemed medical sources worldwide have concluded the same findings.

In the old days, Anti-Vaxxers contended that animal extracts used as an adjuvant or enhancing agent in vaccines were dangerous. Today’s Anti-Vaxxers say thimerosal - a mercury-based preservative that now serves as an adjuvant in vaccines - is dangerous, as well. They were wrong then, and they are wrong now.

The MMR vaccine - measles, mumps and rubella - is perfectly safe for children. Even minor reactions to injections are rare. You’re more likely to be struck by lightning. Don’t allow your children to be vaccinated and they are much more likely to not only suffer the disease…they are likely to spread it to others.

How ridiculous have today’s Anti-Vaxxers become when it comes to caring about their kids or others? So much so that the World Health Organization declared Anti-vaxxers one of the top ten health threats worldwide. Anti-Vaxxers. Yes, people who accept false facts and far-fetched conspiracies they found by Google-searching the Internet, are on par with cancer, heart disease, diabetes and air pollution.

Even so, there are some not-so-smart people who have celebrity platforms beating the Anti-Vaxxer drum…Americans and Canadians. Here are just a few do-it-yourself experts incautiously swimming upstream against the current of reputable science and medicine: Jim Carrey, Alicia Silverstone, Charlie Sheen, Jenny McCarthy, Kat Von D, Alex Jones, and, of course, the most illiterate president of the United States ever…Donald Trump. Sadly, a lot of people - like sheep - can be herded easily…especially when the sheepherders are famous.

Fortunately, there are more Anti-Anti-Vaxxers - like me - than Anti-Vaxxers…just as it was 100 years ago. Even so, the number of children aged 19 months to 35 months in America who don’t get vaccinations has quadrupled since 2001. We’re not doing much better in Canada, where the number of unvaccinated children has increased by 30 percent since 2005.

The last week in April is World Immunization Week, which promotes the use of vaccines for adults and children. Countless millions of people are alive today because people used fact…real science…rather than unsubstantiated anecdotes on the Internet to guide them in matters of health. Get the immunizations you’re due if you’re an adult…take your children if you’re a parent. There are 20 million unvaccinated or under-vaccinated children worldwide…some of them here in the Okanagan Valley. Most of those children are in war-torn and poverty stricken nations…Canada is not either one.

As I said, the absurd arguments of Anti-Vaxxers hasn’t changed in 100 years. Neither has science changed its conclusions about the wisdom of vaccines. What has changed is that no one is dying from smallpox today. We should be able to say that about measles, mumps and rubella.

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines. His essays are a blend of news reporting and opinion.


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