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Before this cartoon appeared many places, I began hearing from anti-vaccine people. More are sure to follow in the coming days. It's almost laughable for me to have to type this, but let me say up front: I have absolutely no ties to Big Pharma. In general, I find pharmaceutical companies to be morally skeevy, but this does not mean vaccinations are some sort of conspiracy. Nor does it disprove the science supporting vaccination as an essential part of public health.
When all reputable medical organizations -- the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control, etc. –- tell us that that any link between autism and vaccines has been thoroughly refuted, it takes a hefty dose of paranoia to think that you know better. What is fascinating about this issue is that it parallels global warming denial, but with a large lefty contingent. It’s a bit depressing, actually. But if progressives want to continue calling themselves “reality-based,” they have to take on pseudoscience wherever it appears.
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This all started with a fraudulent paper in a prominent medical journal, long since retracted and refuted. It then took on a life of its own, fed by celebrities such as Jenny McCarthy and even Robert Kennedy, Jr. Nowadays it mostly boils down to the idea that Big Pharma is engaged in a huge cover-up in order to sell vaccines. I’m the first to note the many evils of many big corporations, but you cannot simply dismiss an overwhelming scientific consensus that there is no connection between vaccines and autism, based on many subsequent studies. There is a difference between healthy skepticism and anti-intellectual paranoia, and this clearly crosses that line.
This wouldn’t matter so much if it wasn’t vaccines we are talking about here, one of the most important life-saving inventions of all time. Experts in the U.S. say we are already getting small-scale outbreaks because of the anti-vaccine movement, and experts outside the U.S. are getting increasingly worried about the potentially catastrophic consequences if these ideas get entrenched in the developing world. A recent Center for Disease Control study estimates that vaccines given in the U.S. from 1994-2013 will save 732,000 lives.
Here are just a few useful links on the science of vaccination: