"The Damage of the Anti-vaccination Movement," my LA Times piece

February 05, 2010  ·  Michael Fumento  ·  Weblog

The Doctor who launched the modern anti-vaccine movement acted "dishonestly and irresponsibly," Britain's General Medical Council has ruled. But fear not. Dr. Andrew Wakefield is still a hero to his many acolytes. And others, with curious credentials, fight on to terrify parents into not getting their children inoculated.Jenny McCarthy's expertise is evident.

In 1998 Wakefield wrote and then vociferously hawked an article in the British medical journal Lancet linking autism to the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps and rubella). After the council's decision, Lancet this week retracted the article. Among the facts that have come out of the inquiry of Wakefield's research is that two years before his paper appeared lawyers seeking to sue vaccine-makers paid Wakefield the equivalent of $700,000.

But the damage is done. Anti-vaccination groups have popped up like toadstools after rain (there are more than 180 on the Web), while older ones such as the National Vaccine Information Center were reinvigorated. For the most part, these groups have had only a marginal effect on national vaccination rates, but they have encouraged localized boycotts of immunization. (In one Washington county, a stunning 27% of children had vaccination exemptions in 2006-2007.) The result has been a resurgence of diseases gone so long that some doctors don't even recognize them. And children die because of it.

Read the rest of this fascinating, yet sad piece that has a direct human impact (I interviewed a mother whose daughter needlessly died of pertussis) at the same time it makes the point of what happens when a large segment of society just tosses away science in favor of superstition and conspiracy theories. And when we eschew scientists in favor of celebrity experts like Playboy Playmate Jenny McCarthy, whose expertise is readily apparent in the inset image.