In 1998, Andrew Wakefield, a British doctor published a study suggesting that the mumps, measles, rubella vaccine (MMR) was linked to an increase of autism found in children. His work was published in the Lancet, one of the oldest weekly peer-reviewed medical journals in the world.
Despite further study showing his research was incorrect and the disclosure that he was paid to conduct his study by a law board whose clients included families who thought the vaccine had harmed their children, many parents still refuse to have their children vaccinated for many common diseases. This has caused a resurgence of these maladies today.
The Anti-Vax movement has been led by media activists and politicians such as Jenny McCarthy and Kentucky governor, Matt Bevin, who purposely exposed his children to chicken pox rather than have them vaccinated. “Vaccine hesitancy,” refusing to be vaccinated or have your children vaccinated, has been the cause of a number of epidemics of preventable diseases in many parts of the country, including 2019 occurrences in Washington state and New York City (New York is now requiring every person be vaccinated). Many pediatricians will not see patients who have not been vaccinated, either because of professional belief and/or concern for the safety of their other patients.
The question of public safety verses personal choice is an important one. One would think in the 21st century, education would trump fear. Science eliminated many serious childhood diseases only to see them return because of people’s misguided and ignorant choices. Yet, this dichotomy is not without precedent. Gun safety is another issue that pits the rights of individuals to choose verses the greater good.
This isn’t the 13th century. Many deaths can be prevented by vaccines that are much safer and more effective than bloodletting leeches. As a society we have no right to infect others with our ignorance.