As any regular reader here knows – I am not a parent. While I know that typically forces me to recuse myself from any discussion even tangentially related to parenting – “you don’t even have kids” serves as a microphone-dropping debate ender for most discussions between parents and the childless – there are exceptions to the rule, especially when the matter at hand strays far from philosophy and nestles next to science and common sense. Just like you don’t need to be married to correctly estimate that Ike Turner was not a good husband, you don’t need to have procreated yourself to have the ability to point out obvious errors in logic and reasoning among certain parents.
Take a look at a snapshot taken from an actual Google search containing the words “vaccine” and “autism” :
How…the fuck…is that…a discussion? I’m going to go ahead and assume that the major medical groups are right. Imagine an article posted on a popular website titled “Astronomers and Astrophysicists Agree Our Solar System is One of Billions; Lebanese National Handball Team Disagrees – Who’s Right?” You would expect to find that on The Onion, only it’s too logically disparate to even be satire.
But that is exactly the kind of “debate” that anti-vaccination proponents are attempting to engage, with an alarming, frustrating rate of success among parents. The planks of the platform vary slightly between different parenting and pseudo-medical groups, but the common themes are :
- Vaccines, or at least an accumulation of vaccines, will cause autism in children
- As a parent, it should be that person’s right to choose if they will vaccinate their children
Vaccines Cause Autism
There is no, and never has been, any peer-reviewed evidence that vaccines cause autism. None. Ever. Aside from medical research, though, anti-vax parents have anecdotally supported each other’s stance by noting that their child’s autism was diagnosed shortly after receiving vaccines. This logic is akin to suggesting that joining the AARP increases your risk for developing cancer. There is no direct relationship between the two events – the diseases typically manifest at a time in a person’s life that other, unrelated events take place.
Opponents of vaccination will point to a 1998 paper by Andrew Wakefield published in The Lancet claiming to establish such a link, specifically citing the MMR vaccine. The paper has since been retracted, citing “fraud,” and Mr. Wakefield lost his license to practice medicine. By the time the full scope of the fraud was understood, though, the idea had taken root in the minds of many parents thanks to publicity generated from celebrity Jenny McCarthy publicly declaring that vaccinations caused her son to have autism. Soon after , websites, videos, and “experts” appeared to capitalize on the momentum the misinformation had gained, further emboldening the anti-vax parents to believe they were doing the right thing by their children.
Let’s see how it easy it is to recreate a completely false, real-enough-sounding campaign touting a danger that doesn’t exist, shall we?
Since almost all young children traveling in a car are restrained in a car seat, and some of those cars have been involved in tragic fatal accidents – I hereby declare that car seats kill children. I mean, the facts are right there in front of you – child gets strapped to car seat, child dies. What, that’s not enough for you? Fine, here’s a link to a website that confirms my claim.
Proof, right here.
Still not enough? Hmmm. Well, Jenny McCarthy gained her celebrity status from being Playboy’s 1994 Playmate of the Year. You know who was the 1993 Playmate of the Year? Anna Nicole Smith. So, how about this celebrity declaration?
There. I really don’t see how you can even argue this now. Burn your car seats.
Why do parents insist on believing in this connection even when the connection quite obviously doesn’t exist? I think it’s very similar to the reason people love to create conspiracy theories after terrible events occur – because the world can be a very scary place where bad things happen to good people for no good reason, and instead of accepting that frightening reality, we would much rather find a tangible cause we can put the blame on. It gives us a sense of control that we otherwise would not have.
Vaccination Should Be the Parent’s Choice
Unlike choices about how you will educate your children, what religion you will raise them with, or how you will choose to reinforce their positive behavior, the choice to vaccinate should not be yours alone. Your rights as a parent do not trump public safety. Unless you plan on confining your child to the perimeter of your residence for their entire life, that child will eventually physically integrate into a society they can then potentially infect with diseases they were not protected against. You choose whether or not you want to be part of a civil society – and if you choose to be, that comes with certain obligations to not jeopardize the health of others, be it directly or indirectly.
As a medically progressive society we have eliminated many painful and deadly diseases completely, and greatly reduced the occurrence of others. Perhaps the most ridiculous assertion of the anti-vax proponents is the suggestion that pharmaceutical companies are evil and “pushing” vaccines to make more money. But, but, I thought Big Pharma wanted you to be sick, since there’s a lot more money in the treatment than the cure, no?
If you don’t vaccinate your children, you are endangering your child, the children of others, and society as a whole, because you want to hold on to your identity as an enlightened, concerned parent.
If you let your children walk outside without being tethered to the ground, because you assume gravity will hold them to the Earth; if you feed them because you believe their body needs the inherent calories to sustain itself; if you take them to the doctor when they are sick because you believe in modern medicine – then for fuck’s sake please be consistent and vaccinate your children against the harmful diseases they can be safely protected from.