The first good mainstream article on vaccines in a while

I meant to mention this a while ago, but I keep forgetting. Amy Wallace at Wired wrote a fantastic piece on how irrational fears of vaccination are putting us all at risk. The feedback to Ms. Wallace has been enormous, and although tilted towards the positive, the negative feedback from the anti-vaccination crowd is insulting, misogynistic, ad-hominem crap.

I’m a scientist and engineer, but I’m not a medical doctor. Back in 2004, when Robert Kennedy Jr. published his anti-vaccine piece in Salon/Rolling Stone, I worried that there was something to his claims. I asked around. I’m lucky enough to work with some of the world’s top pediatricians, and to be married to a fantastic doctor and geneticist, so I had plenty of expert resources to turn to who set me straight. Not everyone has access to that level of expertise, which is why it is so morally reprehensible for those like Robert Kennedy Jr., Jenny McCarthy, and other know-nothings to be falsely leading those who have no one to set them straight.

And that’s why Ms. Wallace’s article is so crucial. It lays out, in plain English, exactly why vaccination is so important, and exactly how the anti-vaccination movement has shifted its story every time scientific evidence made their claims just too darn difficult to stand by.

Don’t have time to read that great article? Here’s the one fact you need to know: the anti-vaccination crowd kept harping on thimerosal, a vaccine preservative, as the culprit, claiming it was causing autism. Except, in 2001, thimerosal was removed from all childhood vaccines, and autism rates kept going up unchanged. That’s when the anti-vaccination movement changed its tune to “too many too soon”, and to the insane claim that vaccines contain anti-freeze (which would be true only if “ethyl” and “methyl” were the same chemical prefixes, sucks to be precise.)

Also, if you are a scientist, even if you aren’t a medical scientist, take the time to educate yourself briefly on the risks of the diseases we’re talking about, on the failure rates of vaccines, and on the multitude of studies that have shown no statistical link between vaccines and diseases like autism. It doesn’t take an MD or a PhD to figure it out. We need rational thought. Speak out. Don’t let irrational thinking flourish. Defend science, defend rational thinking, you’re not a Big Pharma shill just because you think vaccines are a good thing.

Read Amy Wallace’s article, and follow her on Twitter. She could be the breakthrough voice in this fight for rational thinking in public health.