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OpEd: The rich prove there’s no vaccination for Stupid

The anti-vaccine movement has found a home among the affluent. It's just another way the One Percent pose a hazard to society's health.
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Gord Woodward, August 15, 2013 9:24:49 AM

Remember the measles? Mumps? Polio?

Like Danny Bonaduce, these deadly and debilitating infectious diseases are distant memories from our childhood (though in the case of The Partridge Family cast member, still inducing queasiness).

For that we owe thanks to vaccinations, which have all but eradicated these health scourges. In fact, experts say vaccine ranks right up there with clean water and sewage treatment as one of the best public health measures in our history.

So why is it that the affluent seem to be allergic to injections? The L.A. Times reports that wealthy areas of California are the front lines for the vaccine resistance movement. In some private schools, for example, as few as 20 percent of the kids are vaccinated (about the same number whose families have their own reality shows). That’s ample evidence that some people really do have more money than brains.

The unofficial leader of the group is the wealthy Jenny McCarthy, who is probably most famous for being a Playboy playmate (a phrase which doesn’t exactly translate to “scholar of science”). She blames vaccinations for her child’s autism, a claim that has prompted worried dads to review every inch of her centerfold as part of their own health research.

Her theory about tragic side effects has been thoroughly debunked by medical studies, but she and her followers aren’t the types to let a little science get in the way of a good story (a tactic they learned from Lance Armstrong). Among the high-profile followers: those kings of credibility Charlie Sheen and Jim Carrey, two guys who have proven resistant to an antidote for Crazy.

Given the notoriety of the anti-vaccine brigade’s generals, you’d think this movement would be dismissed as quickly as last week’s episode of Big Brother. (You want to talk about side effects? Watch that show regularly and your eyeballs can contract an STD).

But in a sad example of how we blindly imitate the rich and infamous, a surprising number of people have taken up the cause.

Even we Canucks aren’t immune. The Canadian Paediatric Society felt compelled to advise doctors how to work with “vaccine-hesitant parents” (as opposed to the rest of us who are simply parents, hesitantly). And some schools had to suspend kids because their families wouldn’t have them vaccinated.

Now, to be fair, some on the Anti side realize that the “It Causes Autism” line is another one of those “urban legends” (a term meaning “misinformation that even a gullible five-year-old laughs at”). Their opposition comes from the belief that vaccination is unnecessary since the illnesses for which kids get shots are pretty rare.

That’s the kind of “logic” we expect in the heat of the moment (like that other hallmark of sound thinking, “There’s nothing to worry about. I’ll pull out”). But it doesn’t hold up when we actually use our big heads.

The celebrities of the anti-vaccine movement have seen (and probably been in) too many B sci-fi movies if they believe there is such as thing as medicine without risk. Sure, Matt Damon’s Elysium has Med Beds that heal all ailments with a harmless scan, but the movie itself causes a few negative side effects. Namely, boredom and a feeling of having wasted money.

Vaccinating our kids is good for their health, and for that of society as a whole. Its benefits – eliminating polio, measles, etc. — far outweigh the potential drawbacks.

Now if only there was a shot that would make Danny Bonaduce fade from memory too.

Image credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images


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