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Sunday, July 5, 2020

Columns

Resistance to vaccinations are baseless


Since Andrew Wakefield’s, now thoroughly discredited, Lancet publication regarding so-called links between the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism was released in 1998, the fervor surrounding mandatory vaccinations has swelled to a fevered pitch.

Indeed, mandatory vaccinations have become a key point in the Republican primaries — specifically between Texas Governor Rick Perry and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MI).

Perry has been criticized by the Right for requiring middle school girls to be vaccinated against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which has been known to cause cervical cancer.

The Texas legislature overturned this order despite a simple opt-out procedure that allowed parents who disagreed with the vaccination on moral grounds to prevent their daughters from being vaccinated.

Bachmann capitalized on the HPV vaccine issue at the Republican debate last month decrying government injections, despite there being no evidence that the HPV vaccine Gardasil has any harmful side effects.

In the wake of the debate, Bachmann claimed she had heard anecdotal evidence from an anonymous woman who said that her daughter had developed mental retardation after administration of the vaccine. It should be pointed out to Bachmann that the plural of anecdote is not “anec-data”.

Bioethicists Dr. Steven Miles and Dr. Arthur Caplan have offered $11,000 to charity if Bachmann can produce this woman, along with any medical records or other evidence demonstrating a link between the Gardasil vaccine and intellectual disabilities. Thus far, she has remained unsurprisingly silent regarding this challenge, but has justified her earlier statements by clarifying that she is not a physician or scientist. Let us hope that in the future she will remember this before giving irresponsible medical advice.

In Europe, Wakefield’s study on the MMR vaccine is still wreaking havoc on children’s health. So far this year, almost 30,000 cases of measles and 8 deaths have been reported.

Immunization rates have nose-dived since Wakefield’s 1998 study. Many parents are now either unaware or unwilling to accept that the study has been deemed fraudulent and there is no medical evidence for any link between the MMR vaccine and autism. As a result, measles rates have skyrocketed, and children have suffered and died.

Wakefield’s article was deemed fraudulent after multiple researchers attempted to duplicate his results and failed. Following several allegations of misconduct, including accusations of abuse of disabled children, Wakefield has been stricken from the medical register in Britain – the equivalent of having one’s medical license revoked in the US. Despite this, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that nearly 40 percent of Americans have declined or delayed vaccinations due to completely unfounded concerns.

However, the resistance to Gardasil is largely based in the fear that less risky sex will cause teen girls to behave promiscuously. The same concerns were leveled against antibiotics effective against syphilis, hormonal birth control, and educating couples as to what acts will result in conception; yet such fears have been consistently unrealized.

I have no doubt that protection against only two cervical cancer causing strains of HPV out of the over 100 strains that result in warts will not make young people forget all about pregnancy, herpes, or HIV.

It is clear that neither the MMR or Gardasil vaccines pose a risk to the health of children. In fact, it is exactly the opposite that is true: vaccines have saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

Skeptic philosopher David Hume once said, “A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.”

It seems today that most prefer to do the opposite and proportion evidence (or the absence thereof) to their beliefs.

When parents refuse to vaccinate their children against infectious diseases like measles, their children’s lives are being put at great risk for no reason other than allegiance to a debunked ideology. Is a child’s life truly worth so little?

Emily Brooks is a senior economics major and may be reached at [email protected]


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