Measles Builds Character?

Anti-VaccinationThe measles epidemic is exposing a strange situation. At least it seems strange to me. As a scientist, I am repelled by the uninformed attitudes toward science that characterize many on the far right. They tend to believe crazy things and disbelieve well-authenticated facts. So I assumed that this completely unnecessary health threat, largely attributable to parents refusing to vaccinate their children, must be another egregious example of conservative stupidity.

Boy, was I wrong! It turns out I had this entirely backwards. The leading group of anti-vaccinators turns out to be liberal, well-educated, and well-to-do. This is driving the medical establishment nuts. Here is a disease that we know how to control and had almost entirely eradicated, but so-called thinking people are endangering everyone by their ill-informed decisions.

This all started with a paper by British biochemist Paul Shattock who made a wild extrapolation from a handful of observations related to autism. The paper has since been withdrawn and even the author now says that all he wanted was to stimulate further research to see if a link was real. The hypothesized link between increased use of vaccination and prevalence of autism has no scientific basis at all. The logic of this link could as easily associated the rise of the internet with autism.

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