In 2008, actress/model Jenny McCarthy appeared on Larry King Live and argued that vaccines can cause autism. Since then, she and a couple of now discredited doctors have spread false stories and written books, giving rise to a growing anti-vax movement. We now have parents getting misinformation that can severely damage the lives and well-being of their own children (and others). Like a religion, this belief is held so strongly that they will not relent, even with the bulk of evidence disproving their ideas. This should be alarming to each and every one of us.
When I was an anthropology student in university, I learned about Thomas Malthus’ population resource curve. The basic idea is that as earth’s human population continues to grow, it will eventually meet and then surpass the carrying capacity of our food production capabilities. Some have postulated that if our species is to avoid this, a mass death event (or events) must occur. But we may not reach it at all. Evolutionary processes may very possibly have safeguards in place for this. For example, people who cannot, or choose not to procreate may be a small adaptation working toward this end. In addition, many technological advances allow us to survive longer while developing further the ability to feed a growing population – and one of these advances that allow us to live longer is vaccines.
Since learning about Malthus’ ideas, I have been very interested in what this sort of mass death event could possibly look like. Could we be seeing it with cancer? Or maybe it will come as a result of humanity’s most terrifying capabilities, perhaps in the form of nuclear war? I personally believe that if our population is affected in this way, it will happen in incremental steps – small events and occurrences that work toward some form of population stabilization. But never in my wildest dreams did I think that one of these small occurrences would be stupidity. Make no mistake, that’s just what the anti-vax movement is: stupidity.
For generations, people suffered and died from a plethora terrifying diseases. Many of them never made it past childhood. Then medical science advanced to the point where vaccines were developed – life-saving vaccines that would put a virtual end to so many of the illnesses that were ravaging the bodies of our young. No more would we have to fall victim to the horrifying consequences of these now-preventable diseases. Not only are current vaccines safe, and not only is there no credible evidence linking them to autism, but scientists continue to improve upon them to make them even better. When was the last time you saw somebody contract polio in North America, or a 3-year-old die of measles in a vaccinated community? When enough of the population is vaccinated, lives are saved.
If you are a parent who isn’t sure about vaccination, please do some research. There are people among us who cannot be vaccinated due to a biological intolerance to the vaccines themselves. Herd immunity is vitally important to their safety and well-being. We live in an age where credible evidence-based information is easily available. Granted, you have to know how to sift out the garbage from your Google search, but the information is there if you want to find it. My point is please, please, please … if you care about other people … vaccinate your kids!