UPDATE (Mar. 3, 2010): If anyone’s still hanging on the edge of their seat for this one, it’s been more or less resolved. I told the person who was threatening me that I wasn’t going to back down, and they’ve so far left me alone. That was back in November, of course. They had no legal standing on this.
UPDATE (Nov. 16 2009): Currently, the caller from this interview is threatening me with legal action. I’ve modified the post with a few more “seems to be”s to cover my ass. I think I’m fully within my rights to say what I’ve said here, but since I was called by the caller’s lawyer, I’m not taking any chances.
I just got done listening to a recent segment on NPR’s Science Friday (hosted by Ira Flatow) where they discussed the anti-vaccination movement, and even after 20 minutes, I’m still quivering with rage and frustration.
Ira’s guest is Paul Offit, who I’ll just let Wikipedia tell you about:
Paul A. Offit, MD, is a pediatrician specializing in infectious disease medicine, an internationally known expert on vaccines, immunology, and virology, the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology, Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, and the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Dr. Offit has been a member of the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Dr. Offit has published more than 120 papers in medical and scientific journals in the areas of rotavirus-specific immune responses and vaccine safety and is the co-inventor of a rotavirus vaccine recently recommended for universal use in infants by the CDC.
The interview starts with Dr. Offit and Ira discussing the recent outbreaks of measles due to declining vaccination rates, and the reasoning that people who are against vaccinations give for their stance, and why they’re wrong. It’s very interesting (to me at least) and they address many of the common misconceptions, in language that anybody can understand. Or so you’d think.
The first caller is a woman who seems to be an anti-vaccinationist. She starts by asking a couple questions that are, I suppose, pretty fair to ask. But you soon discover that no matter what Dr. Offit says, this woman isn’t going to change her mind. She seems to be one of those unfortunate people who thinks that if they believe something enough, that makes it true.
Personally, I think the whole anti-vaccination movement is a bunch of conspiracy theorists who would probably latch on to UFOs or Bigfoot or something if such topics interested them. But they see Jenny McCarthy on Oprah telling a sad story about how she thinks vaccines made her kid autistic, and their conspiracy-prone minds latch onto it.
Ira does a great job refereeing this conversation between the doctor/professor and the random caller, and even points out the caller’s obvious logical faults, like how she says that no amount of evidence would change her mind on the issue. But this person’s mindset is typical of the anti-vaccination movement at large. They’re true believers: nothing will sway them.
Dr. Offit does a great job combating the woman’s irrationality too. If it were me, I’d be screaming and swearing and insulting her (as I have in this post), but Offit addresses as many of her concerns as he can, far more calmly and politely than she deserves.
I don’t know why I care so much about this issue. I’m a graphic designer, and I don’t even have any kids. But, I guess I care about humanity or something. I see the ignorant having a negative effect on society, and it infuriates me. I want to do something about it, but the best I can do is confront ignorance head-on, and try to help people to see reality, or at least nudge them in the right direction.
Those of you who know me who have kids or will have kids, if you’re thinking about not vaccinating them, you’re going to be hearing from me until you do.
UPDATE: This post has just been added to the web site Autism Street, which looks like a great resource for people concerned about autism and the anti-vaccination movement. Do’C gives me pretty high praise for my little rant here, which is greatly appreciated.