Vaccine denial is nonsense, unfounded


The Appalachian Online

Kevin Griffin

Now that the insanity that is the “vaccination debate” has resurfaced, it is necessary once more to speak out about the rampant misinformation.

With the resurgence of measles, the controversy over the effects of vaccines have arisen once again. Politicians such as Sen. Rand Paul and New Jersey’s Chris Christie have both made statements arguing for personal choice in childhood vaccination, with both echoing myths about the supposed health risks associated with vaccines, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Perhaps the most prominent false claim about vaccines is that they are linked to or cause autism. This myth goes back to a 1998 study published in The Lancet, a British medical journal. The article was retracted in 2010 by The Lancet when the research was shown to have numerous problems, including conflict of interest, inability of other researchers to replicate findings and most of the paper’s co-authors withdrew their support for it, according to NPR.

Still, many people have continued to believe the link exists, and this has real implications for public health.

These types of issues often bring out the worst tendencies in our society and media. Scientific topics such as vaccination and climate change with vast amounts of corroborating scientific evidence are met with unnecessary debate. This is largely because these issues have important ideological implications. The idea that climate change is occurring and is anthropogenic suggests a policy based on collective efforts and regulation, both of which go against the case of traditional conservative ideology.

Vaccines are a bit more complex. On an individual, it probably has a lot to do with the need of parents to explain the troubling circumstance of having a child with autism. Being able to point to vaccines can give some sense of order to what can often be frustrating, inexplicable situation.

On the macro-level, the primary culprits are the general strain of conspiracy theories that runs through so much of our modern conservative ideology and these warped ideas of freedom.

Yes, individuals should have great personal freedom to make choices for themselves, but mandating a safe medical procedure for the health of the public at large is an acceptable use of government power.

Fairly soon the current controversy over vaccines will blow over, even as many people continue to believe the myths about vaccines. The inappropriately ideological discourse around areas of science will continue, however, and that is a trend we should all be concerned about.

Anyone who has power or influence should make a habit of calling out these ridiculous, unscientific panics whenever they arise.

Griffin, a junior journalism major from Madison, is an opinion writer.

STORY: Kevin Griffin, Opinion Writer