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article imageOp-Ed: For vaccination, social media now makes the call

By Bill K. Anderson     Feb 6, 2015 in Health
Through social media, popular media are holding control of health decisions, despite the information that the president and CDC try to provide.
Fifteen years after coming to the end of dignifucant cases of measles, the U.S. authorities are worried about the possibility of a major epidemic. The last major source of contamination was Disneyland in Southern California, where many children were infected this year. As noted in the New York Times, it is no coincidence that California is the center of the resurgence of this disease. The "antivaxxers" are powerful in areas where the standard of living is higher.
What types of events link two seemingly irrelevant different issues? What kind of evidence could be used to link the start of a presidential campaign and the start of a measles breakout, a virus that has been abolished from North America since 2000? Apparently, the answer is political rivalries and a strong lack of trust. With the virus gone, however, we’re left with wondering where it came from, as we can only look abroad. According to the Center for Disease Control, the number of infections has reached its highest level since that time in 2014, with 644 cases. In 2015, 102 people infected have already been identified.
It was pointed out this weekend by the CDC CEO that "Recent years have found that a number of people, minority but more and more numerous, are not vaccinated. Are especially affected young adults, and that makes us vulnerable," despite CDC reiteration that the only way to fight against measles, a highly contagious disease that can be fatal in young children, is the vaccine.
But the state can’t control what happens to children under the view of responsible adults, or at least parents who are taking care and show the capacity for care. Truly though, these parents are a minority, but it is very well organized and somewhat militant. And those who talk the loudest are often those who are most heard, especially when dealing with politicians.
According to the CDC, the vaccination rate is currently 92 percent in the whole country. But 19 states, including California, Vermont and New Mexico, offer "philosophical exemptions" that allow parents to refuse to have their children vaccinated. Tom Frieden sees these cases as a minotirty and calls these parents "anti-vaxxers." The anti-vaccine activists believe the vaccines are more harmful to their children because of the presence of toxins. They also make a direct link between too many vaccinations and autism, a scientifically refuted link many have clung to for some time. In 2011, the historian of science Norton Wise estimated that 20 to 25 percent of Americans share the belief that vaccination would be responsible for autism.
The New Jersey Senator and one of the leading Republican nominees, Chris Christie, recently said that "all vaccines are not equal, as all diseases do not pose the same risk to public health" and that "Parents must have a margin of decision" regarding vaccination of their children. In 2009, Mr. Christie gave pledges to the anti-vaccine activists by refusing to rule out a link between vaccines and autism. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, a Republican, debates for the independence for parents and holds that the state can’t make this decision for the children. This isn’t unexpected though, as Paul, an ophthalmologist, was in medical school and all children were vaccinated.
With an unprecedented number of measles cases in 15 years and a public debate that starts to skid, President Obama himself spoke this weekend to get the very simple message of “vaccinate your children.” But even Obama, during elections, allowed himself to ease into this debate. In 2008, while still a Democratic candidate for the White House, he did not take as clear a position as he now supports. "The rate of autism has exploded. Some people suspect that this is related to vaccines. Scientific studies are inconclusive, we must continue the search."
Scientific studies were not "inconclusive" in 2008, on the contrary. In 2004, a study commissioned by the government categorically rejected "a causal link between MMR [measles, mumps and rubella] and autism." A new study, published in 2013, drove the point home, "The immune system of an infant is able to meet a large number of immunological stimuli and from birth, babies are exposed to hundreds of viruses and antigens that are not associated with vaccines. Our study demonstrates that autism spectrum disorders are not associated with immunological stimulation caused by vaccines in the first two years of life."
In Hollywood, we find some of the most vocal anti-vaccine activists. Jenny McCarthy, created a non-governmental organization to defend the case, Jim Carrey, Robert Rodriguez, singer Billy Corgan and Donald Trump all fit in this niche.
Former reality TV star Kristin Cavallari also justifies parents’ right not to vaccinate their children, in books and social networks. It may seem ridiculous, but with its millions of followers on Twitter and Instagram, there’s a danger that vague claims by Cavallari have more hold than studies by the CDC.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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