By Michael Hiltzik
20 January 2014
(Los Angeles Times) – Aaron Carroll today offers a graphic depiction of the toll of the anti-vaccination movement. (H/t: Kevin Drum.) It comes from a Council on Foreign Relations interactive map of "vaccine-preventable outbreaks" worldwide 2008-2014.
A couple of manifestations stand out. One is the prevalence of measles in Europe -- especially Britain -- and the U.S. Measles is endemic in the underdeveloped world because of the unavailability of the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine.
But in the developed world it's an artifact of the anti-vaccination movement, which has associated the vaccine with autism. That connection, promoted by the discredited British physician Andrew Wakefield and the starlet Jenny McCarthy, has been thoroughly debunked. But its effects live on, as the map shows.
Vaccine panic also plays a role in the shocking incidence in the U.S. of whooping cough, also beatable by a common vaccine. Researchers have pointed to the effect of "non-medical exemptions" from legally required whooping cough immunizations -- those premised on personal beliefs rather than medical reasons -- as a factor in a 2010 outbreak of whooping cough in California.
These manifestations underscore the folly and irresponsibility of giving credence to anti-vaccination fanatics, as Katie Couric did on her network daytime TV show in December. We examined the ethics of that ratings stunt here and here. [more]