In early 2000 doctors predicted that they had all but seen the end of measles. MMR vaccinations had become safer, more children were being vaccinated and diseases like the measles were a thing of the past. Just fourteen years later things have changed. Now with outbreaks in New York and California some are left wondering what exactly happened. Researchers and doctors know though, it is a movement some in the community are referring to as the vaccination truthers. Individuals like Jenny McCarthy and Kristen Cavallari who believe despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary that vaccinations are linked to autism.
A study that came out in 1998 tried to link autism to vaccinations and it received traction for a while until ten of the twelve authors recanted and the journal pulled the story. Now the scientific community as a whole has come out with definitive proof that vaccinations are not linked to autism and yet people like McCarthy and Cavallari will stand upon their soap box spouting off that vaccinations are dangerous, hundreds of moms will listen to these actresses rather than listening to the advice of their doctors. These same moms will risk their children’s health based on little more than speculations that vaccines are more dangerous than the actual disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in 20 children who contract the measles will experience serious complications, whereas one or two in every million children who are vaccinated will experience serious complications due to the vaccinations. According to CBS News, however, presenting parents with these facts is not enough; in fact in a recent study, researchers found that showing parents the autism vaccination link has been debunked, despite what Cavallari believes, will actually push them away from vaccinations rather than toward them.
In the study conducted out of Dartmouth College and published in the Journal of Pediatrics, researchers found that when people were shown ads used by public health officials to persuade them to vaccinate they were actually having the opposite effect. People who were already on the fence about vaccinations saw the ads and were then convinced not to vaccinate. The ads shown had to do with proof that there was not a link between vaccinations and autism, as well as an ad depicting a child who contracted measles because he had not been vaccinated.
How do public officials counter misinformation offered up by Cavallari, McCarthy and other vaccination truthers when it comes to a link between vaccinations and autism? Well according to head researcher Brendan Nyhan, debunking the myth of the autism link was successful; however in the process, the information is essentially giving parents new things to worry about when it comes to vaccinations. According to the CDC, 80 percent of measles cases in 2013 were due to not vaccinating, and 80 percent of people who choose not to vaccinate cite philosophical reasons. What do the experts think of Cavallari’s speaking out against vaccinations? Dr. Kenneth Alexander of the University of Chicago chastised the former reality star saying that she was dangerous; her words could result in under-immunization, which would lead to an increase in morbidity and mortality rates in children due to vaccine preventable diseases.
Opinion By Rachel Woodruff
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