One of the interesting things about the elevation of science to a secular religion is watching as science begins to mimic the behavior of religion on the eve of the Thirty Years War. In its purest form science is devoted to discovery. Truths are proven. Axioms are tested and retested. Science today has become a hodgepodge of beliefs that have more in common with the methodology of an aboriginal shaman than they do with actual science. Earlier we looked at the behavior of Neil DeGrasse Tyson and his followers. No discussion of this phenomenon would be complete without acknowledging Michael Mann and his fellow travelers.
While this can be amusing, one has to keep in mind that listening with open mouthed credulousness to charlatans is not harmless. Mann and his ilk seek to destroy the economy of the industrial world. Guys like Paul Ehrlich aim at reducing the human population by the billions. One of the more dangerous groups are the anti-vaccine advocates who are not satisfied in killing their own kids but want to kill yours as well.
THE KIDS AREN’T ALL RIGHT. Across California, thousands of children and babies are coughing so violently that their bodies convulse, uncontrollably wheezing and fighting to breathe for weeks. Nearly 8,000 pertussis cases have been reported in 2014 to the state’s Department of Public Health as of Sept. 2, and 267 of those patients have been hospitalized, including 58 requiring intensive care.
Adults can contract the disease, but 94 percent of all cases reported statewide involve children — and the youngest suffer the most. So far this year, three infants under 2 months of age have died statewide from pertussis, a disease commonly known as whooping cough (named for the high-pitched sound that kids make when they inhale after coughing).
Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is at the front line, with 72 pertussis patients this year. “A number of them have been in the ICU and very, very sick,” says CHLA infectious disease specialist Dr. Jeffrey Bender. “They cough so hard, it turns into vomiting and broken ribs; they end up intubated, to ventilate their lungs.”
Whooping cough was once a very common disease which became rare after the advent of a vaccine for the disease. Only a few years ago, whooping cough was touted as being on the verge of being eradicated. Now it is back with a vengeance.
The same is true of measles, a disease that was declared eradicated in 2000:
Measles cases are on the rise in the U.S. this year, 14 years after national leaders declared that the disease had been eliminated within the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attributed many of the 592 measles cases and 18 outbreaks in the U.S. this year to parents not getting their children vaccinated.
Since the CDC said there were no measles cases in the U.S. in 2000, there have been reported cases. There were more than 200 in 2011, in part, due to a large outbreak in France that saw infected people travel to the United States, according to the agency. This year, a large, ongoing outbreak in the Philippines is impacting the jump in measles cases in the U.S., which has spread across 21 states.
The genesis of this phenomenon can be laid at the feet of the anti-vaccine movement. While there has long been resistance to mandatory vaccinations from small religious sects, the current opposition to vaccines is much more prevalent among parent who are relatively well off and should be well educated.
Unvaccinated children tended to be white, to have a mother who was married and had a college degree, to live in a household with an annual income exceeding $75 000, and to have parents who expressed concerns regarding the safety of vaccines and indicated that medical doctors have little influence over vaccination decisions for their children.
The Hollywood Reporter shows that the pertussis outbreaks are clustered in the most affluent areas of Los Angeles
Historically, this kind of dissent has not emerged from affluent communities. “A century ago, much of the resistance was coming from the working class, who were most targeted for compulsory vaccination: in steerage compartments on steamships rather than first class, in public schools rather than private schools, in factories rather than offices,” says Brandeis professor Michael Willrich, Ph.D, author of Pox: An American History. “But the contours here are anything but. It’s the story of the well-educated, upper-middle class or upper class.”
Today, on the Westside, those who abstain from vaccinating their kids see refusal through their own socio-anthropological lens. “They’re well intended — the people that only want to do the best for their child. They want only natural products, organic foods, attachment parenting, family beds,” says Dr. Lisa Stern, a Santa Monica pediatrician. Observes Dr. Neal Baer, a trained pediatrician and veteran TV writer-producer (ER) who wrote an episode of Law & Order: SVU about the public health consequences of vaccine refusal, “It’s about not wanting to have anything that isn’t ‘natural’ in your child — this whole notion of the natural and holistic versus the scientific.”
Childhood diseases are serious. No matter what your feelings and beliefs about vaccines, the stark fact remains that vaccines are safe. They work. And the risk a child faces from a vaccine is infinitely smaller than the risk of not being vaccinated. The old reasoning of “if everyone else is vaccinated, my child doesn’t need vaccines” no longer applies as we see the number of unvaccinated children rise to endanger the efficacy of herd immunity. Relying on the anti-vaccine movement for advice on your child’s health is like going to Michael Mann for climate science or hiring Jerry Sandusky as a coach.
The alleged research behind the anti-vaccine movement is, like Ehrlich’s population explosion fearmongering, simply political agenda dressed up as science. It embodies the definition of faith as being belief in the absence of proof. It operates as a cult. And it is no coincidence that the anti-vaccine movement is most successful among the same people who believe in climate change, oppose GMO foods, and advocate for “green” solutions; people who mistake their self professed virtue for intelligence.