Thursday, June 5, 2014

War on Vaccines?

Some disturbing news is coming out of the Midwest - hitherto eradicated communicable diseases like mumps are making an unexpected comeback with new cases being diagnosed among children. And the reason is as shocking as it is absurd - right-wing groups, ably supported by some elements in the Republican party, are discouraging parents from vaccinating their children, declaring vaccinations as a huge government conspiracy to make all Americans 'dependent' on 'questionable' science.

In some ways, this was expected. The Republican Party as a whole has been at war with Science for a long time, most famously over Climate Change but also against contraception, abortion, evolution, homosexuality and much more. It is this war that forced Republic Governor of Louisiana to famously declare that the Republican Party must stop being 'the stupid party,' and embrace science. Sadly, that has not happened. If anything, the War on Vaccines has proved once again that the Party continues to dumb down everything.

Let's be clear - there is consensus on the benefits of vaccination. It was vaccination that helped the world defeat smallpox; it was a relentless and sustained vaccination campaign that took India from being the world's largest pool of polio cases to being declared free of all polio cases this year. The overwhelming scientific opinion is in favor of vaccination. By cherry-picking questionable research and declaring that, because absolutely 100% of the scientific community does not agree, there is no consensus on this issue is plain foolish, shows a sick spin on the very term 'consensus' and most importantly, is entirely unscientific.

The irony is that there is only one other major group in the world that denounces vaccination as a conspiracy against their people - the Taliban. Yes, those crazy fighters in caves in Pakistan actually have something in common with the Republicans! As I have said before, if I had to choose, I would choose Republican over Democrat because the fundamental ideas of the party - respect for the individual and minimum government interference - are very much relevant to society. But to bury your heads in the soil and ignore overwhelming scientific evidence in favor of vaccinations is one step too much. Diseases kill children or render them crippled for life and by engaging in this pointless War on Vaccines, these 'right-wing nut jobs' (as described on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart) are in effect destroying the future of children and that is an issue that is above politics.

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