We all remember it. Inevitably, all of us at one point had a routine checkup, sitting in an exam room surrounded by Big Bird, Elmo, or some other PBS-brand puppet, when a nurse came in with the dreaded “booster.” For me, it was the promise of an ice cream cone and a Thomas the Tank Engine Band-Aid that got me through those traumatic times; however, this rite of passage has been lost on some.
For most, getting vaccinated — be it for the flu, chicken pox, Pango Pango (Pango Pango is not real; however, if a biology student happens to discover an unnamed tropical disease I request my name choice be considered) or whatever this year’s plague of choice might be — is a necessary, albeit painful part of life. Yet this blessing in disguise has been lost for many. A fringe element has emerged, traditionally from a more conservative sect of American society, fueled by individuals such as Senator Rand Paul, an ophthalmologist by trade, who has heard of numerous cases of “profound mental disorders” in children following routine vaccinations. I’ve had the fortune, or misfortune depending on how you look at it, of getting to know plenty of young children, cousins, family friends or the occasional hoodlum running my neighborhood. While all of them certainly have moments that truly make you question their capacity for making sound decisions, I highly doubt any related bad behaviors were caused by a trip to the pediatrician.
While the debate over vaccinations is hardly a political one, several conductors of the right-wing crazy train are driving a horrifying and absurd discussion on the practicality of vaccines. Gov. Chris Chistie, former Gov. Sarah Palin and many others have all offered their two cents on the issue, making claims from “vaccines cause cancer” to “vaccines cause homosexuality.”
Recent discussions, or, as I like to call them, “I have an opinion and a base to pander to” moments, particularly attack the MMR (mumps, measles, and rubella) vaccine in the wake of a resurgence of measles in the U.S. Measles, which was eradicated from the U.S. about 15 years ago, is one of the world’s most widely vaccinated diseases. North Korea, Iran and Rwanda, not to mention countless other countries, have a higher vaccination rate than the United States’ measly 91 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
So, what is the point that I’m trying to make? Is it that one should probably not take medical advice from the same people who believe Jesus Christ himself traveled Galilee amid packs of velociraptors? Probably. Is it that one should not base their healthcare decisions on the advice of those who want an Ebola vaccine, but not a flu shot? Likely.
Or is it that until a vaccine for stupidity is created, we should all skip the conspiracy theories and do what is best for our health, the health of our children and the health of our country? Absolutely.
Feb. 13, 2015