I find it quite ironic that we place so much reliance
On social media inventions that result from modern science.
Yet on measles immunizing the antagonists grow bitter
With their anti-science diatribes on Facebook and on Twitter.
After a long period in which it was assumed that measles was eliminated in the U.S., there was an outbreak starting in Disneyland, California, in January 20015,. Now, the overwhelming consensus among medical experts is that a measles immunization shot is necessary for every child, since children who have not been inoculated raise the danger of infecting not only other un-immunized schoolmates, but (since no treatment is 100% effective) also endangers others who have received their shot.
Yet, as I indicated in an earlier blog on climate change, there is a movement of deniers who refuse to accept the overwhelming scientific consensus. This movement consists mainly of parents who claim that immunization creates a risk of autism or some other horrible ailment, and they see immunization as a government intrusion into an area best left to parents. They find authority for their position in a few practicing doctors, such as a cardiologist who claims to be “a big fan of what’s called paleo-nutrition, so our children eat foods that our ancestors have been eating for millions of years”, and insists: “We do not need to inject chemicals into ourselves and into our children to boost our immune system”.
Another source of authority for these parents is a 2012 children’s book by an Australian, Stephanie Messenger, called “Melanie’s Marvellous Measles”, which declares not only that vaccines weaken the immune system and that measles is easily avoided by drinking melon juice, but even that having measles is a marvelous, enjoyable experience. And no, the book is not intended as a satire.
However, there is an abundance of satire on the issue, overwhelmingly directed at the deniers. Onion Magazine quotes a mother declaring: “It is my fundamental right as a parent to decide which eradicated disease comes roaring back.” The Borowitz Report informs us that Dr. Jonas Salk “rose from the grave Friday morning on what authorities believe is a mission to hunt down idiots.” On his late night show Seth Meyers mocked two Republican presidential prospects, Chris Christie and Rand Paul, who had equivocated on the issue before recanting in favor of immunization. (Most other leading Republicans endorsed immunization). Meyers offered this advice to parents: on how to be a helpful part of society: “Pay taxes, vaccinate your kids, and don’t try to board the plane until your group is called.”
Jon Stewart also ridiculed Christie and Paul for their prevarications . But his ire was directed not only at the uneducated and at conservatives opposing immunization simply because Obama was against it, but also at “science-denying liberals” in affluent Northern California suburbs. “They’re not rednecks. They’re not ignorant. They practice a mindful stupidity.”
And the measles uproar was an inevitable subject for editorial cartoonists. In the New Yorker Emily Flake has a measles-spotted child saying: “If you connect the measles it spells out “My parents are idiots.’” Jeff Darcy depicts Paul and Christie as Dumbo and Goofy: “We’re taking back our anti-vaccination statements. We don’t want to walk off the flat earth.” And Wolverton lists the threats we face: “ Terrorist sympathizers, Ebola breeders, nuclear arsonists, and climate deniers. And now: Measles vaccine deniers.”
Of course, the measles damage does not compare with these other threats. Certainly denying measles inoculation is less dangerous to the survival of our species than denying climate change. Still, it is the easiest of these problems to resolve. Not to do so would be, as the satirists remind us, truly nonsensical.