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Anti-vaxxers could cause global calamity

Sara Guneratne/The Round Table

Sara Guneratne/The Round Table

There are many problems with Trump. His racist remarks, lousy policies, and abrasive twitter have spurred great controversy, but one of his most dangerous ideas thus far has not received proper attention. Trump is of the belief that there is a connection between vaccines and autism, a subject he has been vocal about in the past.

The anti-vaxxer movement has swept the nation by storm and convinced many people that vaccines cause autism and other problems in young children. Jenny McCarthy, an ex-Playboy bunny, has connected her son’s autism to the vaccines he received when he was about two days old, claiming she saw an immediate behavioral change. She has no factual evidence to support her idea, but she has garnered thousands of supporters to rally against vaccines. She also claims that she has cured her son’s autism, which is scientifically impossible.

The medical evidence that Jenny McCarthy has provided by Dr. Andrew Jeremy Wakefield is his 1988 paper describing a possible link between vaccines and the appearance of autism. He has since been discredited by the medical community. The British Medical Journal has said that Wakefield had, “misrepresented or altered the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998 study.” Through manipulation of data, Wakefield was able to start a movement of anti-vaxxers, which shows no signs of stopping.

The scientific inaccuracies of this movement are not the real danger. Vaccines have effectively eliminated diseases such as polio and smallpox from the Western world. Vaccines prevent several life-threatening illnesses, such as measles, pertussis (whooping cough), diphtheria, pneumococcal meningitis and meningococcal meningitis. By sending their children to school without having been vaccinated, many parents are increasing the likelihood these dangerous diseases will spread.

The thing I find most astounding about the whole movement is that vaccines have been proven to work over and over, but many would rather let their children develop deadly diseases than risk the dangers posed by a scientifically false claim. Even if there was a connection, which there is not, the fact that these parents would risk their children’s lives astounds me.

Vaccines are a vital facet of public health. If Donald Trump is elected president he will be an influential voice for the anti-vaxxer movement. His position has the potential to start a national epidemic.

Outbreaks of measles in California illustrate the effects of the anti-vaccination movement. We need to accept that this is a dangerous mentality and that it is a public responsibility to stay up to date on our vaccinations. If you have not been vaccinated, you need to recognize the risk you are posing to the public and yourself.

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