The Scarlet Letter

There is always something to get “worked up” about — always. If you want to know what the cause of the day, the week, or the month is, all you need to do is to check your Facebook or your Twitter feeds.

A school or other public place shooting will lead to outcries for gun control.thescarletletter

An incident like the one that occurred in Ferguson, Missouri late last year, will, no doubt, let you know where your friends stand on law enforcement. You will be unable to avoid bumping up against the sad state of race relations in America today.

The shootings in the Paris office of satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo led to cries of “Je suis Charlie” in attempts to show solidarity with and support for freedom of the press and, once again, to debate the evils of worldwide religious fundamentalism.

Now, with the measles outbreak that stemmed from an exposure to that disease in Disneyland, we have moved on, once again. This time we are pitting “vaxxers” against “anti-vaxxers”.

I’ll take “Eliminating Childhood Diseases” for $100, Alex. This one is a no-brainer, folks.

Gun control, race relations, and religious fundamentalism are difficult and, yes, far more prickly issues to tackle than are vaccinations.

Frankly, it seems crazy to me that there is any debate AT ALL. It’s very simple, really. Unless your child has a compromised immune system, get him or her vaccinated. (If your child is one of the rare few who, for actual, legitimate medical reasons, cannot be vaccinated, he or she will still be protected — as will others who are immune-compromised — by the “herd immunity” that is a direct and scientifically-proven result of coming into contact with children — and adults — who are immune to these diseases because they have been vaccinated.) That’s it. End of story. End of debate.

If you do not do this and despite what people like Jenny McCarthy say, if you have a healthy child who you would like to see remain healthy, you have no good reason not to, then I say this: Your child should have to wear a “Scarlet Letter”.  Let’s make it an “A” for “anti-vaxxer”.  (I’ll bet Hawthorne never saw this one coming!) And, so should you.

thescarletletterflourishToo harsh? You don’t want to ruin your party dress or have to answer questions as to why your “dare to be different” approach to life flies in the face of years and years and years of scientific data conducted by dedicated researchers and, hold on to your hats!, scientists at your next book group get-together, cocktail party, or barn raising? Too bad.

You don’t want little Typhoid Mary or Michael shunned by the neighbor kids? Too bad.

You’d better install a small schoolroom and brush up on the “3R’s”, too, because your child should not be allowed to enroll in any school — public or private — where he or she can infect another child (or adult) who cannot be vaccinated (and, in rare cases, ones who have been vaccinated) with some possibly deadly disease because you, their parent, decided that, contrary to what good, reliable science has proven, still believes that there is a link between autism and inoculation. Might I suggest, though, that you, yourself, don’t teach the science portion of your child’s lessons? Enlist a grown-up to do that, would you?

Guess what? Correlation is not causation. There are lots of things that we have now, in abundance, that we did not have prior to the measles vaccine (and other vaccines) that may (or may not) be responsible for the rise in diagnosed cases of autism.

The first measles vaccine was licensed in 1963; Froot Loops® also hit the marketplace that year.  A more attenuated measles vaccine was developed in 1968; McDonald’s introduced the Big Mac®, which, by the way, sold for a measly 49 cents, in 1968.

Theories about the causes of Autism are abundant. They run the gamut from the 1967 statement of psychologist Bruno Bettleheim that the disorder is caused by “refrigerator mothers” to studies like the widely-accepted Folstein-Rutter twin study (1977), which concluded that genetic, rather than environmental factors — like a mother’s “coldness” — play a much larger role in the development of autism than previously thought.

It was not until 1998 that Dr. Andrew Wakefield published a study in The Lancet that purported a causal relationship between autism and the MMR (Measles-Mumps-Rubella) vaccine. This is the study that caused legions of parents to identify themselves as “anti-vaxxers”.

Even had Dr. Wakefield’s findings held up, which they did not — the paper was formally retracted by The Lancet in 2010 — it NEVER advised parents NOT to vaccinate their children against Measles, Mumps, and/or Rubella.  The paper advocated separate vaccinations for each disease, rather than the common combination MMR vaccine.

But, you know, people hear what they want to hear.

Vaccines are no more likely to be the cause of autism than are Froot Loops® or Big Macs®. There may be a correlation, but that does not prove causation. There certainly may come a day when food preservatives — ingested not by the children in question, but more than likely the mothers who incubated them — are linked to autism. Who knows?

Frankly, it is probably not a bad idea to remove Froot Loops® and Big Macs® from the diets of pregnant women (and young children). Whether doing so will decrease the number of diagnosed cases of autism is another story, though, isn’t it? Still, I suppose it couldn’t hurt.

What could hurt — what will hurt —  what is hurting us right now is that there are people who are still, despite all scientific evidence to the contrary, stubbornly refusing to follow sound medical advice and common sense and foregoing immunizations for their children.

What’s worse is that, more often than not, we do not know who they are, who their children are. I, for one, would like to know. To that end, I move for full disclosure — in the form of a “Scarlet Letter”.

Who’s with me?

Froot Loops® is a registered trademark of The General Mills Corporation; Big Mac® is a registered trademark of The McDonald’s corporation. In no way am I suggesting that these foods are in any way related to autism.

This is where I got my information:

History of the measles vaccine:

Introduction of Froot Loops and The Big Mac:

Andrew Wakefield:

Other important information:

How measles works:

Why are “fully” vaccinated people not always “fully” protected?:

A quick primer on “titers”:

Here is how “herd immunity” works:

9 thoughts on “The Scarlet Letter

  1. Roz Warren says:

    YES!!! Great post. Tweeting and Sharing.


  2. […] are times when I can be strident, possibly too strident. For example, in a recent post (“The Scarlet Letter”) I suggested (okay, I outright recommended) that parents who chose not to protect their children, […]


  3. Chloe says:

    Damn! You are such a good writer. This was so well said. The worrisome part of all of this is that parents who choose not to vaccinate also refuse to take responsibility for the fact that their choice could lead to the death of someone else’s child. My little grandson is too young to be vaccinated. He’s also immunocompromized. And we live in an area with a low vaccination rate. Is his life less valuable? Parents who choose not to vaccinate simply because they want to be in on the next whacky completely unscientific parenting fad are selfish. First, they are relying on everybody else who isn’t as cool and whacky as them to vaccinate their children, and second, they are willing to let their own little homegrown petri dish of a kid infect babies and the sick. And the worst part is that they are doing it with impunity and a smug self-righteousness and sense of personal entitlement.


    • javaj240 says:

      I think you hit the nail on the head with “whacky completely unscientific parenting fad”. I really do believe that so much of this nonsense does not come from the supposed “mistrust” of government and/or governmental agencies (CDC, WHO, for example), but it stems from this whole “I’m special, my kids are special, blah, blah, blah” mentality. It’s the same with allergies — I swear there is a one-upsmanship mindset at work here, too. This is not to say that some children do not have legitimate allergies, but I’ve actually overheard conversations where statements such as, “Oh, you’re lucky that your kid is only allergic to 27 things, mine has 42 allergies.”. Seriously. True story.


  4. robing34 says:

    Thanks for citing your sources. That’s absolutely critical when you’re trying to refute stupidity. Not that it helps, but it’s still important.


    • javaj240 says:

      It is of utmost importance — it still won’t convince the firmly entrenched, but citing sources is critical when making any argument that purports to have used real data in the making of a critical argument. Plus, I have a degree in History. Ergo, the citing of sources is ingrained in me 🙂


  5. So well said!! Tweeting.


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