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Guest editorial: It’s about time for a backlash against anti-vaxers

March 9, 2019

It’s vexing that we need yet another study to debunk the myth that vaccinations cause autism in children. But here we are again, 20 years after U.K. doctor Andrew Wakefield made that unsubstantiated claim and set off a wave of anti-vaxers that persists today.

Researchers at Copenhagen’s Statens Serum Institute were the latest to refute the claims in study results released this week that looked at more than half a million children and found no inkling of a link to developmental disorders.

The study comes as the country may be primed for a major and much needed backlash against the anti-vaccine movement, fueled by measles outbreaks in Washington and other states. The Washington health secretary pleaded with federal lawmakers Tuesday for a nationwide campaign to refute the notion that vaccines harm children. There were 206 cases of measles in the first two months of the year.

That follows stands taken by now-enlightened adults speaking out against parents who didn’t get them vaccinated as children. Even social media sites, often criticized for many of today’s societal ills, are doing their part to quiet the anti-vaccine rhetoric as the public health consequences become more dangerous. Amazon Prime is removing such videos, while YouTube will demonetize such clips. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Monday that Facebook and Twitter are blocking such posts.

It’s about time that all efforts are taken to put to rest an unfounded theory on vaccines made popular by a doctor with a financial interest in making such claims and an actress with no medical degree (yes, we are talking about Jenny McCarthy). The proof is in the science that vaccines keep children healthy. Measles was declared eradicated in the United States in 2000, but that is now threatened.

While most parents do vaccinate their children, the number who doesn’t has quadrupled in the time since the false claims about vaccines were first unleashed, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It has created a completely unnecessary public health crisis in parts of the country.

Treating a disease like measles and stopping its spread is an expensive proposition. And Not it endangers those who can’t get vaccinated, including vulnerable newborns.

States should tighten or eliminate the rules that allow parents to exempt their children from getting vaccines because of philosophical or religious objections. It’s not surprising that the worst measles outbreaks occur where

Some states that have dealt with outbreaks are looking at getting rid of religious exemptions, including New Jersey, Oregon, Nevada and Arizona, according to the National Vaccine Information Center. In Washington, legislation was introduced to eliminate the philosophical exemption and tighten the one that lets parents opt out for religious reasons. In one of the most notable cases, California got rid of most exemptions in 2015 after an outbreak in measles connected to kids who visited Disneyland.

The anti-vaxers have been far from quiet as the debate over vaccines has erupted once again. They go as far as calling the CDC a fraud. Some lawmakers in states around the country have also proposed legislation to make the exemptions more lax, including one in Arizona in opposition to the bill eliminating exemptions. We need to drown out their voices.

—The Baltimore Sun