ACSH staffers were pleased to read an op-ed by Michael Willrich in today’s The New York Times promoting the notion already long upheld by scientific communities that vaccines are a safe and extremely effective public health measure. Many large international studies have tried to find a link between autism and vaccines — all have shown no such effect. Scientifically, the issue is a closed book.
Despite the retraction and condemnation of Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s “study” linking MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccines to autism, Mr. Willrich points out that a disturbing one in five Americans still believes that vaccines cause the ailment, and according to a 2010 CDC report, 40 percent of American parents with young children have either delayed or refused one or more vaccines for their child.
Because much of the anti-vaccine movement began long before Dr. Wakefield’s research, Mr. Willrich believes this opposition stems from a deeply rooted public distrust over medicine and government, which is evident as early as 1802 when political cartoons satirized the first smallpox vaccine.
But instead of vilifying the anti-vaccination minority, Mr. Willrich proposes that public health officials lead with “a candid national conversation about the real risks of vaccines, which are miniscule compared to their benefits.”