Parents who refuse to vaccinate their children have led to the worst measles outbreak the U.S. has faced in 20 years. The epidemic highlights the dangerous power of the anti-vaccination movement, a vocal, often wealthy, celebrity-backed band of activists that is waging a war on science.
A flow chart by animator and author Scott Bateman sums up the anti-vaxxers’ crazy arguments in a funny (if depressing) fashion. It takes the form of a debate between anti-vaxxers (in red) and those who are medically informed (in blue). Red: “I heard that one out of every 110 vaccinated children gets autism.” Blue: “Scientists have proven time and again that this is untrue.” Red: “Science is a hoax, like bigfoot or gravity.” Blue: “Gravity is not a hoax.” What you quickly realize is that it is an impossible debate: one between those who believe in science, and those who believe in Jenny McCarthy.
At the heart of the anti-vaccination movement, as Eula Biss suggests in her excellent book On Immunity, is a classist disregard for others. Vaccination relies on herd mentality–if everyone gets vaccinated, everyone is protected. The child of a rich family might be able to survive a deadly disease while passing it on to people who don’t have the resources to get vaccinated or to take advantage of high-quality medical care. As Biss suggests, it’s the responsibility of those who are privileged to protect others who are less fortunate. We can only hope that anti-vaxxers wake up to this danger before it’s too late.