BILLERCAY, United Kingdom — Since the English scientist Edward Jenner pioneered the concept of vaccination more than two centuries ago, an innumerable number of lives have been saved.
In the late 1700s, Jenner discovered that the risk of contracting smallpox could be greatly reduced if individuals were first exposed to cowpox, a disease with mild effects on the human body. Children could be protected from smallpox by being inoculated with cowpox first, and thus the first vaccine was created.
The success of this idea has saved an untold number of lives throughout the world and, thanks to global program of vaccination, smallpox was eradicated in 1979.
It is a wonder then that, with such a positive track record, an organization such as the Anti-vaccine Movement could ever exist in America today.
Supported by anti-government conspiracy theorists and semi-celebrities with little-to-no medical training, the U.S. Anti-vaccination Movement relies on pseudo-science and rumor, and falsely claims that vaccines in childhood cause autism.
Public support for vaccinations is high in the U.S., but this stubborn and vocal minority continually seeks to undermine one of the most successful programs in modern healthcare. Measles was officially declared extinct in the U.S. in 2000, but due to families actively choosing not to vaccinate their children, the disease returned this year.
The website ‘anti-vaccine body count’ tallies up the number of preventable deaths and illnesses in the U.S. caused by the misguided suspicion of vaccines.
The number of deaths has exceeded 6,000 since the website was created in 2007; this kind of misinformation has the most devastating effects in developing countries.
Earlier this year, Polio re-emerged from the brink of extinction to yet again become a world public health emergency because Islamic extremists across the world have been spreading the lie that the oral anti-polio vaccine is in fact a western plot to sterilize Muslim children. This lie has already cost an untold number of lives. Anti-polio workers and other aid workers have even been targeted and gunned down because of it.
The lie first gained momentum in 2011 when a Pakistani doctor who administered polio vaccines helped root out Osama Bin Laden. Since then, the Taliban has lied to local people, making them suspicious of anti-polio workers and western aid workers in general to prevent them from trusting and cooperating with western intelligence sources. Later in 2012, anti-polio health teams were banned from areas of Pakistan by militants in retaliation for the CIA’s drone strikes.
People suffer wherever the facts about vaccines are distorted, be that by the anti-vaccine movement in the U.S. or by the Taliban in Pakistan. In the developing world, diseases which were on the brink of extinction are returning because people are being prevented from vaccinating themselves and their children. In the U.S., trusting anti-vaccine pseudoscience over the track record of vaccinations is costing lives.
Vaccinations save lives. We must not let anyone distort the facts about vaccines and the life-saving benefits they have wherever they are used.
– Charles Bell
Sources: The Borgen Project, Forbes, Jenny McCarthy Body Count, The Guardian, USA Today
Photo: The Borgen Project, 6News