Paul Offit on the Anti-Vaccine Epidemic

Pediatrician Paul A. Offit, winner of the CFI/CSI 2013 Balles Award in Critical Thinking, took to the Wall Street Journal today to warn of the current anti-vaccination epidemic and surging diseases that have resulted:

We simply don’t fear these diseases anymore. My parents’ generation—children of the 1920s and 1930s—needed no convincing to vaccinate their children. They saw that whooping cough could kill as many as 8,000 babies a year. You didn’t have to convince my generation—children of the 1950s and 1960s—to vaccinate our children. We had many of these diseases, like measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox. But young parents today don’t see the effects of vaccine-preventable diseases and they didn’t grow up with them. For them, vaccination has become an act of faith.

Perhaps most upsetting was a recent study out of Seattle Children’s Hospital and the University of Washington. Researchers wanted to see whether the whooping cough epidemic of 2012 had inspired more people to vaccinate their children. So they studied rates of whooping cough immunization before, during and after the epidemic. No difference. One can only conclude that the outbreak hadn’t been large enough or frightening enough to change behavior—that not enough children had died.

Because we’re unwilling to learn from history, we are starting to relive it. And children are the victims of our ignorance.