America is in the middle of a brand new debate over vaccines. At least 107 people in eight states have been diagnosed with measles, all linked to an outbreak at Disneyland in California. Now Arizona health officials say that a family exposed to the disease on vacation could infect up to 1,000 residents.
Most doctors and epidemiologists place the blame for the outbreak squarely on the anti-vaccination movement. Pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. James Cherry told the New York Times that the outbreak was "100% connected" to the anti-vaccine movement. "It wouldn't have happened otherwise; it wouldn't have gone anywhere," he said.
But too many Americans continue to believe the myth the vaccines cause autism. "It's the worst shot," California mother Missy Foster told the New York Times. "Do you want to wake up one morning and the light is gone from her eyes with autism or something?"
Leaving aside that autism is not a death sentence, America's politicians are taking sides. President Barack Obama urged Americans to get vaccinated on Monday, stating that "there is every reason to get vaccinated, but there aren't reasons to not." On the other hand, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie declared that parents "have a choice" as to whether to vaccinate their children. "It's more important what you think as a parent than what you think as a public official," he said.
There seems to be some confusion as to whether you should get vaccinated or not. Mic's own Raquel Reichard put together this handy chart to clear up any confusion about vaccines.
Wait, so vaccines don't cause autism? For the last time: No. Research has demonstrated that "groundbreaking" 1998 study that allegedly linked vaccines to autism — and has since become the fodder for anti-vaxer paranoia — was simply horrible science with no empirical basis in reality. The British Medical Journal went so far as to call his research "fraudulent," and the British journal Lancet, which originally published the paper, retracted it. The research was so problematic that British medical authorities stripped Andrew Wakefield, the doctor who wrote it, of his license.
The most forceful rejection of this link came from a meta-analysis of 1.3 million subjects in the medical journal Vaccines in June 2014. A team of researchers from the University of Sydney analyzed a collection of all available evidence from studies that assessed the relationship between vaccine administration and the subsequent development of autism, according to the paper's abstract. The results? There is no statistically significant link between vaccines and autism.
And my personal beliefs don't matter? Objectively, yes, they do, but vaccines aren't about your personal beliefs — they're about social responsibility. Vaccinated people aren't just individually protected but act as barriers to outbreaks, since diseases can't pass through them and infect other people. This epidemiological phenomenon that underpins the social necessity of vaccines is what the scientific community calls "community immunity" or "herd immunity."
Image Credit: vaccines.gov
Now's the time for people to get their act togethe when it comes to vaccines. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. experienced a record number of measles cases during 2014 — 644 cases from 27 states, the greatest number of cases reported since the elimination of the disease was documented in the U.S. in 2000.
Make sense? Great! Now say it together, folks: Vaccinations aren't about me. Vaccinations aren't about me. Vaccinations aren't about me.
Good work. Now go out and get vaccinated, because remember: This isn't about your health. It's about the health of everyone around you.