I come down on the side of science, which frequently puts me at odds with deniers of all stripes. That’s especially true with the anti-vaccination crowd.
I have no patience for anyone willing to put someone else’s health at risk because they choose to believe myths and misinformation.
Vaccinations are good. Vaccinations save lives by making people immune to potentially deadly diseases. Alas, opponents remain convinced they are a Deep State plot because of something they heard on talk radio or read on the internet.
So, diseases like measles are spreading among unvaccinated kids. That is so sad.
Florida requires that kids receive vaccinations before they enroll at a public or private school, but parents can have them opt out on religious grounds.
The Tampa Bay Times reviewed state data that shows the number of such claims has been steadily climbing, reaching nearly 25,000 last year.
The Centers For Disease Control reported on 465 cases of measles since the first of the year in 19 states, including Florida. Pinellas County last year had its first cases of measles in 10 years.
Wait a minute.
Didn’t the federal government declare in 2000 that measles had been eliminated, thanks to vaccinations here and in other countries?
Indeed it did.
But two years earlier, a highly flawed study erroneously linked the measles vaccine and childhood autism. Even though the study was retracted, the anti-vax moment has been gaining speed ever since.
The argument against vaccines has been ongoing since the days of Voltaire in the mid-1700s. It has been a global fight, too. I suppose that is because people everywhere have an instinctive distrust of authority. They are more inclined to believe some quack pseudo-scientist on a website than an actual doctor who spent years learning medical facts.
Polio was the scourge when I was growing up in the late 1950s and early ‘60s. But in 1953, American medical researcher Dr. Jonas Salk announced the discovery of a vaccine against that crippling disease.
Kids like me were soon lining up all over the country for sugar cubes with the drug and polio virtually disappeared.
Like every other kid in town, I took all the required vaccinations for school. I still take vaccinations that are recommended by medical professionals.
You can talk yourself blue in the face, and it won’t convince an anti-vax person that they are wrong. They are wrong though, and it puts people at risk of contracting a serious and preventable disease.
There is not much the Legislature can do about this beyond eliminating the religious loophole, which won’t happen. The state can’t question the sincerity of the religious claim, either, thanks to a 1998 state Supreme Court ruling.
Once again, we face the modern problem where some people will believe misinformation over facts.
That’s true no matter what it does to the kids.
Joe Henderson has a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Henderson now writes for ^pFloridaPolitics.^pcom.^p