Heed the dissenters and worlds will collide

“Take a look at Steven Salzburg’s piece in Forbes magazine titled “Anti-Vax Movement To Blame For Quadrupling Of Mumps Cases This Year“. It’s a doozy, particularly given that Salzburg himself (in the comment section) writes: “[T]he evidence is not yet in, so I admit that I’m being a bit speculative…”

Ah, that pesky little evidence thing. Why wait for it when you can just speculate a bit and simply declare that it’s all the fault of the anti-vaxxers? Okay, I’ll get serious now. After all, this kind of sophomoric, blame-game editorializing in a major U.S. publication is no laughing matter.

As Salzburg notes, there has been a total of  4,258 cases of mumps in the U.S., at least as of Dec. 3, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s a lot of mumps cases—the most since 2006 when more the 6,500 people came down with mumps in the U.S., “primarily college students living on Midwest campuses.”

[I]n the past several years increasing numbers of college students and others have started getting mumps again—and 2016 marks the biggest spike in a decade. Seven states (Arkansas, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York and Oklahoma) have each reported more than 100 cases this year.

So, what exactly is behind this year’s spike in mumps? It’s worth noting that the bulk of the people who came down with mumps had been fully vaccinated with the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine.

Odd indeed. In fact, during the past decade there have been many outbreaks of mumps in the U.S. in which a significant majority of those infected had been fully vaccinated. In the case of a major outbreak of mumps in Ohio in 2014 involving more than 100 students at Ohio State University, 97 percent of them had received the MMR vaccine.

If most of those who have been infected with mumps were fully vaccinated with the MMR vaccine, then how does one blame those who chose not to get vaccinated with MMR? In his piece, Salzburg flatly states:

At least some of the blame, if not all of it, belongs to the anti-vaccine movement.

Why? Salzburg doesn’t say. Instead of crafting an argument to support such a bold statement, Salzburg engages in a tirade about how anti-vaxxers deny the “overwhelming evidence that vaccines save lives, and that the risks are minuscule compared to the enormous benefits.”

Then, as if on script, Salzburg proceeds to introduce the “discredited 1998 study” on the MMR vaccine by Dr. Andrew Wakefield. For good measure and dramatic effect, Salzburg notes that Dr. Wakefield was “stripped” of his medical license in the United Kingdom. He adds:

Nonetheless, Wakefield he continues to promote his bogus claims (most recently with an anti-vax movie, which I won’t name here to avoid promoting it), and remains a hero to the anti-vax movement, who seem blind to his flaws.

Salzburg continues:

This is reprehensible–and frightening. If all parents followed the anti-vaxxers’ advice, we would see massive surges in vaccine-preventable illnesses, sometimes leading to permanent harm or even death in helpless children.

That’s it. That’s the entirety of Steven Salzburg’s justification for blaming the anti-vax movement for the mumps outbreaks in 2016. That’s what he bases his “speculation” on. Not evidence. Not even a thoughtful analysis. It’s simply a gut feeling that anti-vaxxers must be behind it all.”

― Marco Cáceres, The Vaccine Reaction


Note: The above text is excerpted is from the article “Scapegoating Anti-Vaxxers for the Mumps Outbreaks: How Predictable”.

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