The recent measles outbreak in the United States with 121 reported cases (as of February 12th, 2015) along with the continuing spread is extremely alarming. Whether or not to have mandatory vaccination requirements should not be a debate when there have been constant affirmations from the scientific community about the safety and efficacy of vaccines. Parents who believe it is in their children’s best interest not to vaccinate refuse to recognize the importance of herd immunity. This troubling trend in ignorance and denial of science is endangering thousands of lives. The war between science and anti-science is not a new one. Personal beliefs towards evolution, climate change, GMOs, and vaccinations should not dictate public health and safety. The current war against vaccinations is the most dangerous one because of its immediate threat as compared to the long-term perils of climate change or GMOs.
A recent vaccine discussion on Real Time with Bill Maher was troubling to watch due to the many misguided and misinformed comments that were casually thrown across by the panelists. The ignorance of Maher and his guests was exposed when comparisons were drawn between the safety of vaccines and climate change, antibiotics, and Monsanto. One panelist said, “The implication is that if you have any skepticism whatsoever, you are anti-science..and I think there is a difference between having skepticism against science and having skepticism against the pharmaceutical industry.” – This is an interesting point as well as an important one. Having mistrust over pharmaceutical industries should not prevent the parents from vaccinating their children. Questioning the ethics of large pharma corporations should not overshadow the larger issue that is public protection and immunity. Maher continued to compare vaccines with antibiotics, and the highlighted the concern regarding antibiotic resistance. These are different modes of treatments used in different situations. Trying to deduce the reasoning and thought process of the guests in this 12 minute conversation was just frustrating. Maher’s comment, “I’m not so sure that people who get a lot of them (vaccines) have as robust an immune system” proves that he is misinformed about the science just like many others. This is one of the many debates that exposes the gap between what the scientists know and what the public perceives.
Politicizing scientific truths seems to be the highlight of the decade. Skepticism is healthy and favored for the advancement of science and medicine. However, skepticism should not overshadow evidence and accuracy. Media and other outlets have the responsibility of communicating science with all its truthfulness. With a decline in trust and credibility of various media outlets, it is on us to bridge the gap between scientific reasoning and the rising anti-science brigade.