The Sciences

The Australian antivax movement takes its toll

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitApr 26, 2009 3:22 PM


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In America, people who claim vaccines cause autism are a major health threat. Some of these folks are just parents, people concerned about their kids, people desperately looking for a cause for a devastating illness. Others are vocal advocates of nonsense, saying things that are proven beyond reasonable doubt to be untrue. The end result? Kids, including infants, are getting sick, and some of them are dying. Never, ever forget that, no matter how loudly these people yell, and no matter what garbage they spout (including, inevitably, in the comments that will follow this very post). Babies are dying. In Australia, this movement is taking root as well. Calling the alarm to this, a TV program in Oz called "Sunday Night" aired an excellent exposé of what happens when parents don't vaccinate their kids: they risk their children's lives, and those of others. In the case shown on the TV show, a four-week-old baby, Dana McCaffery, died of whooping cough. This innocent infant wasn't eligible for vaccination yet, but the lack of herd immunity -- that region has lower-than-average vaccination rates -- sealed her fate. The fact that other parents didn't vaccinate their kids gave that little girl a death sentence. Here's the segment from that program. Warning (and I'm serious): if you are a parent, or any kind of feeling human being, this segment is seriously disturbing. I could barely watch it. Maggie at Sceptic's Book has written quite a moving article about this report and the result. The reporter in this TV program, Rebecca Maddern, did a pretty good job, though giving way too much time and credence to antivax mouthpiece Meryl Dorey, who spouts the usual antivax mendacities about vaccination, including bragging -- bragging -- that she was exposed to diseases when she was a kid, and didn't get sick. At the six minute mark of that clip, she chillingly says that no one dies from measles or whooping cough. Ms. Dorey, please tell that to the parents of Dana McCaffery, the baby who was just one month old when she died from whooping cough. The Australian skeptics are trying to get the word out about this, including giving praise to the reporter (who, it should be noted, cut to a picture of Dana McCaffery right after Dorey spouted her awful, horrifying garbage). I encourage you to watch that clip (if you can stomach it), read what Maggie wrote, and then email the station about this very, very serious problem. The antivaxxers claim to be concerned about children... but their total lack of critical thinking, their denial of the research, and their wholesale belief in conspiracy theories and antiscience rhetoric is making children sick. And some of these children are dying. It's that simple. Vaccinate your kids. The life you save may be your own child's, and it may very well be the life of a child of some other parent who doesn't have the choice you have. Vaccinate.

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