Science, shmience

Why would you “believe” in facts when fantasies are so much easier and so much more fun? Especially if those fantasies play into your made-up narrative of grievance and victimhood?  Well, if you’re part of the Somali immigrant community in Minneapolis, you wouldn’t.

Yesterday’s Rapidly Failing New York Times had a piece about the largest measles outbreak in 30 years now under way in Minneapolis. The Somali community there, which, before 2008, had a higher vaccination rate that the general population, is now grappling with a completely preventable disease that had been eradicated in the U.S. by 2000.

measles

Day 4 Measles rash

There have been 44 confirmed cases so far, and at least 7000 people have been exposed to the virus, which has an incubation period of 21 days. It’s a highly contagious disease, spread through the air, that has very serious complications in 30% of cases, including blindness, brain inflammation, and pneumonia. It causes the most vaccine-preventable deaths of any disease.

According to the article, the Somali community in Minneapolis was “targeted” by anti-vax activists, including Andrew Wakefield, who met one-on-one with members of the community starting in 2008, and who provided them with bogus statistics about how the autism rate in their community was higher than elsewhere.

Wakefield is the guy whose bogus “research” created the whole “vaccination=autism” myth in the first place, and who is now banned from practicing medicine in his native Britain. He says he doesn’t feel responsible at all for what’s happening now.

wakefield

Wakefield, dangerous, self-promoting fraud

Wakefield’s research has been found to be an “elaborate fraud” , but in the internet age, that doesn’t really matter now. The lie was repeated often enough by others, including lots of “celebrities”, who now have a big stake in keeping it going and who have made the anti-vax movement a part of our political landscape.

And it’s not just the usual suspects on the right. Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for president and someone who you would think would know better, supports the anti-vaxxers.

Our President is an anti-vaxxer, and, let us not forget, he appoints the Surgeon General who advises us all on health matters. Here’s a piece that speculates that, under Trump, the anti-vaxxers might “win”.

So you might be thinking that since you’ve had the MMR (measles, mumps rubella) vaccine, you’ll be OK even if all the idiots around you get measles. Not so fast.

First of all, the vaccine is very effective, but not 100% effective. Of the 44 now infected in Minneapolis, 42 were not vaccinated, but the remaining two were. In 2014, there was a measles outbreak in Disneyland where 51 people were infected, including six who had been vaccinated.

But more importantly, you’re not going to like your life if you’re the only healthy person in a sick population.  And you shouldn’t.

So what’s the solution here? Dunno.

There are a lot of unintended consequences to be dealt with in the age of universal connectivity and instantaneous communication. The devaluing of “truth” is one we’ve seen already, and the demotion of science to “belief” is another. The return of measles, polio, and, for all I know, the Black Death, may be in the mix as well.

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1 thought on “Science, shmience”

  1. Unless you have tons of time to research, are well educated and/or have a private fact checker – and you are doing the best you can if you do not, it is understandable (somewhat) that stuff like this can happen. There are a lot of emotions that hang out with kids and health, especially in the early years when you may be new at the business.

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