You’ve reached the activism portion of today’s show. Now that you’re informed and angry, here’s what you can do about it. Today’s activism: Fighting the Anti-Vaxxer Movement with Voices For Vaccines.
It looks like this run of “I can’t believe this is a thing that needs action” segments is ongoing. Measles — a serious illness even Baby Boomers barely remember — is back. More than 100 people in 17 states have confirmed cases and DisneyWorld had a double digit outbreak just before Christmas.
Why? Because a study from over a decade ago, based on a handful of cases, that has been refuted and debunked and thoroughly discredited through things like science and a hundred years of data is popular again. For a brief glimmer of a moment, vaccines looked like they might be risky and a generation of parents were scared into opting their children out. Many, like CNN contributor and Daily Beast columnist Sally Kohn regret that decision now and are talking about why they’ve changed their positions. Speaking out can get you attacked by right and left fringes alike — this is one of those rare topics like climate change that has skeptics on both sides. Storytelling combined with the science has become a necessary tool, as it has with so many issues recently.
Polio survivor Minda Dentler pleads with readers at Time.com to vaccinate their children with her graphic, brave story of surgeries and pain and overcoming it all to become the first handcyclist to complete the Kona Ironman. "Most people who oppose vaccines don’t know first-hand what these diseases can do to you,” Dentler writes. "They should meet me.”
Writer and parent Jessica Valenti joins in with near-compassion for anti-vaxxers in her column at The Guardian:
“….when I read quotes from parents denying any social responsibility to vaccinate saying things like, 'My child is pure ... It’s not my responsibility to be protecting their child,' it makes me livid. Where once we said 'it takes a village,' these days some people don’t care if the village burns to the ground so long as their precious snowflake is left standing.”
Valenti’s piece points out why the right-wing loves this movement; supposedly it’s about personal choice — a topic they’re keen on unless it has to do with someone’s uterus. The left can get taken in as part of the whole “pure and healthy” trend in food and cleaning supplies. What both sides miss — not that the right-wing would care — is that the anti-vaxxer fringe isn’t just awful because they’re risking the rampant return of nearly eradicated diseases. They’re promoting some serious bigotry and discrimination as well.
Maria Mora has a straightforward, important reminder at SheKnows.com for people who still refuse to believe the thorough debunking of the study celebs like Jenny McCarthy — yes, that Jenny McCarthy — used to fuel the fear of vaccines. "Autism isn't a punishment,” she writes. "It isn't a bogeyman. It shouldn't be what keeps parents who vaccinate their kids up at night.”
Vaccines don’t cause autism. But beyond that, it’s ableist to talk about fear of autism in a way that pretty much flat out says, “I’d rather risk my child and your child dying from the measles than raise their risk of becoming autistic.” Imagine the message that sends to people with autism.
With so much to combat, we as concerned, science- and empathy-appreciating citizens are lucky to have Voices For Vaccines as a resource. They are a parent-led, evidence-based non-profit with a team of doctors and immunologists who serve on their board.
The “Tools” tab at VoicesForVaccines.org has printable handouts; archived conference calls and law manuals on vaccines as resources; community and parent toolkits; new and expectant parent toolkits; links to their “Kick the Flu Out of School” campaign because, yes, people do still die from the flu; and a primer for writing op-eds to your local news outlets and for publication.
Their social media feeds are active, current, and full of useful information as well as links to local actions and updates. Visit their page, get educated, and help spread the facts to keep the immune compromised and vulnerable in our society protected.
Also, a quick heads up for those who thought their vaccine schedule ended sometime in college, you very likely need a Pertussis booster with your next tetanus shot to protect against the increased risk of Whooping Cough. It’s back as well, it’s awful, you have increased risk if you spend time with children, and you should ask your doctor if you’re due for one as immunity does wear off over time.
Use the resources at: Voices For Vaccines
Find out more about the adult pertussis vaccination at: AdultVaccination.org
"A Polio Survivor’s Plea: Vaccinate Your Children” by Minda Dentler at Time.com
"Anti-Vaxxers Brought Measles to the Happiest Place on Earth: A measles outbreak has sickened 70 people at Disneyland, and could be the spark that brings the once-eradicated disease back in force.” by Russell Saunders at The Daily Beast
"Dear anti-vaxxers: Stop using autism as a bogeyman” by Maria Mora at SheKnows
Hear the segment in context:
Written by BOTL social media/activism director Katie Klabusich