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No, Virginia, vaccines don't cause autism.
By Zack Budryk
I still remember the sketch that made me fall in love with the comedy duo Key & Peele. In spring 2012, their self-titled show featured a meeting between Barack Obama and congressional Republicans. To the Republicans’ surprise, Obama begins parroting conservative talking points on taxes and immigration…and they find themselves physically compelled to disagree with him. “Ain’t I a stinker?” Obama deadpans directly into the camera.
On the surface, this seems like an exaggeration to the point of absurdity, but then last week, in the wake of several measles cases linked to a child at Disneyland whose parents refused to give them the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, Obama endorsed universal vaccination in a pre-Super Bowl interview. Within a day, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was telling a crowd in the U.K. that parents should have the option to forego vaccinations.
Kentucky Senator and one-shot “Justified” villain Rand Paul, never one to be outdone either in wingnuttery or willingness to say absolutely anything to be president, this Tuesday took it further, saying that even though vaccines are “a good thing,” they should be voluntary, because they can cause “profound mental disorders.” (This came less than three weeks after Paul insisted that anyone capable of “hop[ping] out a truck” shouldn’t be eligible for disability payments, so it’s unclear why he thinks mental disorders are such a big deal.) In a pleasant surprise, famed neurosurgeon Ben Carson, M.D., who post-retirement has reinvented himself as a wingnut presidential favorite with a Glenn Beck-level fetish for Nazi comparisons, went against the grain and allowed his medical background to win out, telling Buzzfeed that public health outweighed any personal objections to vaccination.
The thoroughly-debunked notion that childhood vaccinations can cause autism is often stereotyped as the purview of the left. This is not entirely accurate—although it’s found traction with neo-hippies and back-to-nature types, it’s also beloved of survivalists and fur-covered stomach ulcer Donald Trump. Towards the merciful end of her 2012 presidential campaign, former [woohoo!] Rep. Michele Bachmann, in a desperate attempt to turn this element against former [woohoo!] Texas governor Rick Perry, announced that an unnamed woman had told her that the human papilloma virus vaccine had made her daughter “suffer mental retardation.” (Mental retardation and autism are, of course, different things, but I can’t think of anyone less likely to understand that than Michele Bachmann)
But as of Obama’s remark, the autism-vaccine connection (which, again, is based on a single paper that has since been retracted in full) appears to officially be a partisan issue. Here’s simpering Regina George cosplayer and talk radio host Laura Ingraham promoting it. And here’s Trump again, making the ugly ableism behind the myth more than subtext and rambling about how vaccinations have created autism in children who were formerly “magnificent,” “smart as a whip” and “exceptional.”
As an autistic person, the autism-vaccine myth is disturbing to me on multiple levels. There’s the obvious, its transparent falseness and the public health risk that it promotes, but there’s also the implicit attack on people like me. The notion of an insidious secret cause of autism, advanced by nebulous bogeymen like Big Government or Big Pharma, has at its root the idea that autism represents fundamental brokenness, as Trump so crassly spelled out. The parents who believe this—and the politicians who exploit them—can’t process the idea of them having an autistic child. Autism is something entirely separate standing between them and their “normal” child.
Last week, the New York Times interviewed Missy Foster, a mother who refused to vaccinate her child because of the erroneous connection.
“[MMR] is the worst shot,” Foster tearfully told the Times. “Do you want to wake up one morning and the light is gone from her eyes with autism or something?” There it was. The inescapable idea behind anti-vaccine hysteria, that of autism as some malign fore seeking whom it may devour and making its “victims” something other than human. These are the people whose favor Paul and Christie are competing for. And make no mistake—if you believe that autism “takes” your child from you, or if you would rather expose your child (and others) to preventable diseases than take an entirely imaginary chance of them being autistic, you hate autistic people. This is not up for debate. As I have written before, this hatred harms and kills autistic people. And now it just may take some non-autistic people with it.
#Real #Vaccinations #Vaccines #AntiVac #PublicHealth #Healthcare #Autism #HealthIssues #News #Politics #PC
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