In spite of Texas being very familiar with the concept of herds in general, the anti-vaxxers there just can’t understand herd immunity.
My name is Kristin and I am a vaxxer.
I believe in vaccinating children against diseases such as Mumps, Measles, Rubella, Small Pox, and Pertussis. Months ago I addressed the mind boggling movement against modern medicine in another article published at Practical Politicking. You can catch yourself up here. If you don’t feel like clicking over, I’ll give you the basics: Vaccines don’t cause Autism, modern medicine is a good thing, and Jenny McCarthy is an idiot.
So yes I am a proud vaxxing mama, but that isn’t to say that I never give a thought as to what I am injecting into my darling daughters. When we became first time parents my husband and I did our fair share of vaccination research. We pondered the pros and cons and we asked questions of the medical community. We thought to ourselves, “Hmmmmmm, now who would I ask a medically related question of? I know! A doctor!” Such a revelation seems so common sense based, yet thousands of parents in our country are no longer turning to the scientific and medical community for such information. Somewhere down the blurry line the scientific community became villainized. Yeppers. Apparently the doctors, scientists and drug companies are all out to get you and your children, poisoning them with faulty vaccines.
And here comes Texas! Oh Texas what the heck am I going to do with you? Recently I had to slam you for jumping on the Bathroom Bill Bandwagon with your pal good old North Carolina. Now I find myself rolling my eyes at the latest uprising in The Lonestar State regarding more vaccine drama. Texas is quickly becoming a major hot spot for the anti-vaxxing movement, and we can in part thank our oh-so-medically-educated leader Mr. Donald Trump for this. Surely the anti-vaxxers fallen angel Andrew Wakefield taking up residence in Austin has a little something to do with what is going on here as well. The doubt surrounding the safety of vaccinations is alive and well in Texas. I thought the scientific community did a pretty good job making it crystal clear that Mr. Wakefield is a loon, an embarrassment and a liar. His correlation between childhood vaccines and Autism is nothing more than a harmful fallacy. How are people not getting this still? Oh right, this is the same population that supported the medical knowledge of former Playboy Bunny Jenny McCarthy. Really guys, say it slowly to yourselves. You are in the same camp as the Bunny and a Loon!
In terms of straight numbers all seems well and wonderful in good old Texas. In fact according to the CDC Texas has the highest percentage of vaccinated children in the entire country at 97.4%. That is a great number really and those who rely heavily on herd immunity doing its thing are breathing a sigh of relief over that percentage. That number is alarmingly deceiving though. In 2003 some 2300 parents opted out of vaccinating their young children due to “personal beliefs” not medically related ones. Yes I am well aware that there are people who don’t benefit from vaccinations, all the more reason for the rest of us to protect them with our mighty herd immunity powers. Now fast forward to the year 2016. So, 44,000 individuals opted for vaccination exemption based on personal beliefs in Texas alone. That is a staggering rise in numbers and a startling testament to the power and momentum in the anti-vaxxer community. In truth the number may be much higher as Texas currently registers some 300,000 children as home-schooled, meaning they are not required to report proof of immunization to any public institution Here is a graph illustrating the above trend. Wowzers!
Where is all of this anti-vaxxer momentum coming from anyways?
Enter Donald J. Trump.
President Trump isn’t the most eloquent of presidents to have graced the Oval Office, nor does he do the best job at thinking through his words before letting them fly out of his mouth into the ears of the American public. Beautifully crafted speech isn’t necessarily a make or break quality in terms of presidential leadership, but there certainly are repercussions for saying whatever you feel at the moment when an entire country is listening. The problem is this is exactly what Mr. Trump does in regards to sharing vaccination information. He does not speak factually not neutrally.
President Trump how many times do we have to go over this. Vaccines do not cause Autism. Just last week The American Academy of Pediatrics along with dozens of other health organizations signed a letter to President Trump once again reminding him of the facts and truths surrounding vaccinations, even offering to meet with him in order to better explain this concept. We can all have opinions, but when you are the President of United States you can’t just say things like this: “Tremendous increases … really a horrible thing to watch the tremendous amount of increase.” Actually the rate of Autism has not risen over the past two years, but whatever you say Donald. I am sure you have plenty of alternative facts readily available to counter with. Today it is estimated that 1 in 68 children fall somewhere within Autism Spectrum (spectrum being a very key word here) Disorder. Yes this is a drastic change from 17 years prior when the ratio stood at 1 in 150.
Why have these ratios skyrocketed? I can tell you that the criteria for labeling has undergone drastic changes, the understanding of ASD has advanced and shifted and the labels themselves have undergone transformations. I know this because I spent six years studying Autism and other developmental disorders at a Big Ten University and another ten years teaching special education. Be clear here. These changes in labels and understanding are certainly not the only contributors to ratio shifts, but they are factors nonetheless.
Anti-vaxxers love themselves some momentum and here in Texas we have a perfect storm for an uprising against modern medicine. President Trump gives these parents great reason to believe that they are fighting a good fight when in fact they are doing the exact opposite. He is deceiving them, leading people astray when he should be supporting modern medicine and the brilliant minds behind it. It’s frustrating, but not surprising, considering a champion of the movement sits in the White House, fueling a fire with his uneducated tweets, comments and bevy of alternative facts.
Pockets of Texas are dipping below the herd immunity line and that should worry us all. If we lose herd immunity as well as the ability to rely on modern medicine to allow for a greater quality of life then we have set ourselves and our nation back in indescribable ways.
Texas you are killing me.