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The recent decision of Washington, D.C., officials to pursue parents who refuse to vaccinate their children with fines and even jail time makes sense in a twisted sort of way. After all, the old solution of banning the children from attending public school was beginning to look more and more like an incentive plan, considering the ignominious performance of the District’s notorious schools.

But why are so many parents steadfastly refusing to inject their children? Perhaps because they’ve learned to be dubious of the official line that vaccines are A Good Thing. The official line rests on a few simple notions, most of which fall apart completely once they’re closely examined. A particular favorite of doctors is to state that no scientific study has ever found a causal link between vaccinations and autism, or between vaccinations and a whole host of Bad Things which most parents would very much like their children to avoid.

What generally goes unsaid is that no serious studies have been done on these issues, since it is in the best interests of the pharmaceutical companies manufacturing the vaccines, the politicians requiring them, and the doctors administering the shot, to avoid delving into the subject. Even a much-ballyhooed report last year from the English Institute of Medicine rejecting the MMR vaccine-autism link was not a study proper, but a critical review of Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s study of 170 English children who had “undergone regression after receiving the vaccine.”

When pressed on this dearth of study, vaccine proponents fall back on insisting that it would be immoral to allow a control group of children to go unvaccinated, thus creating an impenetrable circle of illogic in defense of their assertion that vaccines are A Good Thing. The shotmeisters also make a habit of blaming various outbreaks of things like measles on the unvaccinated in our midst, which is simply not true since by even the rabidly pro-vaccination Center for Disease Control’s reckoning, only 27.7 percent of the measles cases in 1987 could be considered preventable.

On television, you know that a child is doomed as soon as you learn that he’s unvaccinated. I’m still curious to know if NBC and ER collected some of that Clinton administration propaganda money for the episode in which a misled mother’s nice young unvaccinated boy dies of measles. But out here in the real world, in the unlikely event that a child does get measles, the chances that the disease will prove fatal are extremely low. The worst outbreak in the last 15 years was in 1990, when there were 27,786 cases and 89 deaths. That’s a 0.32 percent chance of dying on top of a 0.0115 percent chance of coming down with the disease in the first place, compared to a child’s 0.2 percent chance of coming down with autism by the age of 5.

Because the number of measles cases was 12 times greater than normal in 1990 and the fatalities occurred in people of all ages, a child under 5 is approximately 800 times more likely to develop autism than die of measles in an average year.

Other diseases for which vaccinations are provided are barely worth mentioning, since children almost never die from tetanus or rubella. Contrast this with the fact that the federal government has been forced to pay out more than $1 billion since the establishment of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act in 1986, and this despite the admission by a former head of the Food and Drug administration that “only about 1 percent of serious events are reported to the FDA.”

It is true that there is not yet any absolute scientific proof that vaccines injure and kill thousands of children every year, but the money trail and anecdotal evidence continues to pile up in a manner that would suffice to convince a jury, if not a scientist. It is imperative that these matters be investigated thoroughly and completely, and if it is found that these mandated vaccines are indeed wreaking havoc on the children of America, those responsible for creating, mandating and administering them must be severely punished.

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