By HAROLD POLLACK [Democracy] – Today, no serious medical or scientific expert believes that vaccines cause autism. Yet many nervous parents continue to think otherwise. One of these is actress and model Jenny McCarthy. During a 2007 “Oprah” appearance, she said that not long after her son received his shot, “The soul was gone from his eyes.” When Oprah asked what McCarthy knew about vaccine science, McCarthy responded, “My science is Evan, and he’s at home. That’s my science.” Winfrey said, “Thank God for Google,” to which McCarthy responded, “The University of Google is where I got my degree from.”
As in England, increasing numbers of parents in the United States chose not to immunize their children—for measles, mumps, and rubella, and for other diseases, too. As in England, outbreaks of vaccinatable diseases have re-emerged as a public health problem. In 2005, an unvaccinated Indiana teen was exposed to measles on a church mission to Romania. She exposed 500 others at a church picnic, infecting 31 out of the 35 unvaccinated picnickers. Of the remaining 465 immunized people, only three were likewise infected. In California last year, the state recorded thousands of cases of pertussis (whooping cough) and nine related deaths, the most in decades. In 2009, Australia saw a record 13,000 cases. How is it that in 2011 we are faced with significant, sometimes lethal outbreaks of such readily prevented diseases?