This makes me sad, because while you don’t have to vaccinate everyone (herd immunity‘s a wonderful thing), the threshold is always somewhere in the high 80%s. Also, the link between vaccines and autism is completely unsupported by scientific evidence. In fact, we had an entire small group session devoted to debunking it. I should’ve taken notes on the “miracles” required for the link to be true.
Moreover, after the Wakefield paper was published in the Lancet (and subsequently reported all over the popular press), there was a scare in Britain where parents refused to consent to vaccinating their kids. Result: increased incidence of measles and mumps, with two kids suffering measles encephalitis (read: permanent brain damage). Similar effect in Ireland: 1500 cases and 3 deaths. It’s all nicely outlined, with citations, on Wikipedia.
Now, autism is an illness that hits very close to home — one of my family members has been diagnosed with autism. It’s a frightening label to put on your kid, because although there are various therapies, there is no cure. I completely understand why parents would want to avoid anything that might cause it. (Current evidence suggests it’s genetic, but obviously very complex and non-Mendelian.) But also frightening: encephalitis. Death. You’d think parents would want to avoid these, too.
On a slightly related note: there are ads in the subway for some medical malpractice firm. In large and glitzy letters, they proclaim that you can win $1.5 million suing for autism. Who do you sue for a complex genetic trait, anyway? The worst part is the testimonial from a “satisfied customer” who notes how pleased she is that her child’s incurable neurological condition has netted her some bling. I wish I were kidding.