Could we stop asking politicians “gotcha” questions about measles please? And anyone else for that matter?

I bet that if you ask any politicians running (or potentially running) for President right now if they vaccinated their children against measles, they would answer “yes”.

I bet that if you ask any politicians running (or potentially running) for President right now if they think it’s a good idea for other children to be vaccinated against measles, they would answer “yes”.

I bet that if you ask any politicians running (or potentially running) for President right now if they think it’s generally a good idea for states to have regulations to encourage families to get their children vaccinated against measles, they would answer “yes”.

So let’s acknowledge that I doubt many politicians on the national stage are running around spouting “anti-vax” propaganda or “ignoring science”. The problem here is that what we’re really asking politicians about is whether they think it’s a good idea to force a parent to do something to their child that might run counter to their beliefs. That’s a problem for politicians who are courting a base (I DON’T CARE WHAT SIDE) that does not like the government telling them what to do to their children.

So if you try to ask them questions they think others might hear as “Do you think parents should be forced to give their children vaccines” the answer may be “no”. I think I might answer that question “no”. I think there are likely parents who absolutely believe that vaccines are wrong in the same way there are parents who think blood transfusions are wrong. We allow exemptions for religious reasons in this country for lots of things I don’t understand, but that’s the point. I DON’T UNDERSTAND.

I think parents who don’t make their kids wear bike helmets are wrong. I think parents who let their kids eat nothing but junk food are wrong. I think that parents who don’t reinforce the importance of education are wrong. And, yet, all of these things occur every day, and the world keeps on spinning.

Yes, vaccines are different, because their refusal can affect me and my family. That’s why I am fine with decisions like those in New York to “quarantine” unvaccinated children during an outbreak by refusing to let them attend school. You have the right to refuse the vaccine. You don’t have the right to put other kids at risk during an outbreak.

I don’t attack parents who disagree with me. And, yes, I have patients who go unvaccinated, and I don’t lose my mind. I even have friends who have made what I consider to be bad choices about vaccines. They don’t make my life miserable.

What makes me lose my patience are scientists, doctors, and other people who know better who promote bad science and data to justify their decision. That’s what I attack. The bad methods, the myths, and the misconceptions – those I will go after. But not the people who have different beliefs.

When the media focuses on those with different beliefs and exposes them to ridicule, then they need to justify their beliefs. They pull out junk science. They get entrenched. It doesn’t work.

When they make it about the individuals involved in the outbreaks, and focus on who’s to “blame”, people feel a need to defend, debate, or attack. That doesn’t work.

And when they ask politicians questions guaranteed to highlight the trickiness of government mandates in the guise of asking about medical science, then the politicians will screw up. It’s going to happen. If that brings you joy, then get some popcorn and enjoy the show, I guess. It’s hurting all of us, but it generates clicks and heat.

Here is all I think needs to be said. You may disagree. That’s fine:

  1. Measles is a terribly infectious illness that is a public health issue.
  2. There’s a vaccine that is amazingly effective.
  3. The vaccine is very, very safe, and it doesn’t cause autism.
  4. Policies in the United States should try and encourage all children to get immunized, as we need almost everyone to be immune to achieve herd immunity.
  5. We may have to allow some people to forego vaccination if they absolutely must, but we should try to make sure it’s not for reasons that are scientifically wrong – ie violate (1), (2), or (3). And I’m fine with allowing no exceptions, but I recognize that some may get them for religious reasons.
  6. Unvaccinated people can be restricted from certain public activities (ie school) during emergency situations like outbreaks.

And I’m out.


UPDATE – I really am out, but I have edited certain things for clarity, and I reserve the right to continue to do so.

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