Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Friday, December 21, 2018

The Far Right Goes Anti-Vax

A phenomenon which has always puzzled me is popular resistance to vaccination. It goes back to the very beginning, vaccination against smallpox, which was a terrible scourge that killed 30% of its victims and left the rest disfigured. When Edward Jenner proved in 1796 that inoculation with cowpox, which caused only mild disease, conferred immunity to smallpox, the world was given a priceless gift.

Yet popular movements arose almost immediately to oppose vaccination, both in England and the U.S. Eventually smallpox vaccination became widely accepted, and smallpox was eradicated from the earth. Later, the terror of the polio epidemic of the 1950s, which is nearly forgotten today, was ended when Jonas Salk developed a safe and effective vaccine. He became the most celebrated scientist in the world and a popular hero.

And yet now we have growing resistance to safe and effective vaccines against measles, mumps, rubella, and other diseases. Right wing parties in Europe, as well as Individual 1, are denouncing vaccination as some sort of conspiracy against the people. As a result, the incidence of measles has risen sharply in parts of Europe. We have also had outbreaks in the U.S., and all but three states allow parents to opt out of vaccinating their children because of political resistance. As The Guardian reports:

Populist rightwing politicians, from the US to Italy, Poland and France, have jumped on the anti-vaccine bandwagon, supporting the sceptics and championing the right of parents not to immunise their children in countries where it is mandatory before starting school. . . .

Populist rightwing politicians and others leading anti-establishment parties have said they were against globalisation and profiteering multi-national corporations, the commissioner noted. They give credence to “fake news” stories on social media claiming drug companies are disseminating viruses into the population in order to sell vaccines. And they support calls to overturn mandatory vaccination where it could win them votes.
Andriukaitis said: “It is very dangerous. My message is very simple now – you elected a lot of anti-vaccine politicians into parliament and now you have them in some governments. Are you ready to follow their decisions based on fake news or decisions based on evidence? There are only two options – fake news or evidence-based.”
Denial of science has become a basic feature of right wing politics around the world. Scientists were once celebrated in popular culture and the idea of the progress of knowledge was a common frame for understanding the world. Now we have a movement that wants to take us back to the 12th Century. It's terrifying.

1 comment:

Don Quixote said...

Robert De Niro is absolutely right. Not just fuck Trump--fuck EVERYONE who supports him and thinks like him, or even pretends to think as he does for political purposes.