Monday, February 2, 2015

Throwing the Vaccine Book

In the wake of the Disneyland Measles Epidemic of 2015, many people are calling on one of the epidemic’s chief engineers, “Dr. Bob” Sears, to retract his alarmist rhetoric on vaccines. Here’s my recommendation: back off of Dr. Bob! How is he going to turn this thing around if it looks like he’s just caving to pressure from every reputable doctor and public health advocate in the country? 

This process is like potty training: as long as you keep reminding the child to go, he’ll resist. Instead, we need to stop mentioning it and act like we don’t care if it ever happens. Then, once he can save face, I’m confident that Dr. Bob will find some way to admit that vaccines are safe and measles are dangerous. We can then give him an M&M. In case he needs a head start, I’m offering this script, but he’s welcome to make up his own stuff, as many people feel he has done before:

“There is a lot that we didn’t know when I first wrote The Vaccine Book. At that time, for example, no one had any idea that measles is among the most contagious of all human diseases. We had no clue that it kills between 1 and 3 of every 1000 people it infects and may lead to severe and irreversible brain and nerve damage up to 10 years after the infection. If only today's advanced research tools had been available to doctors working in the 1950’s, or even the 1990’s!

We have also had much more time to gather data on vaccine side effects. When I first wrote my book, I had great hopes that encouraging parents to delay or forego vaccines would lead to a race of super-healthy children to whom the scourge of autism and a bunch of other vague, poorly-conceived “risks” of vaccines would be unknown. As it turns out, these unvaccinated kids contract and spread measles and whooping cough, but otherwise they’re just like vaccinated kids, except that they have at least as high if not a higher rate of autism. Hey, it was worth a try!

Some of my colleagues accuse me of publishing The Vaccine Book because The Baby Book was already taken, and it’s all I could think of. Some say that I was looking for a way to ingratiate myself to celebrities, or at least their nannies and dog walkers, by seeming to offer a unique take on infectious diseases and the nature of the human immune system. To those people I say celebrities’ nannies are actually quite lovely, and you’ll never believe the stories I can’t share because of HIPAA.

But those issues are not important now. Being a scientist means having to say, ‘Oh, there are new, compelling data, and it appears that my theory was wrong.’ I am that scientist. So please, immunize your children completely and on schedule and, until you do, please avoid theme parks, regular parks, parking lots, parkour, Parker Posey, Park Slope, Park Avenue, Park City...pretty much any place another human might breathe in the next two hours. And don’t worry about me; I will remain in the limelight in my new job: warming up audiences for Dr. Paul Offit.”