Anti-Vaxxers Could Bring Back Childhood Diseases


“The good old days”

…Replicated in some form or another in cities and towns across America, (there is) a growing grassroots movement of people who believe that vaccine mandates—for COVID, yes, but increasingly for other diseases as well—are an affront to their personal freedom. That represents a marked shift from pre-pandemic times, when vaccine opponents typically based their reasoning on medical concerns and were largely comprised of a few religious sects and a small number of left-leaning activists seeking explanations for rising rates of autism. As the anti-vaxx mandate movement gains political traction, particularly on the right, medical experts fear it could not only cripple efforts to eradicate COVID but could also lead to a surge in long-conquered diseases, from mumps to whooping cough to smallpox.

“There are some more conservative states where we are likely to see other non-COVID vaccine mandates under attack, and it is very worrisome,” says Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. “If we have some of these pediatric infectious diseases come back, it will be horrific.”

Yet what scares epidemiologists now is that many conservatives who denounce vaccine mandates are eliding the medical questions of whether they are safe. Instead, says David Rosner, a Columbia University historian who specializes in the intersection of politics and public health, they’re focusing on a political view that requiring them is wrong.

“We are at the beginning of a much more profound change that may lead to resistance to other vaccines but also may lead to disintegration of any sense of social obligation, social cohesion and social purpose,” he warns. “It’s part of the questioning of what the country is and what it represents. When you see this kind of breakdown and unwillingness to work together, even under the most obvious circumstances where we’ve had more than 650,000 people die, it feels like the beginning of a major dividing point.”

I usually end a post like this by saying “I try to differentiate between ignorance and stupidity”. I have no interest, however, in letting “Stupid” win this one. I’ve said this several times before. Let me repeat myself. I’m old enough to remember springtime and gathering together with the other kids in my neighborhood to figure out who died over winter from diphtheria or pneumonia or influenza.

And even if you’re ignorant enough to make a religious crusade of libertarian healthcare choice, I hope you’re not stupid enough to offer your children a better chance of dying before they’re old enough to vote.