On the heels of the measles outbreak at Disneyland, Melinda Gates of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation took aim at the vaccine naysayers who make these types of disease outbreaks more likely.
“We take vaccines so for granted in the United States,” Gates told the Huffington Post in a prerecorded interview published on Thursday. “Women in the developing world know the power of [vaccines]. They will walk 10 kilometers in the heat with their child and line up to get a vaccine, because they have seen death. [Americans have] forgotten what measles deaths look like.”
She added, “I’d say to the people of the United States: we’re incredibly lucky to have that technology and we ought to take full advantage of it.”
In response to the Disneyland outbreak, pediatric infectious disease specialist James Cherry told the New York Times the outbreak was “100 percent connected” to the anti-vaccine movement. “It wouldn’t have happened otherwise — it wouldn’t have gone anywhere,” he said.
The key is what the scientific community calls herd or community immunity. If every American of age was vaccinated, measles wouldn’t spread much further even if foreign travelers came into the country with the disease — as appears to be the case with measles.
Vaccinated people essentially act as barriers to measles outbreaks, since the disease can’t pass through them and infect other people. The awful truth of the anti-vaccine movement is that it puts the most vulnerable populations at risk: infants under 12 months of age, who can’t get vaccinated and are more susceptible to infection, and the elderly, who have a higher risk of death if they contract these illnesses.
Between religious nutballs whose anti-science hangups are reinforced by some dude behind a pulpit talking about an invisible dude sitting on a cloud in the sky — and conservative nutballs who indulge hangups that lead to unconcern about someone else dying from a condition we all can prevent – anti-science spookiness runs riot. They haven’t a clue.
Like that woman Melinda Gates talks about in the developing world, I grew up in a time and place where vaccines for many childhood diseases didn’t exist. Every spring we looked around at school to see who died over winter. Measles, scarlet fever, mumps, diptheria – all took their toll. Then we had the summer and polio to look forward to.
No – it wasn’t Africa or Asia. It was a factory town in southern New England. A town like every other in the United States at the time. No one was spared.
So, Melinda Gates’ response to anti-vaccine fools is education, history. My response to that is similar to Dr. King’s response when he was asked if civil rights laws would help bigots to love him. I don’t care if idjits love me. I just want to stop them from killing me and my family.