I get a ton of press releases every day in my inbox every day; most of them I just ignore, but yesterday I got one whose subject, in all-caps and bold, read:
OUTRAGED AUTISM GROUPS AND LEADERS TO ANNOUNCE 50,000-PARENT PROTEST IN NYC AGAINST BILLIONAIRE AND MICROSOFT CHAIRMAN BILL GATES AFTER BEING CALLED “CHILD KILLERS”
So I had to take a look, because I wanted to see what Gates had really said, and about whom. It turns out he didn’t actually use the phrase “child killers,” but he did say that anti-vaccine groups “kill children,” which does pretty much amount to the same thing. I can see why people would be outraged by that — I’m outraged, too, but not in the way the people who issued the press release would like me to be. Because I’m outraged that there most likely are 50,000 people who are willing to protest, when what Bill Gates said is absolutely, 100% correct.
I am constantly overwhelmed by the idiocy of so many people. In most cases, adults have every right to make bad choices, and we all make them now and then — but just making the occasional bad choice doesn’t make you an idiot. No, it’s idiotic to make a bad choice, and then when presented with ample evidence that you have made a bad choice do nothing to correct it. It is mindbogglingly idiotic to not only not correct that choice but to form groups with other idiots to try to convince yet more people to make the same bad choice. And it is dangerously idiotic when the bad choice in question kills children.
It’s unlikely that anyone who still believes that vaccines cause autism is going to be swayed by yet another article pointing out that no, actually they don’t. The original British autism study that prompted the whole anti-vaccine hysteria has been retracted and declared by the same journal that published it to be an “elaborate hoax.” In point of fact, there has never been a credible scientific study that shows that vaccines cause autism. Not one.
Just for a second let’s pretend that’s not the case, that getting your child vaccinated might actually make him or her autistic. It still wouldn’t be a good idea to not get your child vaccinated: Autism is a tough thing to deal with, no question, but it is never fatal — unlike things like polio, hepatitis, measles, rubella, and other things prevented by those vaccines. If you tell parents not to get their children vaccinated, the message that comes across is that you think it’s better to risk death or severe illness than to risk autism — is that really the message you want to send? And of course it’s not just their own children’s health parents risk if they decide not to get them vaccinated: By reducing the “herd immunity” they also risk the lives of children too young to be vaccinated or with compromised immune systems.
I know several parents with kids on the autism spectrum, and my wife has a lot of experience in therapies for very young children with autism. So, despite not having an autistic child myself, I think I can come close to imagining how devastating it is to have your child one day behave normally and the next to seem withdrawn from the world, and from you. And I can understand the emotional need to blame someone else for the condition. But if you’re a member of the anti-vaccine crowd, please, please stop blaming vaccines. Even if you were right — and you’re not — you’d still cause far worse consequences than you’d remedy. And please don’t flaunt your foolishness (and that’s the kind word for it) by protesting against Bill Gates. He told a tough truth, but a truth nonetheless.
NOTE: Please see this follow-up article regarding the story making the rounds about attendance at the rally being only 18 people.