There is a really crappy New York Times op-ed entitled “How the Anti-Vaxxers Are Winning” circulating at the moment (it’s such a great click-bait headline! Good job New York Times editors!).
It claims that “It’s looking as if 2017 could become the year when the anti-vaccination movement gains ascendancy in the United States,” but the only pieces of evidence it actually gives for that are that Robert Kennedy claims he was asked by Trump to be on an anti-vaxxer commision, and that there is an anti-vax documentary. Then it goes on to present some CDC data in confusing and misleading ways, while skipping over all of the data that shows that vaccination rates are steadily increasing and that the overwhelming majority of failure to vaccinate is caused by poverty and busyness, not anti-vaxxers.
It targets the wrong problem and ignores the real problem (as well as engaging in pointless scare-mongering). Anti-vaxxers are wrong and selfish, but the reason for low vaccination rates is overwhelmingly an inadequate public health system. Look at Texas in the two maps in the article: more than 33% of toddlers haven’t gotten the full sequence of vaccines, but only 2-5% of toddlers are unvaccinated for anti-vaxxer reasons.
More directly, here is the CDC report on vaccination rates: Note three things:
- for each vaccine individually, vaccination rate is > 90%, generally the safe level for herd immunity;
- the complete 7 vaccination rate has risen steadily for the last 7 years (through 2014, but nothing in the NYTimes op-ed cites more recent data);
- the main group that is inadequately vaccinated is poor people.
The two minute hate at anti-vaxxers is fun (and who doesn’t hate anti-vaxxers?), but it masks the real problems and the real success of vaccination programs in the US.
(Oh, and in good vaccine news, Britain, which really did suffer a huge wave of anti-vaxxers in the 00’s is now back to greater than 9 out of 10 rates for MMR vaccines.)