One of the greatest achievements of medical science is the eradication of terrible diseases and the lessening of the impact of influenza and other ailments through vaccinations. With science under assault, however, alarming numbers of people are not getting vaccinations for themselves or their children, which not only makes them susceptible to disease but leads to its spread throughout the general population. This is a problem right here in Berkshire County.
According to Massachusetts Department of Public Health statistics, 1.5 percent of kindergarten students received religious or medical exemptions from the DPH's immunization program in 2012-2013. That figure, however, is a far higher 3.2 percent in Berkshire County. Writing on The Berkshire Eagle's editorial page October 12, Ronald Dunlap and John O'Reilly, both Massachusetts physicians, asserted that the return of largely forgotten diseases like mumps, measles and whooping cough in America can be attributed to states granting increasing number of exemptions for vaccinations.
Fear-mongers advancing groundless conspiracies about vaccines contribute to the re-emergence of these diseases, say the two doctors. Writing last month on the website sciencebasedmedicine.org, Dr. John Snyder, a pediatrician who has articulated the dangers of parental vaccine refusal, described the alarming trend away from vaccinations among parents who bring their children to his office in nearby Amherst. Many of the parents subscribed to one or all of what Dr. Snyder described as four vaccine "myths": Vaccines cause diseases, including autism; vaccines contain dangerous toxins; too many vaccines can overwhelm the nervous system; vaccines are not necessary and don't work.
How can this happen in this supposedly enlightened age? Dr. Snyder mourns that too many parents "chose to ignore science over the advice of their social network, the popular media, and the pseudo-religious, anti-vaccine propaganda mill. It is a movement away from science and reason that warrants much more attention than it has received so far." Their choice not only puts children at risk it puts all of us at risk by prompting the revival of diseases that medical science had all but wiped out.