Several of my fellow ScienceBloglings have noted that the increase in measles cases is due to idiots who refuse to get vaccinated. Beyond the obvious health threat this represents, there is a more subtle, yet equally murderous effect of all of this anti-vax woo.
It distracts us from other vaccination programs that we need to institute. Every year, roughly 36,000 U.S. residents die from influenza–the ‘boring’ kind. Why this isn’t viewed as a major health crisis, while breast cancer, which kills approximately the same number annually, is escapes me. Not because breast cancer isn’t an awful disease worthing fighting–it is–but because we could prevent most of those influenza deaths (around 80%) with an intelligent influenza vaccination system. That’s all we need: no new drugs have to be invented.
This is simply a matter of resources and political will. Yet how are we supposed to galvanize political support for a new vaccination program when we are losing ground in our well-established programs because of anti-vax woo?
There’s a similar kind of frustration stemming from creationist idiocy. Instead of moving ahead with debating what kinds of biological research we should be supporting and how best to teach biology, biologists have to waste our time refuting creationist bullshit, so we don’t lose powerful tools for solving medical problems.
These are not arguments we can afford to have. I’ve had enough of their past. I’m ready for our future.