Sunday, March 20, 2016

Have We Finally Entered the Post-Vaccines/Autism Fear Mongering Era?

Shannon Des Roches Rosa

[image: White adult holding the hand of a toddler,
in the wave zone of a beach.]
The times, are they finally a-changing? Are we entering the era so many of us science-heeding autism-focused writers have hoped for, in which mainstream media outlets assume readers already know the autism-vaccine link is total bunk, and get to focus instead on reminding people why it's so important to vaccinate their kids in the first place

I'd really like to say yes, going by two recent articles about the terrible real-world consequences of the vaccine avoidance movement: Over Half Of Measles Cases In U.S. Outbreaks Are Unvaccinated -- Often Intentionally by Tara Haelle, at Forbes; and Why Vaccinating Your Kid Shouldn't Even Be a Question by Maressa Brown, at Cosmopolitan (of all places). Neither article mentions autism once.

Reading vaccine articles that don't include at least one mention of autism is a bit of a shock to me -- I've grown accustomed to automatically scanning all vaccine-related articles for their autism mentions. But it's a welcome shock, because reinforcing the message that vaccines prevent diseases and death -- instead of spending all our time debunking vaccine-autism hoaxes -- is where our vaccine-centric focus needs to be, as a quote from the Cosmo article emphasizes:
"...individuals who refuse vaccines not only put themselves at risk for disease, it turns out that they also put others at risk too — even people who have been vaccinated before, but whose protection from those vaccinations may not be as strong as it used to be."
This is the message mainstream readers need to hear -- that they have the power to avoid preventable disease and death, and not that they should be aware of misplaced fears and false balance regarding autism. (Which is a neurological difference, and autistic people need autism-directed energies focused on understanding and accommodation, not stigma and bogus "disease" talk.)

Can we supporters of vaccines, science, and autism acceptance rest easy now? As one of the moderators of the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism site and Facebook forum, I have to concede, "not yet" -- not in our circles, anyhow. I still can't share articles that mention the thoroughly debunked autism-vaccine link, or Andrew Wakefield's fraudulent actions, without having to zap a slew of antivax truther comments. And there are still enough anti-science autism martyr parent echo chambers, and demagogues of natural mama denalist insularity, that vigilance must be maintained.

But the mainstream media? It seems tired of talking about autism and vaccines, in the same way it tired of highlighting the spurious autism treatment Secretin, or Jenny McCarthy's increasingly frantic attempts at branding. I hope the rest of us will eventually get to move on, too.

If you want to help spread the #VaccinesWork message, or if you're you're looking for resources to help bolster your arguments about why vaccines matter, here are three resources to study and share: