Sunday, July 22, 2018
Opinion

Another voice: Good, bad and fake news on vaccines

Childhood deaths have been falling worldwide since 1990. In their foundation's annual letter last week, Bill and Melinda Gates estimated that science had saved 122 million children in the last quarter-century.

That's a population larger than three Californias. What saved them? Vaccines, mostly.

The percentage of children receiving basic immunization is now at a historic high, internationally speaking. It's "incredible progress," the Gates Foundation report said, a triumph of foreign aid, charitable giving and bootstrap determination on the part of developing nations. By any measure, it's something to celebrate.

So why on earth, amid that good news, would other famous Americans want to undermine childhood immunization? In Washington, D.C., Robert Kennedy Jr. and Robert De Niro spoke on a panel stoking conspiracy theories about the safety of vaccines.

Their stance was based on widely discredited research that purports to link vaccines and autism. There is no such link, and claims to the contrary are not only fake science, but irresponsible and pernicious.

Though vaccines have eradicated many lethal childhood diseases, those diseases can come roaring back if we don't maintain an immunization rate of about 90 percent or higher. And anti-vaxxers — both the hard-core kind and the easily led worriers who simply delay or resist vaccinations — have managed in some communities to lower herd immunity to dangerous levels. That's how the Disneyland measles outbreak happened, and why vaccine laws were tightened in California.

But most states still allow exemptions for religious and philosophical reasons. And in recent years, vaccination has become almost as politicized as climate science. In Texas, for example, anti-vax political action committees are trying to prevent that state's vaccine laws from being tightened, the better to resist alleged government intrusion. As a result, public health experts fear the next major measles outbreak will be in the Lone Star State.

De Niro, the famed actor, has a child with autism. Kennedy, of the political dynasty, has said that President Donald Trump wants him to chair a national commission on vaccines. Trump said they were just tossing around ideas, but during the 2016 campaign, the president publicly questioned vaccine safety. It is appalling that such willed ignorance should be threatening Americans just as the rest of the planet is making so much progress. First World problems, indeed.

Comments

Editorial: NFL calls wise time-out on disciplining protests

The National Football League kept an embarrassing situation from becoming even worse by shelving its new policy clamping down on players who refuse to stand for the national anthem.The league announced late Thursday it would suspend the 2-month old p...
Published: 07/20/18
Editorial: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s responsible budget

Editorial: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s responsible budget

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is shoring up his final year in office with the proposed city budget he released Thursday. The plan includes no big-ticket items, opting instead to maintain ongoing investments in parks, roads and other basic public services....
Published: 07/19/18
Updated: 07/20/18

IRS making ‘dark money’ darker

Under a perverse interpretation of federal law, tax-exempt nonprofit organizations supposedly devoted to "social welfare" can spend large amounts of money to influence elections without publicly disclosing the identities of their donors. But instead ...
Published: 07/19/18
Updated: 07/20/18
Editorial: Ferry is fun but should pay for itself in long run

Editorial: Ferry is fun but should pay for itself in long run

The CrossBay Ferry appears headed for another round of rides across Tampa Bay, with local governments pledging one more year of financial support. But as more taxpayer money is steered into this project, it’s important to recognize what purpose the f...
Published: 07/18/18
Updated: 07/20/18
Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

To his credit, Gov. Rick Scott says he is considering requests to order an independent investigation of how Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s office screens applications for concealed weapon permits. It’s a reasonable request, and the governor h...
Published: 07/18/18
Editorial: Algae blooms, toll woes and beach battles -- Florida’s fouled up summer

Editorial: Algae blooms, toll woes and beach battles -- Florida’s fouled up summer

July in Florida. The height of summer tourist season. Rental cars clog the highways and tourists crowd the beaches, motels and all-you-can-eat shrimp joints. Many of our neighbors are off to North Carolina or somewhere cooler. So it’s an awfully inco...
Published: 07/17/18
Updated: 07/20/18
Editorial: Sacrificing two kayaks and a Toyota for free speech

Editorial: Sacrificing two kayaks and a Toyota for free speech

Maggy Hurchalla joked this spring that all she could offer a billionaire who won a $4.4 million judgment against her after she exercised her free speech rights were "two kayaks and an aging Toyota.’’ The billionaire didn’t laugh. This week, Martin Co...
Published: 07/17/18
Updated: 07/18/18
Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

In one of the most surreal news conferences of our time, President Donald Trump actually stood next to Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday and called the federal investigation into Russia’s meddling into the 2016 election "a disaster for our coun...
Published: 07/16/18
Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

The St. Petersburg City Council made the appropriate but difficult decision to reject a contract with renowned artist Janet Echelman for one of her aerial sculptures. It would be wonderful for the city to have one of her signature works, but Spa Beac...
Published: 07/13/18

‘Everybody needed to know what happened’

The brutal murder of Emmett Till, a black Chicago youth, in Mississippi nearly 63 years ago went unpunished, but not forgotten. A decision by his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, to allow an open casket at Emmett’s Chicago funeral represented an act of def...
Published: 07/13/18