Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Measles in the Media

The past half-year has been full of viruses in the news.  Perhaps this is just a case of the so-called "Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon," where something seems to appear everywhere once you learn about it (be it a word, a person, or a type of infectious agent).  Psychological artifact or no, the recent buzz about Ebola, Chikunguya (thanks, accidental new bug-spray advocate Lindsay Lohan?) and Measles struck me as good wave to ride for expanding public understanding of biology.  But is any press good press in this case?  I have to confess I am worried about where that wave of viral publicity (double entendre) has led and about the recent politicization of vaccination (see this article from the Washington Post:  Yes, vaccination is an issue of human rights--namely those of health and freedom--but do any amount of digging and you'll find the answer to upholding both of those rights is the same: vaccinate.  In fact, vaccination may be more an issue of public science understanding than human rights (or thereby an issue of a right to knowledge/education?).  Daily Show host John Stuart suggests anti-vaccination advocacy is "mindful stupidity" (see the entertaining video here:,p0,d1) but it seems to me that in this debate, as in many others, we could do with some less-confrontational dialogue.  Let's preach the facts, not the hate, and maybe we can fix this before it's too late.  Call it mindful ignorance, perhaps, rather than stupidity?  Though the former is painfully oxymoronic at least it seems less derogatory and more rectifiable.  Perhaps my age makes me naive in this, but I hope there is a resolution we can attain before resorting to a discussion of our Locke-ian social contract and government-mandated vaccination.  Everyone should be capable of making the right choice even with full self-sovereignty, if given the right information.


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