Number of American parents not vaccinating infants has quadrupled

A measles comeback is not the sort of return our children deserve.

  • The percentage of children under 2 years old who haven't received any vaccinations has quadrupled in the last 17 years.
  • In 2016 in Europe there were 5,273 cases of measles. One year later that jumped to 21,315 cases.
  • Discredited doctor Andrew Wakefield's false study linking vaccines and autism still influences parents, two decades later.

Health care should be a public right today, especially in wealthy nations such as America, though for most of history such support systems were impossible. Social health initiatives are relatively new. Bureaucratic European states instituted such programs, but it was not until Germany introduced the "medical police" in the late 17th century that widespread programs started to take root. Johan Peter Frank helped construct the ideological underpinnings of this movement in a nine-volume series of books that took 48 years to write.

Frank was a champion of inoculation, the burgeoning practice of introducing small amounts of a disease — in this case, smallpox — into a person, which allowed their immune system build up defenses against a full-fledged ravaging virus. Inoculation itself dates back at least to ancient China; Frank was merely giving bureaucratic form to the formula.

By the middle of the 18th century, such inoculations were widespread, though an ignorance of proper dosage still lead to many deaths. While royalty and the wealthy were first in line, a physician named Edward Jenner brought it mainstream by injecting cowpox into a young boy who became immune to this ailment. Jenner called it a "vaccination," after the Latin word for "cow."

Decades later, the British Public Health Movement enforced compulsory vaccination. This led to an intense scrutiny of the major causes of disease, such as poverty, child labor, water supply, and prostitution. A linkage between our social environment and disease was forged. Public health reforms in Britain and America were instituted, with the World Health Organization being formed in 1948 to study and fight disease on a global scale.

Such efforts made a huge impact. Malaria was cut down in many countries. Perhaps the biggest victory was smallpox, whose last known case occurred in 1977. In May, 1980 the agency announced its extinction. Other chronic diseases have been greatly restricted: polio, measles, and tetanus are confined, while influenza, HPV, and chicken pox have been verified as ailments that vaccines minimize.

Then, in 1998, a now-discredited British doctor, Andrew Wakefield, was paid to falsify evidence linking the MMR vaccine and autism. The paper was eventually retracted. Yet it was published during a time when conspiracy theories were growing thanks to a new communications device called the internet. Rightfully-confused and upset parents were seeking a cause to the growing number of autistic children. Wakefield offered an answer, of sorts.

Problem is, that answer didn't address the question of making us healthier. Not only do vaccines not cause autism, the anti-vax movement that has grown from his deceptive paper is making us sicker. Last year in Minnesota the worst measles outbreak in generations occurred in a Somali population that received false information from an anti-vaxxer group. It's not only America: in 2016 in Europe there were 5,273 cases of measles. Due to anti-vaxxer fever, just one year later 21,315 people fell ill to a disease that has been successfully fought since 1960.

And now, this disturbing news was recently published regarding American children:

The percentage of children under 2 years old who haven't received any vaccinations has quadrupled in the last 17 years, according to federal health data released Thursday.

A medical worker injects a baby with a measles-rubella (MR) vaccine at a health station in Banda Aceh in Aceh province on September 19, 2018. Photo by CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN / AFP

INDONESIA-HEALTH-CHILDREN

The CDC notes that coverage was lowest among the uninsured and children covered under Medicaid. A free, federally-funded Vaccines For Children program exists, causing The Washington Post to speculate that at least part of this issue might be education.

Yet really, this entire debacle is indicative of a lack of education. Vaccine researcher Peter Hotez, whose daughter suffers from autism, has published a book detailing the issue, in which which he explains:

From my experience, a majority of vaccine-hesitant parents are not deeply dug in. They've gotten misinformation from anti-vaccine websites and social media, or they've heard something unsavory about vaccines from friends and relatives… Then there's another group, maybe 10 to 20 percent who are deeply dug in and believe all of the fake conspiracy theories. Those individuals are really difficult to reach.

For most of history, disease was ambiguous, random, metaphysical even — there is no dearth in literature relating sickness with gods and demons. It was long thought karma was the reason you fell ill or died. We know better today, yet too many people refuse to recognize this basic fact, placing their faith in biological mysticism. This is child abuse, yet sadly this is akin to smartphone addiction: we're simply not ready to label it as such on a societal scale.

Vaccine science is not perfect. Each year, the efficacy of the influenza vaccine is an educated guess. However, just because researchers haven't nailed every facet of disease does not mean we should write off the science. Millions of lives have been saved due to vaccines. Now, if current trends continues, millions more will be put at risk.

The majority of American children are vaccinated. I've heard complaints by a number of friends whose children are put on a rigorous schedule from birth; their skepticism of the validity of this approach is warranted. We should debate courses. We should not, however, debate basic science, such as vaccinating children for measles or polio. Parents putting their children at risk due to their own lack of common sense is not only unfair, it's dangerous.

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The 'People Map of the United States' zooms in on America's obsession with celebrity

Image: The Pudding
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  • Replace city names with those of their most famous residents
  • And you get a peculiar map of America's obsession with celebrity
  • If you seek fame, become an actor, musician or athlete rather than a politician, entrepreneur or scientist

Chicagoland is Obamaland

Image: The Pudding

Chicagoland's celebrity constellation: dominated by Barack, but with plenty of room for the Belushis, Brandos and Capones of this world.

Seen from among the satellites, this map of the United States is populated by a remarkably diverse bunch of athletes, entertainers, entrepreneurs and other persons of repute (and disrepute).

The multitalented Dwayne Johnson, boxing legend Muhammad Ali and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs dominate the West Coast. Right down the middle, we find actors Chris Pratt and Jason Momoa, singer Elvis Presley and basketball player Shaquille O'Neal. The East Coast crew include wrestler John Cena, whistle-blower Edward Snowden, mass murderer Ted Bundy… and Dwayne Johnson, again.

The Rock pops up in both Hayward, CA and Southwest Ranches, FL, but he's not the only one to appear twice on the map. Wild West legend Wyatt Earp makes an appearance in both Deadwood, SD and Dodge City, KS.

How is that? This 'People's Map of the United States' replaces the names of cities with those of "their most Wikipedia'ed resident: people born in, lived in, or connected to a place."

‘Cincinnati, Birthplace of Charles Manson'

Image: The Pudding

Keys to the city, or lock 'em up and throw away the key? A city's most famous sons and daughters of a city aren't always the most favoured ones.

That definition allows people to appear in more than one locality. Dwayne Johnson was born in Hayward, has one of his houses in Southwest Ranches, and is famous enough to be the 'most Wikipedia'ed resident' for both localities.

Wyatt Earp was born in Monmouth, IL, but his reputation is closely associated with both Deadwood and Dodge City – although he's most famous for the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, which took place in Tombstone, AZ. And yes, if you zoom in on that town in southern Arizona, there's Mr Earp again.

The data for this map was collected via the Wikipedia API (application programming interface) from the English-language Wikipedia for the period from July 2015 to May 2019.

The thousands of 'Notable People' sections in Wikipedia entries for cities and other places in the U.S. were scrubbed for the person with the most pageviews. No distinction was made between places of birth, residence or death. As the developers note, "people can 'be from' multiple places".

Pageviews are an impartial indicator of interest – it doesn't matter whether your claim to fame is horrific or honorific. As a result, this map provides a non-judgmental overview of America's obsession with celebrity.

Royals and (other) mortals

Image: The Pudding

There's also a UK version of the People Map – filled with last names like Neeson, Sheeran, Darwin and Churchill – and a few first names of monarchs.

Celebrity, it is often argued, is our age's version of the Greek pantheon, populated by dozens of major gods and thousands of minor ones, each an example of behaviours to emulate or avoid. This constellation of stars, famous and infamous, is more than a map of names. It's a window into America's soul.

But don't let that put you off. Zooming in on the map is entertaining enough: celebrities floating around in the ether are suddenly tied down to a pedestrian level, and to real geography. And it's fun to see the famous and the infamous rub shoulders, as it were.

Barack Obama owns Chicago, but the suburbs to the west of the city are dotted with a panoply of personalities, ranging from the criminal (Al Capone, Cicero) and the musical (John Prine, Maywood) to figures literary (Jonathan Franzen, Western Springs) and painterly (Ivan Albright, Warrenville), actorial (Harrison Ford, Park Ridge) and political (Eugene V. Debs, Elmhurst).

Freaks and angels

Image: Dorothy

The People Map of the U.S. was inspired by the U.S.A. Song Map, substituting song titles for place names.

It would be interesting to compare 'the most Wikipedia'ed' sons and daughters of America's cities with the ones advertised at the city limits. When you're entering Aberdeen, WA, a sign invites you to 'come as you are', in homage to its most famous son, Kurt Cobain. It's a safe bet that Indian Hill, OH will make sure you know Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon, was one of theirs. But it's highly unlikely that Cincinnati, a bit further south, will make any noise about Charles Manson, local boy done bad.

Inevitably, the map also reveals some bitterly ironic neighbours, such as Ishi, the last of the Yahi tribe, captured near Oroville, CA. He died in 1916 as "the last wild Indian in North America". The most 'pageviewed' resident of nearby Colusa, CA is Byron de la Beckwith, Jr., the white supremacist convicted for the murder of Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers.

As a sampling of America's interests, this map teaches that those aiming for fame would do better to become actors, musicians or athletes rather than politicians, entrepreneurs or scientists. But also that celebrity is not limited to the big city lights of LA or New York. Even in deepest Dakota or flattest Kansas, the footlights of fame will find you. Whether that's good or bad? The pageviews don't judge...

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