Remember when it used to be funny to make jokes about getting the whooping cough? Well, it's not anymore — thanks to Jenny McCarthy, scientist, and thousands of other parents who have opted not to vaccinate their kids, this country's experiencing a retro disease craze more powerful than 1,000 lava lamps. One columnist thinks that only Barbie can save us now. Wait, what?
The Washington Post reports that cities like Minneapolis and San Diego, where many parents think vaccines cause autism, have experienced outbreaks of formerly defunct illnesses like whooping cough. Whooping cough, for those of you who don't have a sister whose high school was closed for several days due to a town-wide whooping cough outbreak a few years ago, is a serious bacterial infection that can cause six weeks of coughing. The disease kills around a quarter million people a year worldwide. Babies and the elderly are especially susceptible, and it's highly contagious. It's also easily preventable with a vaccine. In Europe, many adults receive booster shots against the cough, but in the US, since children were vaccinated and they tend to carry the disease with greater frequency than adults, adults are not typically vaccinated. Therefore, if some parent has decided that they don't believe in science and they don't want to vaccinate their kid, and their kid gets sick, you could also get sick. This has health officials worried.
Petula Dvorak is also alarmed that recent surveys show that 10% of parents (mostly white and high income) say they don't trust vaccines. Some of this rising distrust can be blamed on the now-debunked studies conducted by a British doctor that linked vaccines to autism that just so happened to correlate with an onslaught of autism diagnoses and an army of parents looking for someone to blame. And, yeah, Jenny McCarthy, who appeared on Oprah Winfrey's show and claimed that she absolutely for sure knew that vaccines gave her son autism, is sort of to blame, too.
"That woman. With the swinging blond hair and spray tan. People listened to her. They still listen to her," lamented Alexandra Stewart, who teaches health policy at George Washington University.
The anti-vaccine crowd has a powerful and glamorous looking figure speaking out against science, reasons Dvorak, and the pro-vaccine community lacks a counterpart. Perhaps by appealing to people's desire to hear messages from beautiful people, science could weed through the false information haze. She writes,
Barbie could put on a tiny labcoat and little white high heels to go with her pro-immunization message. That's not a far-fetched idea, given the overwhelming data being ignored by parents.
A Barbie-type got us into this mess; a real literal Barbie must get us out!
Quick! To the Barbie Dream House! Only huge plastic boobs can save our children now!