My column in The Kerryman. 17 July, 2013
I can’t imagine anything scarier than having and raising a baby. So scary I’ve avoided becoming a parent. Having and raising children is both the most natural thing in the world to do and the most complicated and daunting enterprise one will ever face. Fortunately there are some things a new parent in Kerry will not have to worry about; diseases like smallpox, polio and TB are all but gone.
There was a time when it was thought measles would be added to the list of things parents could stop worrying about. This highly contagious virus was responsible for over half a million deaths worldwide in 2000. By 2010 deaths had fallen to just under 140,000, but an untruth told by a disgraced former doctor, means measles has still not been eliminated from our part of the World.
In 1998, the disgraced former doctor, Andrew Wakefield, claimed there was a link between the MMR vaccination and autism. Within months this nonsense had been dismissed by medical experts all over the world. Too late, as the false claims made by this disgraced former doctor had already found a foothold in too many imaginations. The damage has been done. Doubt has been seeded. As Terry Pratchett said: “A lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on.”
Doubt once seeded is almost impossible to remove. Especially when that doubt is on a subject as intensely important as our children and as complicated as medical science. Throw in our new found mistrust of authority and you have a hardy weed indeed.
Our species produces babies that are ridiculously helpless, children who are hopelessly dependent and gloriously hapless adolescents, because it takes all the time between conception and adulthood to learn every little titbit of information and trick, that keeps us at the top of the food chain. In the wildly competitive environment that is Earth, our species bet on being the smartest. And we won. We won big.
What is the price paid for this investment in intelligence? We now have to trust strangers with the care of our children. We have to trust experts we’ve never met, speaking in a jargon we don’t understand, who tell us that vaccinating our children is the safest and most responsible thing we can do for the wholly vulnerable beings in our care.
Measles was on its way out. Now many parents are scared that this disgraced and discredited former doctor may have something worthwhile to say. There have been measles outbreaks in Europe and America, all because one disgraced and discredited former doctor managed to push emotional buttons that all caring parents have.
We live in a rational age. We no longer accept anything on faith. We saw how our parents were treated by those they trusted without question. No longer will we be the gullible and spineless playthings of those who would tell us how to behave, how to think and how to raise our children. So when somebody hints at another lie from the authorities, it’s hard not to take notice.
Would I give my child the MMR vaccination? On one side there is the united opinion of scientists, governments and the UN that the MMR is a safe, lifesaving measure. Opposed is a disgraced former doctor. Would I give my child the MMR vaccination? In a heartbeat.