Don't be fools - vaccinate your children
The American Council on Science and Health, a watchdog group that ferrets out junk science and overhyped claims in the media and in the utterances and writings of public figures, released a report recently about a speech by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at a public screening of an antivaccine film. The ACSH report states as follows:
Well-known vaccine skeptic Robert F. Kennedy Jr. attended the Sacramento screening of anti-vaccine “documentary” Trace Amounts on Tuesday and gave a speech to the audience, and as expected, it was filled with dangerous and unscientific misinformation. In light of the upcoming hearing for California Senate Bill 277, which eliminates the personal belief exemption for vaccines, RFK Jr. told the audience that public health officials and policy-makers can’t be trusted.
“They can put anything they want in that vaccine and they have no accountability for it,” he reportedly told the crowd. “[Children] get the shot, that night they have a fever of a hundred and three, they go to sleep, and three months later their brain is gone. This is a holocaust, what this is doing to our country.” Kennedy left the stage to a standing ovation.
“Trace Amounts” tells the story of filmmaker Eric Gladen, who believes he suffered mercury poisoning from thimerosal after receiving a tetanus vaccine in 2004. RFK Jr. has long been spewing out misinformation regarding thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative that was used in vaccines up until 2001. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Institute of Medicine have all determined that thimerosal is safe, it was removed from vaccines (with the exception of some flu shots) as a precautionary measure due to backlash by misguided parents and the anti-vaccine hysteria fomented by advocacy groups and dangerous demagogues like RFK Jr.
Yet he and his followers are still vehemently against vaccines, even though this preservative that was determined safe was removed from childhood vaccines almost 15 years ago. In response, Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, a pediatrician, and author of SB 277, called Kennedy’s continued activism deceitful. “I think it is dangerous that he is spreading misinformation about something that’s very important for public health,” he said. “Autism rates have continued to rise even though we are not using thimerosal in vaccines for children. We still haven’t figured out exactly what causes autism. We do know it’s not vaccines.”
Despite the facts, “Trace Amounts” and RFK Jr. are unfortunately still making an impact on the vaccine “debate.” Kennedy has credited the documentary with helping to stall Oregon’s mandatory vaccine bill. And although RFK Jr. has no scientific credentials, people continue to listen to him because of his name.
This is astounding and infuriating, in part because the son of our martyred Senator stated that the alleged damage done to children by vaccines amounted to a holocaust (in fairness to him, the "h" was not capitalized). The real Holocaust snuffed out the lives of one and a half million Jewish children and their future progeny to the end of time. Today the Orthodox community seems to be experiencing more than its share of outbreaks of totally preventable childhood diseases like measles and mumps. Rumors fly thick and fast through Jewish media whose editorial staffs are, to put it mildly, not well versed in science, that vaccines are dangerous and cause autism. Many haredim seldom if ever avail themselves of secular media that might disabuse them of that notion. Most of the hysteria originates with a report in a medical journal supposedly documenting a link between vaccines and autism. That report has since been thoroughly discredited and retracted from the journal. Such retractions rarely happen, but here it turns out that the authors of the discredited report were in cahoots with lawyers who were ready to sue vaccine manufacturers for millions; the authors presumably were to share in the proceeds (yes, scientists, physicians and lawyers can have a taavah [unwholesome craving] for money). Of course, many children are vaccinated, some children contract autism (we don’t know why) and the two sets have a small intersection, but that is to be expected. It does not prove that the two are in any way related.
We do know that our present situation of most children living to have their own is unprecedented in human history. The normal human condition was for childhood mortality to be horrendously high. Some of our siddurim contain selihot l’tahaluei yeladim, penitential prayers to be recited during an epidemic of a children’s disease. I cannot recall those prayers ever being recited in our community or in any American Jewish community. But I have visited old Jewish cemeteries in New York and have seen large sections containing little tiny gravestones for little tiny children. Most of these children doubtless died of childhood diseases that have since, praise God, been conquered by vaccines. I might add that those vaccines were developed by people, many of them Jewish, who attended college and studied science. Some of those gravestones are in the process of sinking into the ground; the parents of the deceased were too poor to pay for perpetual care and are long since gone.