To the editor: Patt Morrison's interview with anti-vaccination apologist Elena Conis exposes the irrational thinking that drives this dangerous movement. Although it is obvious that the increasing numbers of unvaccinated children contribute to the current measles epidemic, she instead concludes that "smaller outbreaks like this one have proven how hard it is to keep measles under control via vaccination." ("Historian Elena Conis takes a look at decades of vaccination skepticism," Op-Ed, Jan. 27)
Conis complains that "we reflexively blame outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases on supposedly irrational anti-vaccinationists." Then, speaking of science, she says that we "tend to grant it the benefit of the doubt. But there's an argument for giving weight to emotion and intuition."
Here's a definition for "rational" from Webster's dictionary: "Based on facts or reason and not emotions or feelings."
Steve Auer, MD, Malibu
To the editor: I am proud to say that I am on the autism spectrum. I would also like to say how I feel about what many people are saying about the false claim that the measles vaccine is connected to rising rates of autism: I think it's an insult to the many people who have autism.
The measles, mumps and rubella vaccine does not cause autism in any way. Even if it did, the parents who refuse to inoculate their children are saying that they care more about what others think of them than they care about their children's health. I care more about the health of others than I care about what others say about me.
Autistic people are often granted gifts, such as a good memory for facts. Many people on the spectrum are very intelligent. I suggest everyone should get vaccinated and see that it causes nothing but better health.
Elizabeth Finnegan, South Pasadena
To the editor: One letter writer blames vaccine skepticism on what he depicts as well-earned distrust of the medical community.
On the contrary, I believe this distrust is based on the widespread mythology that in the "good old days" — before chemical food additives, genetically modified food, insecticides and air pollution, and with freedom from vaccinations except for smallpox — people lived natural lives and thrived in good health.
The facts contradict this utopian picture.
In 1900, before all these modern interventions, American life expectancy was 47 years. Thanks to medical progress, and in spite of modern hazards, our life expectancy has now increased to nearly 80 years.
The medical community is not perfect, but instead of receiving credit for this increase in life span, modern medicine is distrusted as tampering with intrinsically good, natural processes.
Cyril Barnert, MD, Los Angeles