A friend of mine recently lamented to me that his brother believes there is a link between the inactivated poliovirus vaccine and autism and therefore is not having his children immunized. This tragic myth is the result of a scare propagated by a British physician whose findings have been widely debunked by the medical field worldwide and had his license to practice medicine in England taken away in 2010 as a result.
People my age who were grade school children back during the mid-1950s recall how terrified our parents were of us suddenly, and for no comprehensible reason, contracting polio and becoming permanently crippled. Many parents did not allow their children to play outdoors during the summer, when it was believed the polio virus was mostly spread.
When the polio vaccine was developed in 1955 it was cause for a national celebration similar to New Year’s Eve. We children were promptly lined up in our school hallways for polio vaccine shots, and there was no argument over it from our very relieved parents. New cases of polio among children virtually disappeared soon afterwards.
Public memory of the scary times of 65 years ago have unfortunately been lost to public memory, and so a significant number of parents now believe wrongly that immunization for childhood diseases are potentially harmful, resulting in a return to outbreaks of a number of life-threatening illnesses.
The current distrust in science among too many people is arguably the biggest threat to mankind, from the rejection of man-made climate change findings to containing preventable diseases.