In 2015, science remained a suspicious activity many conservative politicians thought was probably all a leftist plot, with only one Republican presidential candidate willing to say that climate change is real and human-caused. And that guy never had a chance. But in one field, at least, science scored a win: After a huge measles outbreak last year that started at Disneyland and would go on to infect hundreds over several states (as well as in Mexico and Canada), the nation finally re-reached an uneasy consensus on a matter you’d have we thought was settled decades ago: Vaccines actually work, and kids should get them.
As public health matters go, California took fairly quick action: after the Disneyland outbreak hit in January, the legislature got to work and Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill requiring vaccinations for children to attend school, eliminating an exemption for “religious and philosophical” reasons. Science won a round, yay! Many anti-vaxxers of course felt this was discrimination equal to racism or gay-bashing.
A “pro-life” group had tried to argue that the state needed to keep its vaccine exemption for “personal and religious beliefs” because otherwise, good Christians might find their children being injected with aborted baby parts!!! And if you want to get seriously nitpicky about it, they’re very, very vaguely semi-right, since the rubella vaccine uses a cell line that was originally cultured from an aborted fetus — 50 years ago. But no, nobody is putting ‘bortions into a blender to make vaccines, if that helps fundagelicals feel any better about it (it doesn’t).
Other important vaccine things happened in 2015 too! Early in January, a federal court in New York upheld the state’s ability to demand that kids be vaccinated, even if their parents think diseases come from the Devil instead of viruses. That was encouraging enough, though news of the Disneyland measles outbreak immediately followed.
Vaccines became an early issue in the 2016 presidential campaign, as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told reporters during a visit to London (a civilized place where they think science is real) that maybe parents should vaccinate, maybe, if they feel like it, unless they love the freedom to make terrible choices for their kids. The best part of that initial outbreak of stupid came from Christie’s office, when it “clarified” that the Governor had never meant the words that came out of his mouth, and of course parents should vaccinate.
And thus America embarked on the Stupidest Science Debate ever, with medical professionals insisting that science is real, and for balance, people on Fox News whining about the precious Freedom to let your child be a an infectious carrier of harmful diseases, since that’s clearly what the Founders would have wanted. Along with a good application of leeches.
Newly-minted Republican U.S. Senator from North Carolina Thom Tillis took the whole personal choice thing farther, saying he saw no need for laws requiring restaurant employees to even wash their hands, since the free market would soon weed out the places with disease outbreaks:
I don’t have any problem with Starbucks if they choose to opt out of this policy as long as they post a sign that says “We don’t require our employees to wash their hands after leaving the restroom.”
He didn’t clarify whether such a sign would be mandatory or voluntary — requiring a sign sounds awfully burdensome, no?
Oh, and here was some other weirdness for us to close with! Wonkette found a bizarre Australian children’s book called Melanie’s Marvelous Measles, which (surprise!) advocates infecting your kids with measles, because as the smart Mommy in the book tells her little darling, “Many wise people believe measles make the body stronger and more mature for the future.”
The sickest kids in the book are the ones who got vaccinated, of course. The unvaccinated kids drink lots of carrot and melon juice, and have a lovely time and lived happily ever and forever, until they got measles at Disneyland, the end.