Editorial: An epidemic of ignorance

Flu shots, vaccines, and the “anti-vaxx” agenda

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It’s just around the corner. With the leaves changing, a cool breeze finally weaving its way between suede boots on academic row, students sporting hats and scarves, the campus is preparation for this time of year: Flu season.

The first death of the 2018-19 influenza season has already been recorded in Connecticut, with twenty two others hospitalized by the virus.

The flu is sure to get a lot of press, especially after its deadly trail from the 2017-18 season, which lasted unusually long. “The 2017-18 season was the first season to be classified as a high severity across all age groups,” according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

For some, this flu season will be like every other we have survived: no vaccine, no problem. Some may go the whole winter without feeling any trace of sickness. Some may get the flu, but had already accepted they would contract it either way. Unfortunately, some of these people will pass the u along to community members who have reduced protection against the illness, either due to lack of access to adequate healthcare or to compromised immunity.

With each passing flu season, it seems that the number of individuals succumbing to the virus only increases. With today’s advances in medicine, one would expect this statistic to be on the decline. However, what was once a small group of fringe conspiracists has devolved into a full-blown movement: parents against vaccinations, commonly referred to as “anti-vaxx.”

Perhaps the most notable impact of this movement is the resurgence of mumps in the United States. As a country, we came so close to eradicating the mumps, only for multiple outbreaks to occur in the past couple of years. In an article published by CNN in March of 2018, a claim was made explaining how a large proponent of the mumps virus’ rebound was due to parents choosing not to vaccinate their children because “the illness didn’t seem to exist anymore.”

Immunity against mumps is conferred by the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine, which has been speculated by anti-vaccinators as a cause of autism, despite scientific reports desperately echoing over and over that there is no correlation between autism and vaccines.

This ignorance is an epidemic in and of itself, leaving no eld of expertise untouched.

Most alarming is the ignorance (or is it indifference?) towards the global climate crisis. Though research has reflected time and time again that the climate is changing in a fashion that is harmful to the earth and its inhabitants there has never been a nationwide effort, let alone a common consensus, among Americans that climate change is an immediate threat to our futures. We Americans are headstrong, but at what point does gut instinct outweigh the knowledge, research, and scholarship of thousands upon thousands of scientists who are educated in their respective fields and considered experts?

Perhaps this ego is a reflection of society expressing the same overconfidence we see at a political level. Even President Trump was quoted by the Associated Press boasting his “natural instinct for science.”

Whether you trust in that instinct or not, science is not an instinctual field. At the heart of all science is experimentation: carefully designing a procedure to test a hypothesis. Most critical is that many, if not most, of these experiments fail. And it is through these failures that medicine has come across some of its most vital discoveries. Results are not forced. They are noted. And experts are experienced enough to offer extremely valuable opinions in their field, usually for the benefit of us all.

Simply put, in all realms of life sometimes ego must make way for the findings of trained and educated science. Going with our gut may satisfy ourselves, and individuals may even escape the clenched teeth of health scares unscathed. Considering the findings of science helps ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities.

The Muhlenberg Weekly's Editorial Board is comprised of the Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor(s) and Section Editors, one of whom writes the editorial. Material appearing without a byline represents the majority opinion of the Editorial Board.

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