Friday, February 06, 2015

This anti-vax week

I have spent much of the week thinking about how this anti-vax thing is playing out politically. While the current measles outbreak is heartbreaking (because it is so unnecessary), I am glad that it finally bringing the irresponsibility of the anti-vax crowd to the fore. What concerns me a little bit is the chance that childhood vaccinations will become a polarizing political issue, which means that roughly one half of the country will suddenly decide it is against their values to vaccinate their kids.

That hasn't happened yet and I think it is probably won't. But among political commentators on the left there is an effort to associate the anti-vax crowd with the right. And on the right there are also people who argue that anti-vax is a phenomenon of the left. The good thing about that is it shows that neither side is clearly embracing the anti-vax cause. But it is still bad if these discussions push vaccination into being a partisan issue.

In any case, both sides are partly correct. I have not seen any hard percentages on the issue, but it does seem like both self-identified liberals and self-identified conservatives are in the anti-vax camp.

Still, there is one political difference. At least right now, no national Democratic politician has gone anti-vax. In fact, both the President and Hillary Clinton (the person who will probably be the next Democratic Presidential candidate) have both strongly endorsed vaccinations in the past few weeks. Both were a bit more wobbly back in 2008. Instapundit has pointed to their 2008 statements as evidence of their fecklessness and that their current statements are just an attempt to cover up the fact that anti-vax is a liberal phenomenon. But you could also argue that things have changed since 2008. While I think it was pretty clear that the vaccine-autism link was horseshit in '08, Lancet didn't officially retract the study that showed the link until 2010.

And contrary to the current stance of Clinton and Obama, two prominent likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates openly supported the anti-vax position this week, Chris Christie and Rand Paul. Both have since tried to walk back their anti-vax stance after the kerfuffle erupted. So officially speaking, no major leader of either political party is openly anti-vax right now. But I think the fact that some major figures in the GOP at least flirted with anti-vaxism this week while no major Democrat did says more about how the two major parties treat their radical fringe. Democrats tend to ignore the views of radicals in their camp. Republicans have no problem pandering to the radicals on the right.