America’s Lethal Fear of Science

Measles cases in the US soared to 644 last year – the most cases in a single year since the late 1990s, and this year already appears set to top that record. Americans are learning the hard way that scientifically baseless skepticism about the safety of vaccines is extremely dangerous.

NEW YORK – A rare, deadly, and highly contagious disease is spreading across the United States, having infected more than 100 people since the beginning of the year, with thousands more at risk. This is not the doomsday Ebola scenario that so many were envisioning when the first case in the US was diagnosed five months ago. The resurgence is of the measles – a disease that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared eradicated in 2000, thanks to a highly effective and safe vaccine. What went wrong?

Since 2000, measles cases in the US have been attributed largely to travelers bringing the disease into the country. In recent years, however, measles has become increasingly common, with the number of cases climbing above 150 in 2013, and then jumping to 644 last year – the most cases recorded in a single year since the late 1990s. This year already appears likely to top that record.

The upsurge in cases can be explained largely by the increase in the number of unvaccinated children. Americans are learning the hard way that scientifically baseless skepticism about the safety of vaccines is extremely dangerous.

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