Mark Green, who just won the Tennessee Congressional seat vacated by newly elected Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn, apparently believes that vaccines may cause autism, despite numerous studies that have shown that to be untrue. What is even worse is that before running for Congress as a Republican, Mark Green used to be a doctor, and has now decided to share his unsubstantiated views about vaccinations with his new constituents:
An incoming Republican Congressman told constituents at a town hall this week that he believes vaccines may cause autism, contradicting the Centers for Disease Control and other scientific institutions, according to tennessean.com.
Mark Green, a physician who won his race in November to fill the seat of Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), vowed to “stand on the CDC’s desk and get the real data on vaccines,”adding he was doing so “because there is some concern that the rise in autism is the result of the preservatives that are in our vaccines,” according to tennessean.com.
“As a a physician, I can make that argument and I can look at it academically and make the argument against the CDC, if they really want to engage me on it,” he said.
Green also suggested that some of the data has been “fraudulently managed,” but cited no evidence.
Green elaborated in a statement to tennessean.com.
“There appears to be some evidence that as vaccine numbers increase, rates of autism increase. We need better research, and we need it fast,” he said.
“We also need complete transparency of any data. Vaccines are essential to good population health. But that does not mean we should not look closely at the correlation for any causation.”
This kind of dangerous thinking about vaccinations has led to several recent outbreaks and resurgences of diseases that had until fairly recently been almost completely contained by widespread vaccinations.
Case Study: 2017 Minnesota Measles Outbreak
The 2017 Minnesota measles outbreak is a quintessential example of what can happen to populations with low vaccination coverage. (The existing immunizations statute in Minnesota does not outwardly recognize religion as a reason for claiming an exemption, however, the non-medical exemption may include religious beliefs.) The outbreak was largely confined to a group of Somali immigrants, whose vaccination rates declined to approximately 40% in 2017, amid fears of a vaccine-autism linkage. As seen in the above table, a community needs to have a minimum of 83-94% vaccination coverage to maintain herd immunity against measles. This community had less than half of the coverage necessary to protect them from infection. Among 79 total cases in this measles outbreak, 71 were confirmed to be unvaccinated. Measles is highly infectious, so it’s no surprise that the disease took hold in a community of unvaccinated people.
And the beliefs that have been influencing the anti-vaccination movement are based on a completely bogus study that was long ago proven to be fraudulent.
The vaccine-autism myth is one chilling example of fraudulent science. February 28, 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of an infamous article published in the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, in which Andrew Wakefield, a former British doctor, falsely linked the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine to autism. The paper eventually was retracted by the co-authors and the journal. Wakefield was de-licensed by medical authorities for his deceit and “callous disregard” for children in his care. It took nearly two decades for the UK immunization rates to recover. By the end, UK families had experienced more than 12,000 cases of measles, hundreds of hospitalizations — many with serious complications — and at least three deaths.
In the U.S., measles was declared eliminated in 2000. Since 2000, however, there has been a resurgence of measles, with more than 2,216 reported cases. Wakefield’s anti-vaccine fanaticism contributed to the 2015 outbreak in Disneyland in California, which eventually infected more than 130 people, and to the 2017 measles outbreaks in Minnesota, where his message persuaded many parents not to vaccinate their children.
The vaccine-autism myth has also prompted an alarming number of millennials — the generation that came of age in the era of Wakefield’s misinformation —in the U.S. not to vaccinate their children. Vaccine reluctance does not apply just to measles; flu kills 100 to 300 children under age 5 each year, and up to 85% of them were not vaccinated when they died.
There is no other way to say it: people who choose not to have their children be vaccinated are dangerous to public health. And now, a United States Congressman, a former doctor no less, is spreading unsubstantiated views about vaccinations to constituents, which could cause more people to choose not to have their children be vaccinated.