Friday, February 8, 2013

Despite Compelling Evidence to the Contrary

Throughout the United States and Europe parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children against infectious disease.  Twenty five years ago polio, measles, mumps and rubella were all but eliminated in the Western countries.  Two and a half million deaths are prevented annually by vaccination.  But among anxious parents there are those who blame vaccines for serious maladies, especially autism, or who favor "natural " remedies, or who simply don't trust the motives of the pharmaceutical industry.  As trust in vaccine declines so does the coverage rate of children entering school.  States yield to parental pressure and provide an "opt -out" option in their immunization policy.  Reading about this trend brought to mind the evolution of the advertising campaign for DuPont.  In 1935 DuPont introduced one of the most successful, and longest running slogans in American advertising: "Better Living Through Chemistry".  In the years following World War II public trust in science was high.  By the last quarter of the 20th Century public opinion had changed.  Science and scientists lost ground.  Along with politicians (and used car salesmen) their reputation fell.  DuPont responded to this loss of trust with a new slogan introduced in 1982: "The Miracles of Science".  Apparently the inexplicable was more trustworthy than the trial and error method of scientific discovery.  Too bad for the children who go without vaccine.  Last month the US Institute of Medicine published a report that found "no evidence of major safety concerns".  Nevertheless,  The U.S. National Immunization Survey in 2009 showed that only 60% of parents of children under age 3 adhered to the recommended vaccination schedule. 

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