Everyone entertains conspiracy theories at one point or another. Over the years some comedy gems have come marching out of the mouths of mental midgets. These fantasies cover almost every conceivable topic, including the epic faked moon landings, the sinister reptilian aliens ruling the world in human disguise and the lurid Vril Society Conspiracy, which is based on an 1871 sci-fi novel that would probably make a great flick.
Most of these ideas are harmless. Something for us to laugh over when we’ve had too much to drink or smoke. However, some of these ideas can be dangerous when believed and when that belief is acted upon.
Perhaps the worst conspiracy theory that still survives and is believed by a large number of people is the ‘vaccination causes autism/paralysis and drug companies know it’ myth. Think that conspiracy theories are for stupid Americans or crazy hippies? Think again. This year the Sunday Night program, hosted by Mike Munro, aired a special vaccination debate, wherein an angry woman shrieked about the complicity of government and ‘big pharma’ in the paralysis and mental retardation of small children.
Luckily a doctor was there to calmly and methodically shoot down every one of her crackpot theories, false statistics and squawks of angry, confused rhetoric. The contrast between rationality and paranoia was stark; and very, very amusing.
Schadenfreude aside, one must ask, what is the basis of this idea? Why do these people cling to the idea that the government is deliberately paralysing small children in order to gain campaign money from pharmacological corporations?
Well, the thing is, it’s occasionally true, just not often enough to be considered significant. Take, for example, the vaccine for poliomyelitis. This can be administered in two ways, IPV (inactivated virus injectable vaccine) or OPV (oral polio vaccine), which is given as drops in the mouth. The OPV can cause paralysis in the recipient, or even someone in the same house as the recipient.
So! The nuts are right, right? No. OPV causes paralysis in approximately 1 in 2.6 million cases. So for every 2.6 million people saved from polio, one person is possibly paralysed.
All vaccines have the potential to cause a reaction with the immune system of the recipient. That is actually what they’re supposed to do – cause your immune system to produce antibodies. Vaccines also save millions of lives annually – and yes, at this point it becomes a numbers game. Studies show that an 80% vaccination rate drops transmission levels of a disease to negligible levels.
So if you believe this scare-tactic nonsense, and do not get your child immunised, you are putting both your child and the children of others at risk.
Be my guest: believe that the moon landing was faked, believe that the Rockefellers are frill-necks from Alpha Centauri. Just don’t fall for the myth that modern medicine is a conspiracy to harm your child. That way, Scientology lies.