Measles are making a comeback, in part due to misinformation spread on social media and in part because people distrust the government telling them what they ought to do to protect themselves.
Lewis Black tackled the first problem during a recent appearance on The Daily Show:
The New Yorker‘s Masha Gessen looked more closely at the latter problem, pointing out that the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing on measles on the same day everyone was watching the Michael Cohen testimony. Yet if you listened to what the measles experts were saying, the problem went beyond anti-vaxxers on Facebook and YouTube:
… From all available evidence, a majority of anti-vaxxers — educated white people, such as those who send their children to Waldorf schools — have access to public-health information and to vaccination; they choose not to believe and not to participate.
Why would people who care about their children’s health choose to ignore the solid, evidence-based recommendations of the government and the health-care system? The simple answer is because they don’t trust the government or the health-care system. Theirs is not an unreasonable position. The American health-care system is opaque and profit-driven. Working in concert with the pharmaceutical industry, it gave us the deadly opioid epidemic. It gives us the highest infant-mortality and the lowest life-expectancy rates among the world’s developed countries — as well as the highest bills.
In short, it’s not enough to just shut down the misinformation. We also need to make sure the correct information is being promoted by trustworthy sources, and the U.S. government, historically corrupt and more recently run into the ground by Republicans, is failing to persuade some people to make the right decisions, even when public health is on the line.