Given how sensitive we should be to succumbing to media narratives, which are generally fickle and untrustworthy things, it would be easy to say that not every member of the anti-vaccine movement should be held up as some sort of public enemy. But then you get something like the interview CNN posted earlier today, with Arizona cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson, and you think, well, fuck that. Wolfson is not only an anti-vaxxer, he’s a cartoonishly villainous anti-vaxxer who openly admits that he doesn’t care whether his decisions as to how to parent his own child put other people’s children in danger.
“I’m not going to sacrifice the well-being of my child. My child is pure,” Wolfson says. “It’s not my responsibility to be protecting their child.” Now if this comically cavalier attitude sounds like something The Onion would’ve come up with, it actually did, in an article it published last month titled “I Don’t Vaccinate My Child Because It’s My Right To Decide What Eliminated Diseases Come Roaring Back.” The thing is, in that satirical piece, it was an arrogant suburban mom deciding that her right to make a depthlessly ignorant personal choice for her child outweighed her responsibility to society as a whole. This isn’t some clueless dumb-ass who’s ceded his decision-making to Jenny McCarthy because she’s a parent and “gets it”; this is a doctor, and a doctor of cardiology who happens to live in one of the states hardest hit by a measles outbreak that began at Disneyland and is the direct result of parents choosing not to vaccinate their children.
There are now 102 people in 14 states infected with measles, with a large percentage of them connected to the Disneyland outbreak and many of them being investigated as second-order infections, meaning patients who didn’t actually visit Disneyland but who came into contact with someone who did. As many as 1,000 people are being monitored by doctors in Arizona as potential measles cases and that number is expected to keep on climbing. Just this morning, the CDC added 18 new official cases to its tally of people infected with a disease that was thought eradicated years ago. And again, why is this happening? Well, not to put to fine a point on it, but it’s because of assholes like Dr. Jack Wolfson. It’s because of people who’ve been given the privilege of making a selfish, stupid decision for their own children that fails to take into account their obligation to your children.
In the interview with Wolfson, which originally ran last week on Phoenix station KPNX, he was asked specifically to respond to the well-publicized plea from an Arizona pediatrician whose young daughter suffers from leukemia and was a victim of the Disneyland outbreak. Dr. Tim Sacks appealed to parents to vaccinate their children so that children like his own, who can’t be vaccinated for health reasons, can at least stand a better chance of being protected by herd immunity. If there’s an Asshole Hall of Fame, Wolfson’s response should get him fast-tracked for entry into it. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s very likely that her leukemia is from vaccinations in the first place,” he said, and when asked whether he would feel guilty if the young girl eventually dies, “I could live with myself easily. It’s an unfortunate thing that people die, but people die. And I’m not going to put my child at risk to save another child.”
It practically goes without saying that Dr. Wolfson — who by the way refers to himself as a “paleo-cardiologist,” whatever the hell that is — has come under quite a bit of fire for his comments. Which is why, apparently, he decided that the best course of action would be to explain himself and dig that hole he’s in so much deeper that his feet are sticking out in China somewhere. At the website “Health Impact News” — motto: “News that Impacts Your Health That Other Media Sources May Censor!” — he scrawls out a list of nine things besides him that you should be angry at. They include fast food companies, “toxic” laundry detergent, your parents, Steve Jobs and, of course, pharmaceutical companies. It all ends with this particularly unhinged screed:
Finally, be angry with yourself for not opening your eyes to the snow job and brainwashing which have taken over your mind. You NEVER asked the doctor any questions. You NEVER asked what is in the vaccines. You NEVER learned about these benign infections.
Let’s face it, you don’t really give a crap what your children eat. You don’t care about chemicals in their life. You don’t care if they sit around all day watching the TV or playing video games.
All you care about is drinking your Starbuck’s, your next plastic surgery, your next cocktail, your next affair, and your next sugar fix!
Let’s take a minute to remind ourselves that Jack Wolfson is currently walking around among the general population rather than being locked up in a psyche ward somewhere. More than that, he’s a doctor. He’s the guy whose credentials and opinion anti-vaxxers point to when they’re looking for validation of their painfully misguided beliefs about vaccines and their efficacy. Dr. Jack Wolfson is a dangerous lunatic and under normal circumstances his opinions wouldn’t be worth repeating, even to mock. But unfortunately, Dr. Jack Wolfson is undertaking a course of action and inaction that has the potential to have a huge negative impact on the lives of thousands and thousands of people.
If you’re looking for a reason why the notion of a “philosophical exemption” for childhood vaccinations need to be done away with immediately, replaced by an absolute legal mandate across the board, Wolfson is the living embodiment of it. He’s why the state needs to step in and put its foot down — because he doesn’t care one bit about the children his little walking Petri dish might be putting at risk. He was given the privilege of making a decision in the hope that he’d make the right and responsible one. He didn’t. Now, he and others like him should have that privilege taken away from them.
Because at more than a hundred confirmed measles cases and climbing, we can’t afford to indulge their delusions anymore. Our right to keep our children safe outweighs their choice to ignore reality.