With less than a half-dozen full-time activists, annual budgets of six figures or less, and umpteen thousand courageous, undaunted, and selfless volunteer parents, our community, held together with duct tape and bailing wire, is in the early to middle stages of bringing the U.S. vaccine program to its knees.
–J.B. Handley. Founder of Generation Rescue and the Age of Autism Blog.
March 17, 2010
Kelli Ann Davis. Anyone remember that name? She was a spokesperson and political liaison (or something like that) for Generation Rescue back in the day. As in 10 years ago or so.
I’d be amazed if anyone actually remembered her name. It took me a while to remember her name, but I remembered her. She was a frequent commenter in online discussions on vaccines. News stories and blogs. She really liked to point out that there were pockets of under vaccinated people. Schools and communities with low vaccine uptakes. And there weren’t outbreaks of diseases. This, in her mind, seemed to be evidence that herd immunity was a fake idea. Worthy of scare quotes (“herd immunity”).
Here’s an example I dug up from the Age of Autism blog, circa 2009:
She stuck in my mind. She was so arrogant in her ignorance. So full of her self with her bad logic. And she was spreading Misinformation.
I knew it was only a matter of time before the outbreaks did come. Before someone imported something like measles into one or more of these under-protected communities.
I won’t hold my breath waiting for her to come back and take responsibility. I won’t wait for Generation Rescue to accept its role in causing suffering. I won’t expect other purveyors of misinformation to show the backbone needed to admit a mistake.
I will admit I was wrong in one area–I worried that eventually the press would start to realize that a great deal of the misinformation campaign has been waged by a vocal minority of autism parents. That is why I remembered Kelli Ann. Not for the chance to one day say, “I told you so”. I knew that these outbreaks would come. The outbreaks would cause people to suffer, some to possibly endure lasting harm and, let’s hope this doesn’t happen, death. While slowing or blunting the harm from these inevitable outbreaks was a worthy goal in and of itself, I was worried that the autism community would take the blame for people like Kelli Ann. JB Handley. Jenny McCarthy.
I am grateful that this hasn’t happened. So far. But I also think it’s on us, autism parents, to call out the behavior of our own. We need to reduce the misinformation that comes from our community. Be it vaccine misinformation, disrespect of people with disabilities or spreading medical pseudoscience.
By Matt Carey
p.s. Yes, I realize that “anti-vaccination” and “misinformation source” are largely redundant.