- - Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The childhood scourge of measles is making a comeback. The highly contagious disease was all but eradicated in the United States more than a decade ago, but an outbreak in California has infected 50 persons so far this year. It’s happening largely because people who should know better are taking medical advice from quacks and porn stars.

Even well-meaning restaurant chains like Chili’s have become unwitting accomplices in the movement to stop vaccination campaigns. Chili’s planned to host a “Give Back Event” on Monday in which 10 percent of customers’ checks would be donated to the National Autism Association in recognition of National Autism Awareness month. It appeared to be a harmless philanthropic gesture, except that the autism association reveals its true agenda on its website, saying that “vaccines can trigger or exacerbate autism in some, if not many, children.”

The notion that vaccines and autism are linked was born in 1998 when a medical researcher named Andrew Wakefield falsified data to create the appearance that a common vaccine led to an increase in rates of autism. The British medical journal The Lancet formally retracted the study, conceding that “evidence” had been falsified. Mr. Wakefield lost his medical license.

Another medical journal, the BMJ, reported that Mr. Wakefield was paid by lawyers eager to bring lawsuits against the drug companies that manufactured vaccines. Despite a retraction, the damage was done.

Vaccines crushed once-crippling and common diseases such as smallpox, polio, measles, mumps and diphtheria. Many children are alive today who would not be but for those vaccines. Vaccines have been around since 1798, when Edward Jenner, a British physician, discovered an inoculation to prevent smallpox. Despite the tens of millions of lives that have been saved by vaccines over the past few years, vaccines have been portrayed by second-rate celebrities as dangerous.

Spurred by the bogus research, Jenny McCarthy, the former Playboy Playmate and co-host of “The View,” built an empire writing parenting books, making television appearances and giving speeches warning parents against vaccinating their children. She inspired actress Kristin Cavallari and her husband, Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, to refuse to vaccinate their children.

Last month, Ms. Cavallari warned parents to follow her lead and honor the (non-existent) links between vaccinations and autism. Their advocacy, combined with the efforts of groups such as the National Autism Association, have frightened many parents from vaccinating their children.

The measles outbreak is the predictable result. Cases of mumps and whooping cough are at their highest levels in generations. Centuries of progress are being rolled back. The tale of the resurgence of once-eliminated diseases is told in the reports of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. JennyMcCarthyBodyCount.com ran the numbers and found 1,378 child deaths in the past seven years from illnesses that were entirely preventable.

Chili’s wisely canceled its anti-vaccination fundraiser and promised to “find another way to support … families affected by autism.” The restaurant chain has learned its lesson: Stick to burgers, fries and salads, and ignore medical advice from a porn star.

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