As toddlers, many of us loathed going to the doctor for vaccinations — a phobia that, in most cases, disappears as youngsters grow up.
But a few unlucky souls remain at the bottom of the learning curve. Perhaps not surprisingly, one of them has ended up in the Louisiana Legislature.
State Sen. John Milkovich, a Shreveport Democrat, took to the floor of the state Senate this week to spout all sorts of nonsense alleging the dangers of vaccinations. He mentioned the old canard about vaccines causing autism, a crackpot theory long discredited. He even claimed that when he was growing up, “autism did not exist,” an assertion so patently absurd that it makes the Flat Earth Society seem like a bastion of reason.
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Reason, of course, is in short supply at the Legislature, which might explain why none of Milkovich’s Senate colleagues came to the podium to publicly rebut him. Apparently, tomfoolery is such a staple at the Capitol that politicos are no longer surprised by it.
We weren’t exactly surprised by Milkovich’s embrace of junk science, either. He’s said equally nutty things before, and arrested intellectual development is not, after all, unknown among the state’s lawmakers.
We’re tempted to file away Milkovich’s ridiculous rant as just another episode of political farce, but his remarks have real-world consequences. Thanks to other anti-vaxxers across the country, the United States has logged more than 700 cases of measles in 22 states — the highest tally reported in nearly two decades. Although Louisiana hasn’t had a confirmed measles case yet this year, the threat to public health here and across the nation is clear.
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Republican U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Baton Rouge physician, dismissed Milkovich’s claims about vaccinations as “fake news” and emphasized that vaccinations are not only safe but necessary. Cassidy mentioned dealing with patients in Louisiana’s public health system who faced grave illness after failing to get required vaccines. “I know of patients who have almost had a liver transplant because they didn’t know to get vaccinated for hepatitis B,” said Cassidy.
Even President Donald Trump, who indulged anti-vaxxer bunk as a candidate, is now urging Americans to get vaccinated.
It’s time for Milkovich to grow up, too. The goings-on at the State Capitol might often look like child’s play, but public health should never be.