italy’s five star movement goes full mental anti-vaxxer
Evidence-based medicine, vaccination, and good science are out in Italy. Alt med scams, snake oil, and anti-vaccination propaganda are in.
Generally, governments sacking panels of health experts and substituting modern medicine with dangerous, unproven, or outright harmful snake oil and policies isn’t something we associate with wealthy post-industrial countries. But in the era of toxic populism which is currently trying to sweep across Europe, that’s now a reality in Italy. Giulia Grillo, the country’s health minister and member of the populist Five Star Movement, recently fired all 30 members of the national health advisory board, making good on the party’s promise to clear the way for alt med scams and overturn mandatory vaccination laws.
That sound you hear in the background is anti-vaxxers celebrating the imminent spread of diseases we’ve had well under control for more than half a century and children dying from the very complications we tried to stamp out through herd immunity. Convinced that vaccines are the true root of all the world’s ills and refusing to accept evidence to the contrary, even from studies they designed and commissioned, anti-vaxxers are dead certain that vaccination is pure evil in syringe form, a belief they plaster across social media and every parenting blog they can find, like the Typhoid Marys of the post-truth age.
The sun never shines in Anti-Vaxxer Land, a place where charities trying to prevent outbreaks of often fatal diseases in the developing world are just a dress rehearsal for genocide, and Big Pharma shills are evilly cackling as they inject you with scary sounding chemicals bound to kill you slowly. At this point they’ve argued everything from the notion that vaccines are fine, we’re just giving kids too many of them even though we’ve decreased viral loads by 95%, to the idea that vaccination is actually a sinister alien plot to cull our species, all in bad faith, all designed to do one thing and one thing only: to scare you into rejecting modern medicine.
And this is why it’s so disturbing to see the same attitude take over a country of 60.5 million people for the sake of “opening the door to other deserving personalities,” many of whom are bound to be cranks and snake oil salesmen eagerly elevated and handsomely paid by a party that thinks science and facts are just something nerds use to intimidate people who think Dr. Oz and Gwyneth Paltrow are all the medical education they need. Like all populists, they will eventually crash and burn when they finally figure out that simple and easy solutions don’t always exist for complex and nuanced problems. The question is what will be the human cost of them trying, and failing, to learn on the job.