The controversy: vaccine.
Whether Mark Zuckerberg knew that this topic was a controversial topic that would make a lot of ink flow or not, only he knows. What is sure, however, is that in February last year, long before the birth of his daughter Max, Zuckerberg posted this on his Facebook wall:
“Vaccination is an important and timely topic. The science is completely clear; vaccinations work and are important for the health of everyone in our community. This book explores the reasons why some people question vaccines, and then logically explains why the doubts are unfounded and vaccines are in fact effective and safe.”
The book he was referring to was On Immunity by Eula Bliss.
For the anti-vaccine advocates, his post yesterday – “doctor’s visit – time for vaccines!” – was another way of showing his support for vaccinations. For them, the founder and CEO of Facebook has done nothing more than behave in an unreasonable manner.
“I’m sorry to see you unnecessarily putting your kid at risk by responding to faux science and propaganda,” one commenter wrote in response to his post.
Even though scientists have shown the tremendous role of vaccinations in eradicating diseases like smallpox, anti-vaccine campaigners, among whom presidential candidate Donald Trump, do not relent.
The controversy started in 1998 when the researcher Andrew Wakefield published a paper in which he linked vaccines, especially the MMRS (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine with autism. Celebrities like Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey took up the cause and cases of measles shop up. In the UK, where Andrew Wakefield was working as a surgeon, cases of measles rose up from 56 at the time of the research in 1998 to 1,400 in 2008. A 13-year-old died in England of the disease, the first person to do so in more than a decade.
Even though the research was later on proved to be fraudulent – the former surgeon was found to have been paid £435,000 by parents suing vaccine companies – anti-vaccine campaigners had been born. Despite not being as vocal as they used to be, they are still around and they came out in force yesterday.
So perhaps Zuckerberg did mean to wade in that debate after all. With his 48 million followers, Mark Zuckerberg is a thought leader and he knows it. The picture he posted of his daughter’s visit to the doctor was shared some 31,000 times and commented on 70,000 times.
This is also not a debate from which Zuckerberg and his wife are strangers to. The magazine Wired reported a year ago that Silicon Valley has a below-average vaccination rates.