Norman Borlaug is sometimes credited as “the man who fed the world.” An American agronomist, Borlaug developed semi-dwarf, high-yield, disease-resistant wheat varieties which were introduced to Mexico, Pakistan, and India. Borlaug has been estimated to have saved “over a billion people worldwide” from starvation. Not surprisingly, he was feted with a lot of prizes, including the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.
At the opposite end of the spectrum we could put Andrew Wakefield, a British physician and researcher who was one of the principal perpetrators in the Lancet autism fraud, a 1998 study that falsely claimed a link between the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and autism. Ever since then a significant number of people have believed that there is a connection between various vaccines and autism, which is false. The initial study was retracted and it was later found that Wakefield and his colleagues had faked some of the data.
That, of course, has not prevented celebrities like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (who should know better) and Jenny McCarthy (who knows almost no science to begin with) to continue to promote conspiracy theories relative to vaccines and autism.
The autism fraud isn’t necessarily the progenitor of vaccine hesitancy — which has existed to some degree since vaccines were invented — but it has boosted vaccine hesitancy enormously. And that has, of course, contributed to the current hesitancy by millions of people to take one of the Covid-19 vaccines. RFK Jr., in particular, was complicit in promoting a film that targeted black Americans with false anti-vaccine information.
At this point, with many Americans properly vaccinated, Covid-19 is becoming “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.” Honestly, I wouldn’t even care — if Trump supporters and anti-vaxxers want to kill themselves in a global act of Darwin awardism, that’s up to them — except that their oppositional behavior is keeping Covid-19 alive. We’re now in the surge of the Delta variant, the fourth major mutation of the original Covid-19 infection.
Jesus Fucking Christ! Most of these people also consider themselves to be Christians, to complete the circle of irony.
In any case, you can thank Andrew Wakefield — who is still alive and still causing trouble — for being the anti-Borlaug and one of the principal contributors to today’s rise of vaccine-hesitancy.