Facebook CEO and proud father Mark Zuckerberg drew the ire of the anti-vaxxers when he posted a photo of his daughter Max waiting to get her inoculations. The photo, posted on January 8, has more attracted than 3.2 million likes, almost 40 000 shares and over 69 000 comments sparking a huge vaccination debate between commenters.

Anti-vaxxers are outraged at Zuckerberg’s post, believes that vaccines put children at a high risk for developing autism, as in some cases ADHD. The mistaken belief that vaccines cause autism stems from a discredited study, published in 1998 by a doctor whose medical license was later revokedAdditionally, it was discovered that his work had been funded largely by parents suing vaccine companies, and that parts of the paper were fabricated or outright lies, citing perfectly healthy children without autism as being affected by the disorder.

Despite these undeniable facts, anti-vaxxers were spurred on when the parents of an autistic child won a federal claim case against the Department of Health and Human Services in 2008, after they claimd that their daughter developed the autism directly after receiving five vaccines at 19 months of age. The Centre for Disease Control and prevention estimates that the United States’ twenty-years-strong immunisation program has prevented more than 21 million child hospitalisations and 732,000 child deaths.

Many anti-vaxxers claim that their children don’t need to be vaccinatied because of herd immunity. However, herd immunity only occurs when a large percentage of the population has been immunised, and the determination of parents not to immunise their children has caused devastating effects for other children, even if they have had the vaccine.

Take, for example, Charlotte Cleverly Bisman, who survived a quadruple amputation after contracting meningococcal disease at age 2, for which a vaccine is available and effective if herd immunity is also present.

This photo is not the first time that Zuckerberg has come in out in favour of vaccinations. “Vaccination is an important and timely topic,” he wrote in a post in 2015. “The science is completely clear: Vaccinations work and are important for the health of everyone in our community.” But anti-vaxxers seem determined to make themselves heard.

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However, there are those who support and praise Zuckerberg.

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Most recently, a study by SafeMinds, that was actually funded by anti-vaxxers, found zero links between autism and vaccines. Unsurprisingly, this has not deterred anti-vaxxers from quoting false statistics and made-up medical fact. High profile anti-vaxxers Jenny McCarthy are only adding fuel to the anti-vax fire.

Even people with autism have come out in favour of vaccinations, with Facebook user Stuart Duncan commenting:
“As someone with autism, with a son with autism, as someone who is constantly watching good people put their own children at serious risk because of old, fraudulent fears of vaccines and autism… thank you for being sensible. Thank you for doing what’s right and also for showing everyone else that it’s the right thing to do as well.”
One can only hope that with enough high-profile parents vaccinating their children, anti-vaxxers will change their tune and keep our children safe.