Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s latest Facebook post has garnered a lot of attention. The social network’s founder posted a photo with baby daughter Max on his lap at the doctor’s office with the caption, “Doctor’s visit – time for vaccines!”
Even before Max was born in December, Zuckerberg has spoken candidly about parenthood, including a pregnancy announcement in which he revealed he and wife Priscilla Chan previously suffered three miscarriages.
While his most recent post can be seen as documentation of just another milestone in the young family’s life, some people are viewing it as a public stand in the debate over vaccines.
Many of Zuckerberg’s 47 million followers were quick to respond. The photo has over 3 million likes and 80,000 comments. Though some commenters were dismayed by his decision to get his daughter vaccinated, the majority praised his actions.
“What a little cutie!! Thanks for taking care of your baby (and other peoples’ babies!),” one user said. “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,” wrote another.
As many of the commenters on Zuckerberg’s post pointed out, when parents don’t get their children vaccinated, it not only endangers the unvaccinated child but also increases the risk to others who are too young or too sick to get vaccinated themselves.
The current anti-vaccination movement stems from a now retracted 1998 study, in which a doctor — who has since lost his license — claimed that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine was linked to autism. Though study after study consistently shows no association between vaccines and the developmental disorder, a small but vocal faction still continue to refuse to vaccinate their children.
The ramifications of the anti-vax movement were seen last year when a measles outbreak linked to Disneyland sickened at least 147 people, mostly in California.
Researchers later discovered the outbreak was fueled pockets of unvaccinated children in several communities, including the San Francisco Bay area — home of Silicon Valley and major tech companies like Facebook, making Zuckerberg’s example all the more significant. CBS San Francisco reported last winter that at some schools in Marin County, a majority of students were unprotected, and at two local elementary schools more than 80 percent of kindergarteners had not received all their shots.
In June 2015, California passed a law eliminating the “personal belief” exemption which allowed many families to skip immunizations. It now has one of the strictest school vaccination laws in the country.
“The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases,” Gov. Jerry Brown wrote when he signed the bill into law. “While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.”