Vaccination efforts in the United States continue to lag. Meanwhile more than 2,000 people are dying largely preventable deaths due to the ongoing pandemic. While anti-vaccination rail, federal officials are likely to authorize the vaccine for a wide group of children in the coming weeks. The Boston Globe reported Sunday that Pfizer will deliver vaccine testing data for children 5-11 in a matter of “days” and authorization is widely assumed coming after that. But vaccine hesitancy among some parents existed well before COVID-19, which only amplified and exacerbated fears amid a wave of misinformation on social media and Fox News.
That’s why an old Penn and Teller clip went viral among those in favor of vaccination this weekend. The clip runs for exactly 90 seconds but tells a very clear story about the incredible benefits of the wide array of vaccines that have helped prevent child illness and death for more than a century now. The segment comes from the pair of magicians’ Showtime series, Penn + Teller: Bulls*it!, which ran from 2003 to 2010.
The video is simple: On the ground are two sets of 110 plastic bowling pins, representing children. A plastic shield is put up on one side labeled “vaccines.” The other has nothing to protect it. Jillette discusses an older strain of virulent anti-vaccination: the unproven fear that they cause autism in children, which averages a single case out of 110 American children.
The two then start throwing plastic bowling balls at the piles that represent various diseases humans have limited due to vaccines. Mumps, measles, polio, rubella, and strains of the flu are all represented, slowly taking down pins on the unvaccinated side while the vaccine shield keeps the other side upright and healthy. The point is clear: without an array of vaccines already widely accepted by most people in society, many more children would die from many more diseases each year.
“Which side do you want your child to stand on?” Jillette asks. “So even if vaccinations did cause autism — WHICH IT FU*KING DOESN’T — anti-vaccination would still be bulls*it.”
The clip’s brevity, as well as its stark visuals, makes for instantly-sharable content in the modern internet age, which is why it appeared all over social media over the weekend. While too many parents and other anti-vaxx Americans will remain unswayed by yet another example of vaccine efface, well, actually I can’t really think of a silver lining as bodies continue to pile up for no reason other than ignorance and maybe even outright malice.