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John Oliver begs parents to listen to science (rather than Rob Schneider) on vaccines

Last Week Tonight (Screenshot: HBO)

On the eve of the week where Republicans may well steal health care from millions of Americans and thus render his warning mostly moot, Last Week Tonight’s John Oliver spent the better part of an extra-long episode examining the for-inexplicable-reasons controversial issue of vaccinations. As ever, Oliver did his level best to rein in his need to explode in entertainingly accented outrage at parents putting kids at risk with their baseless fears of “needles full of science juice.” (He noted that once all-but-eradicated diseases like measles are making a deadly comeback thanks to the anti-vaxxer crowd.) But the host’s real ire was aimed at those using their fame-amplified voices to hype up the scientifically beyond-shaky links between necessary preventative medicine and diseases like autism. (He also would like them to stop deliberately infecting their kids with germ-laden lollipops, which is apparently a thing.)

You know, people like Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who has long led a campaign against a mercury-based additive which not only has never been linked to any harmful effects, but which has also been removed from all but flu vaccines. (And even then, there’s a mercury-free version for the anxious.) Or celebrities like noted not-expert-in-anything Rob Schneider, who, in an interview, claims that government-mandated vaccinations are “against the Nuremberg Laws,” a quote from his next role The Annoying Guy Who Is Wrong, according to Oliver. Or one Doctor Bob Sears who, while admitting that there’s no scientific basis for his delayed “selective vaccine schedule” whatsoever, still spouts unscientific gibberish like “vaccines don’t cause autism… except when they do” in order to keep his distressingly popular position as anti-vaxxer spokesman and author viable. (And, naturally Donald Trump is on board, shown in a debate rambling that “tiny children are not horses,” among other undeniably true yet nonsensical statements.)


Oliver, himself the perpetually worried dad of a prematurely-born son, knows that he’s fighting against a whole lot of misinformation, outright quackery, and—most pernicious of all—the understandable terror of concerned, caring parents. But, noting that his own still-fragile infant has had his full complement of vaccinations, Oliver recognized that, no matter how exhaustive his point-by-point takedown of all the discredited doctors (like infamous ex-physician Andrew Wakefield), conspiracy-happy politicians (he sees you and your ignorant reliance on “proving a negative,” former Indiana Republican Representative Dan Burton), and those widely disseminated memes your cousin who doesn’t believe in the moon landing sends to your Facebook, the anti-vaxxer movement is still going to power-bomb the YouTube comments once the segment goes up online. (Of course, the A.V. Club comments section attracts a more reasonable sort.) There’s only so much that reason and science can do, after all, in the face of a photoshopped meme of a baby doll with dozens of needles sticking in it, right?

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