Vaccination has inexplicably become a hot-button issue of late, thanks in no small part to the celebrity voices who lend their opinions and voices to one side or the other in the “debate” over whether vaccinating is wise. The latest celebrity to hop into the fray? Rapper Kevin Gates, who told Rolling Stone that his decision to forgo vaccinations for his kids is what is responsible for making them “scholastically advanced.”
Like most parents, the rapper believes that his children are more advanced than their peers, but unlike most parents, Gates throws the credit to vaccinations — or more accurately — his children’s lack of vaccinations for what he sees as their above average intelligence.
He told Rolling Stone that his children, particularly his daughter, have always been different and more articulate than other kids. The rapper is sure he knows why.
Video: Rolling Stone/YouTube
He says that his daughter is advanced because, “She’s never been vaccinated before. That’s why she’s so accelerated, she doesn’t have mercury in her body or things to that nature.”
OK. But for the sake of science, it should be noted that thimerosal (which has not been included as a preservative in childhood vaccinations except for the flu vaccine for 15 years) does include ethyl mercury, that should not be confused with the mercury Gates is undoubtedly referring to: The heavy metal compound known as methylmercury.
The rapper goes on to say that he has nothing against needles — he himself has many tattoos — but that he’s a “stone cold investigator” and when he saw a supplement in Whole Foods designated for use after vaccinations, it piqued his interest as well as his skepticism and spurred him on to start “researching” the inoculations.
That “research” has led him to believe that vaccinations, as well as hospital births, lead to complications and are ultimately detrimental to a child’s cognitive and physical well-being. He certainly isn’t alone.
A growing number of people still spurn the popular scientific consensus that vaccinations are ultimately harmless and are in fact the best way to protect your child from unnecessary childhood diseases. These diseases are of course ones that were once all but eradicated but have been slowly increasing in prevalence, particularly in pockets of the population where an anti-vaccination stance has begun to take hold.
The issue with Gates’ research is that it doesn’t really originate in the scientific community, where causation and correlation are often twin beasts that make it a little tricky to tease out what causes what. The layperson can have an awful lot of difficulty differentiating between the two, which is often what leads to the myths that science and medical professionals must then work hard to debunk in accessible language, like the perceived link between the MMR vaccine and autism, now roundly dismissed as pure fiction.
There are a number of things that may or may not make your child more “advanced” or otherwise intellectually gifted, but even those are hard to suss out because of the tenuous connections that correlation can draw. For instance, there’s some small evidence to suggest that breastfeeding could play a role in it, but we’re left to wonder if it’s the actual breast milk or the demographic most likely to breastfeed (upper-middle class, typically educated themselves) that plays a bigger role in their child’s academic success.
The truth is, we can only rely on what we understand to be fact as it is presented to us in peer-reviewed, scientifically sound studies. Those studies are, by their nature sometimes imperfect, but they do tell us one very important thing on the topic of childhood vaccinations.
That thing, of course, is that forgoing them is no guarantee to genius babies or children with superior immunity and is in fact quite the opposite: If we hope to regulate devastating preventable childhood diseases like the measles and diphtheria to the history books where they belong, we should vaccinate our children.
There is absolutely no bigger head start we can give them in life than that.