On Sunday, late-night host John Oliver discussed vaccines on his show “Last Week Tonight.” The featured segment was almost 30 minutes in length and reviewed the history of vaccines, their growing politicization and the anti-vaccine movement.
Oliver began by describing vaccines as “one of humanity’s most incredible accomplishments,” adding that “they’ve saved millions of lives.” But he noted that “small groups are both skeptical and vocal about vaccines,” and that these groups’ positions have been amplified by President Trump. The segment included a clip of President Trump’s previous comments on vaccines, as well as his tweet about vaccines from 2014.
The late-night host also examined a number of theories proposed by anti-vaccination groups and the lack of scientific support behind their claims. He noted skeptics’ oft-cited justification for vaccine refusal: the age that children receive some of their first vaccines coincides with the age when symptoms of autism appear. While Oliver acknowledged that he understands these parents’ concerns, he reiterated that there is no scientific evidence to support any link.
Oliver named prominent skeptics such as Andrew Wakefield, recounting that his study, in which Wakefield claimed to have identified an alleged link between the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism, examined just 12 children. Oliver noted that Wakefield’s fraudulent research cost him his medical license and that the study was retracted by The Lancet.
The segment outlined the consequences that can stem from parents’ vaccine refusal. Oliver described the current situation in Minnesota among the Somali community, explaining how the very community Wakefield visited in 2011 is now suffering from a measles outbreak following declining vaccination rates.
Oliver argued “alternative vaccine schedules,” like the one proposed by Dr. Robert Sears, are ineffective, not supported by research and can expose other children to disease.
“Infants and young children who follow immunization schedules that spread out shots ... are at risk of developing diseases during the time that shots are delayed,” according to the vaccination guidelines published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
John Oliver’s late-night segment has garnered extensive coverage in both social and traditional media. Top-tier outlets like the Washington Post, Time Magazine, and Business Insider published articles on the piece, and the segment itself has received almost 5 million views on YouTube.