What Should Disney Do about the Measles Outbreak?
The measles outbreak that got its start at the Disneyland Resort has grown to more than 80 cases
, with the latest involving a walk-on baseball coach at Santa Monica High School.
A reporter from a local public radio station interviewed me last week about the outbreak, asking what Disneyland should be doing about all of this. I replied that it was a unfair to be putting any responsibility for this on Disney. As "southern California'a family room," a place where tens of thousands of people congregate on any given day, Disneyland is one of the more likely places for an outbreak of a highly contagious disease to happen. People are calling this the "Disneyland outbreak" simply because that's where this one got its start, much as we name earthquakes for their epicenters and wildfires for the place where someone first saw the flames. But Disneyland's no more dangerous to visit today than any other public place in southern California or any other community to which the measles now have spread.
Maybe we need to go back through the Mighty Microscope again, this time to learn about vaccination.
As an employer, Disney has done what any responsible employer should do in this type of situation. It has seen that infected employees are treated, and that other employees at risk are isolated until they are immunized or the danger has passed.
Let's not forget, though, that this outbreak happened not because of some failure on Disney's part, but because of the failure of thousands of people across Southern California to get properly immunized and to immunize their children. Millions of Americans have chosen to ignore science on immunizations in favor of believing conspiracy theories and junk reports from talk shows and celebrities who haven't the slightest clue about medicine, biology, or anything other than getting themselves noticed. (You can imagine that this is where we cut to a shot of people over at SeaWorld nodding their heads in sympathetic frustration.)
The thing is, the Walt Disney Company used to be pretty darned good at not just educating people about things such as science, but getting people to buy in that they should get to know something about science. Before Disney's theme parks became solely focused on extending animation and comic book franchises, Disney's Imagineers did some pretty fun work with non-fiction themes. Attractions such as "Adventure Thru Inner Space" and "Body Wars" not only entertained us, they provided gentle lessons about chemistry, biology, and the human immune system. Seems like those are some lessons that we could use more public enthusiasm for these days.
Let's take a step into the Wayback Machine are revisit these now-closed Disney classics:
There have been more than 144,000 cases of preventable illness and more than 6,000 preventable deaths in the United States since 2007 due to people not getting immunized on schedule, according to one analysis of the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports. But I don't think that those numbers will motivate change from anyone who's already chosen to ignore the massive amount of data demonstrating the safety and efficacy of vaccines. Some people think they are, well, immune, from that sort of thing.
If we're going to get Americans vaccinated the way we once did in this country, we need to get people bought into science they way we once were. We need someone to do specifically for medical science what Neil deGrasse Tyson just tried to do with his reboot of Carl Sagan's Cosmos [affiliate link]. If cold statistics and physician lectures won't rekindle demand for better preventive medical care, perhaps we need a warmer, more entertaining approach.
Perhaps we need some Imagineering know-how right now. Disney doesn't have to do anything more than it has about this measles outbreak. But if Disney wants to show its civic mindfulness, what better time to charge its creative talent to come up with something that might inspire more Americans to do the right thing by themselves and their neighbors and to get vaccinated? As a Disney Legend once wrote, "one little spark of inspiration is at the heart of all creation."
Disney used to be great at creating those little sparks of inspiration. I'd betcha that, if it wanted to, Disney could start doing that again.
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Standing ovation from me!
6000 prventable deaths? That number seems too low to me, given the very high number of people who die from influenza each year.
Honestly, I don't think Disney could address vaccination at EPCOT because the history before vaccination is so grim, it really isn't appropriate for small children. People do not understand how bad these diseases were in terms of death toll. Before vaccines the infant mortality rate was 20%. That means 1 in 5 babies died. In addition childhood mortality was another 20%. Think about that. Even if your child didn't die and neither did any of their siblings, 1 out of every 5 of their classmates died. What would the emotional impact of that be on your child? Could places like Disneyland even have existed before vaccines without an alarming risk of death? Most of these diseases are very contagious in addition to being very deadly. When Polio was rampant you took your life in your hands going to the swimming pool. Who wants to go back to that?????? Most of these diseases are not gone. 2.4 million people die worldwide each year from vaccine preventable diseases.
Re: the Frozen ride
Maybe now Disney can afford to turn on the hot water in its parks. I don't understand why in most bathrooms you can only wash your hands with cold water
Since all public schools demand vaccination of school kids, teachers, and volunteers, Disney should require the vaccination of all theme park employees regardless of whether they interact with the public. Disneyland Resort did send home five employee during this measles scare. I doubt they did a resortwide sweep, because we would have heard about it.
I agree with Anthony about the non fiction part. That said Disney IP can be used to give the rides a wider audience, if done right. On the Frozen Epcot article I said that Mike and Sully would be perfect for an update to Energy Adventure because it combines the movie and the rides theme go together. Future World can use characters as hosts or narrators to tell us about innovations. The World Showcase is a little bit different. If IP can be used in relation to the country, I see nothing wrong with that. But they need to be an extension of countries, not replacements of whats there. Otherwise it might as well be at the Magic Kingdom. Epcot is the most unique park, but it still lacks E-ticket attractions. The World showcase needs more attractions, and Future World needs updating. Future World needs the most frequent updating of anything Disney does.
Some parents are listening to quacks and hucksters who are dead set against vaccination. That's why measles is making a bit of a comeback.
I am perfectly fine with Disney IP in EPCOT...as long as it is sensible. A good example is Turtle Talk with Crush. While it is very fun and entertaining, Crush does throw some Sea Turtle facts at the "little dudes". I see that whole pavillion working with a much better vision.
Disney has a lot of recent characters that would be great for EPCOT. I don't know if Big Hero 6 characters are allowed to be in WDW attractions, but they would be perfect to teach kids about science. Go Go could teach kids about magnetism, Honey Lemon-chemistry, Wasabi -lasers, Baymax aspects health care, Hiro - circuits or something. Doc McSnuffins and Miles from Tomorrowland could host something for the 3-6 age range. The Inside Out characters would also probably be good for a biology related attraction. Having a dynamic, enthusiastic teacher is a great way to teach kids science. If their lesson is informed by real scientists I think IP teachers could be really helpful.
The biologist wrote a fabulous comment; well worth reading! To Anon Mouse, sadly, it is insanely easy to opt out of vaccinating kids, and still have them attend public schools. This is a practice that needs to go away across the country, and is one of the reasons we are seeing such widespread outbreaks. The only children who should be exempt are those who have been medically determined to be at risk, due to immune system weakness or a proven medical challenge. This "personal or moral" objection to vaccines is stupid and dangerous. The religious one is harder to get around, but my personal feeling is that if you have a religious objection to keeping your kids safe, then you are welcome to send them to a private religious school where the only people they can affect are their own kind.
I have to agree. When someone thinks they are smarter than everyone else, that makes them dumb.
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