What John Oliver Has Said About Vaccinations

by Jo Yurcaba

Sometimes comedian John Oliver likes to keep things simple. He's argued that prison sentences, for example, are like penises: even if they are small, they'll still work if you know how to use them correctly. And how can you argue with that kind of logic? John Oliver's view on vaccinations is similarly straightforward and hilarious.

The vaccination debate has resurfaced in the last year because a number of the Republican presidential candidates have supported the medically false and dangerous idea that vaccines can cause autism. During the first Republican debate, businessman Donald Trump told the story of a child he knew of who received a vaccine and later developed autism, according to Slate. Even Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a physician, perpetuated the false myth that vaccines should be staggered over time and not given to children all at once, The Huffington Post reported.

Science has repeatedly disproven any link between vaccines and autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and medical professionals say that unvaccinated children put other children or people with compromised immune systems at risk, in addition to the fact that the unvaccinated child is more susceptible to life-threatening illnesses. Despite these risks, people still choose to not vaccinate their children and have increasingly defended their personal choice to not do so.

Oliver has never done an episode about vaccinations, but he put any worry that he might be an "anti-vaxxer" to rest with a simple and hilarious photo that his show, Last Week Tonight, posted to Facebook last year.

Since then, Oliver did a segment about big pharmaceutical companies that spend billions of dollars per year marketing their drugs to doctors. In the segment, he said pharmaceutical companies spend $24 billion dollars each year marketing to healthcare providers, while they spend only an estimated $4 billion marketing directly to consumers. Oliver also found that 9 out of 10 drug companies spend more money on marketing than they do on research for the drugs they are selling.

"Drug companies are a bit like high school boyfriends," Oliver said in the segment. "They're much more concerned about getting inside you than being effective once they're in there."

All jokes aside, Twitter users reacted by saying that the episode applied to all drugs, including vaccines. But that's just not true. In addition to the fact that Oliver's episode didn't mention vaccines at all, The Atlantic found that the "big-pharma-is-profiting" argument actually doesn't apply to vaccinations. Doctors often lose money on vaccinations, and many companies don't make vaccines because they are more costly to make and are heavily regulated by agencies like the Food and Drug Administration. The vaccine market brings in about $24 billion, which sounds like a lot. But, in reality, that represents only 2 to 3 percent of the trillion-dollar pharmaceutical industry, according to The Atlantic.

So, Oliver left vaccines out of that big pharma episode for a reason, and shared his views via the straightforward photo for a reason: vaccines just work. Duh.