Oliver said vaccinations were “one of humanity’s most incredible accomplishments” and had saved millions of lives with the benefits far-outweighing the “miniscule risks”.
He added: “Despite their success, small groups are both skeptical and vocal about vaccines, which is nothing new. But these days their voice has been amplified by the human megaphone that is the president of the United States.”
Citing scientific white papers, Oliver proceeded to debunk an anti-vaccination argument put forth by disgraced medic Andrew Wakefield in the 1990s.
He said: “Most of the fear surrounding vaccines stems from their supposed link to autism.
“Now, that is a theory that gained traction in the late 90s thanks to a study published in the medical journal The Lancet suggesting a link between autism and the MMR vaccine.
“The study was of just 12 children and it was by this guy, Andrew Wakefield, and if you’re wondering why I didn’t say ‘Dr. Andrew Wakefield,’ this is why…”
Noting the lack of veracity in Wakefield’s research, he added: “Follow-up studies of hundreds of thousands of children could not find any evidence that the MMR vaccine causes autism and investigations into Wakefield’s original paper revealed he distorted the data and acted unethically.
“He’s lost his medical license. The Lancet paper has been retracted. It’s true Wakefield made a big splash before having his legacy tarnished and his title revoked. He’s basically the Lance Armstrong of doctors.”
Citing a recent measles outbreak among the Somali community in Minnesota, Oliver drove his point home about the repercussions of the anti-vaccination movement taking hold.
He said: “Even though Wakefield’s conclusions have been debunked many times, he not only denies wrongdoing, he actually still gives talks about the supposed dangers of the MMR vaccine.”
He added: “To be fair, Wakefield is not the only voice raising alarms about vaccines. He has company from across the political spectrum from a Robert F Kennedy Jr. on the left to Alex Jones, wherever the f*** he fits in…”
Actor Rob Schneider was also discussed with a clip shown of him defending a parent’s right to withhold vaccines.
Oliver was quick to pounce on the actor, and said: “Yes, that is Rob Schneider performing an impromptu rendition of his famous character ‘the annoying guy who is wrong’ …
“Schneider has spoken out against mandatory vaccines for years, even once calling this California state assemblywoman to debate the issue — prompting her to post on Facebook: “‘Let’s be honest, that is 20 minutes of my life I’ll never get back arguing that vaccines don’t cause autism with Deuce Bigalow, male gigolo.’
But Oliver added, jokingly: “Hold on lady, let’s not sully the good Deuce Bigalow just because of something that his portrayer Rob Schneider said.”
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver airs Sunday at 11pm ET/PT on HBO.