Have Vaccine Critics Made You More of an Immunization Advocate?
You know all the crazy stuff you read about vaccines….the myths your friends remain fearful of…the articles that people send you that claim vaccines are toxic and dangerous? Well, I’m beginning to hear from people who claim that all this anti-vaccine sentiment has actually helped to encourage them to be more active in advocating for vaccines. This seems especially true among a select group of people who may have otherwise not been inclined to become vocal on this issue.
Take Kristen for example. She admits that the anti-vaccine dialogue actually made her more committed to vaccinating her child.
“It dawned on me last night that I actually have an anti-vaxer to thank for how pro-vaccine I am now. I reached out to her when I was questioning having my little man vaccinated. All of the absolutely stupid brain-dead articles that she would send to me – with their fear mongering that I’m sure she was hoping would make me join the dark side – did the exact opposite and had me running like hell to the nearest vaccination clinic instead. I should probably send her an organic fruit basket & a recycled thank you card.”
“It’s similar for me. A friend told me she wasn’t vaccinating because the “risks outweighed the benefits” and I looked into for myself and now I’m way more pro-vaccine than I would have been otherwise.”
And these are just a few examples of what I’ve been hearing from parents online.
Perhaps, by suggesting crazy conspiracy theories, twisting data and neglecting to back up vaccine criticism with scientific evidence, anti-vaccine rhetoric is actually helping to ensure that parents continue to vaccinate.
History shows that suggestions of vaccine safety concerns have the power to create fear and hesitancy among parents. Andrew Wakefield’s unproven claims that vaccines were linked to autism are a perfect example. Years after his reckless statements, public health advocates are still struggling to combat this misinformation, despite the fact that there are plenty of scientific studies that have failed to provide any evidence that links vaccines and autism. But if people were smart about pushing their anti-vaccine agenda, they may consider leaving well enough alone. Just the suggestion of autism, coupled with discussion of adverse effects from random people on the internet may be enough to create a lingering doubt about immunizations among concerned parents.
But no. They can’t just leave it at that. They have to take it to an extreme.
They need to blame vaccines for everything – from autism, to asthma, to allergies, to SIDS, to cancer, to infertility and everything in between. While they may be able to document that the rates of these “ailments” is rising, they fail to acknowledge that the actual amount of antigens in the recommended schedule of vaccines has actually been reduced over the years. They also fail to acknowledge the ongoing research that demonstrates the many benefits of vaccines and the fact that not all research is conducted by pharmaceutical companies.
Of course, vaccine haters also like to cling to elaborate conspiracies that suggest that our government, our doctors, the CDC and the pharmaceutical companies are intentionally trying to harm us. Personally, I struggle to understand why people would continue to live in a country where they are convinced the government is purposely trying to kill them off. And while it’s important to question the intent and integrity of each and every organization that manufactures and regulates vaccines, conspiracy theorists fail to see how repeated hospitalizations and permanent ailments that would result from widespread disease could actually be more profitable to pharmaceutical companies and doctors than the immunization schedule that is now recommended.
And then, as if the elaborate government conspiracies weren’t enough, vaccine critics prefer to put their faith and trust in questionable people – like Andrew Wakefield, whose medical license has been revoked, and Dr. Bob Sears whose alternative vaccination schedule has no scientific basis and has never been tested. They even find it acceptable to reference ridiculous sources like Natural News when eliciting their version of “proof”. (Yes, that would be the same source that recently claimed that vaccines were causing a zombie apocalypse.) While Natural News may fail to provide scientific evidence of their damaging claims about vaccines, the site can be credited with enticing millions of people to purchase expensive, unregulated homeopathic remedies for ailments they claim are caused by vaccines. But of course, Natural News is just one of many sources of anti-vaccine commentary that profits off of vaccine misinformation. There are dozens more and vaccine critics find these profits completely acceptable.
Fortunately, the extreme anti-vaccine sentiment is far from a mainstream concern. Their exaggerated claims don’t often appeal to the inquisitive parent who will eventually do enough research to discover accurate sources of reliable scientific data. Instead, their accusations of enormous government cover-ups, along with their claims of pharmaceutical company mind-control, is more like a scheme that preys on parents who wish to identify themselves, and their children, as victims. However, from what I’ve seen lately, these tactics are becoming more effective at encouraging parents to choose to immunize their children rather than refuse vaccines. As outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases continue across the country, and school exemptions are on the rise, more people are speaking out in favor of public health and the benefits of vaccines.
What has prompted you to get more involved in this conversation? Have you become more of a vaccine advocate because you simply refuse to stand by and allow the misinformation to influence others not to vaccinate? If so, share your story in the comments below.