Evaluating Vaccines Requires Critical Thinking
May 08, 2012

Most of the topics I post about on this blog are intended to encourage conversation about solutions to immunization challenges.  However, more often than not, the comment section on each post is inevitably derailed by those who wish to discredit the value of vaccines.  These visitors often make repeated claims about the thoroughly debunked vaccine/autism link, or they suggest that the immunization industry is plagued with corruption, or even that there is some large government conspiracy in which they claim that toxins in vaccines are intended to poison us all.  This is not to say that this blog is the only place where this type of conversation occurs.  Sadly it is not.  In fact, for every article that attempts to credit vaccines in some way, you can pretty much bet that there will be negative comments in response.
Fortunately, there are plenty of well-educated people out there who spend a great deal of time and effort diligently responding to these inaccurate claims.  They consistently defend the science that supports vaccinations and try to correct the logic of those who consistently criticize vaccines.  They are much more eloquent than I and no doubt, have far greater patience.
But I must acknowledge that there are also a great number of people who read these posts, and lots of other immunization information, in an effort to learn more about vaccines.  They may be curious about something they read elsewhere online, or they may be concerned about something they heard from a friend or family member.  They may even be inquiring about an immunization recommendation they received from their doctor.  Each of these readers have valid concerns and questions and we hope that this blog will help them get the information they are seeking.
However, as I was recently reviewing the varied comments on this blog, I realized that many comments may be confusing to those who don’t engage in immunization conversations on a daily basis.  Then, as I was discussing critical thinking with my high school daughter the other day, I remembered these insightful videos that a friend shared with me.  As basic as they may be, I believe they can offer us some points to consider as we read through the various comments on this blog.
Take for instance this first video, which expands upon the way in which we use logic in formulating an argument.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSZ3BUru59A&feature=player_embedded]
The second video introduces how broken logic, or “logical fallacies”, can easily be mistaken for logic.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRZk62QNOsM&feature=player_embedded]
The third video explains straw man arguments and false premises, which are often off-topic, oversimplified, exaggerated or twisted arguments to support our preconceived notions.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgdDK4XMpm0&feature=player_embedded]
In these cases, subtle but rather significant details make all the difference in the presentation of logical ideas and this is often recognized in various vaccine related discussions here on Shot of Prevention.
The fourth video reminds us that we can easily be swayed by our personal perspective.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_veZ24nC3g&feature=player_embedded]
The first time I viewed this video I couldn’t help but think about how vaccine critics often express distrust regarding the medical or pharmaceutical industry based upon the profits they feel these industries make as a result of immunizations.  Even if these industries did profit greatly from vaccines (which many argue is not the case) profit is not enough to logically prove that the vaccines that pharmaceutical companies manufacture, and the CDC and doctors ultimately recommend, are in any way bad, unsafe or dangerous.
This last video highlights the adverse consequences of what is known as the precautionary principle.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjaqM4yd_RA&feature=player_embedded]
Vaccines are a prime example of this principle in that many critics argue that vaccines are not 100% safe due to acknowledge adverse reactions.  While it is completely understandable and sensible for us to evaluate risks and safety concerns, it is unfortunately logically impossible to wait for irrefutable data that proves something to be 100% safe. Waiting for 100% certainty would prevent us from taking actions now that will save countless people from disease that result in great suffering, hospitalizations and death.   Rather, it is important that we critically evaluating the safety of vaccines, which can be logically determined with repeated testing and scientific research that consistently demonstrates that the minimal risks associated with vaccines is signficantly better than the dangerous risks associated with the diseases that these vaccines are intended to prevent.
These videos are not only helpful in evaluating our own critical thinking skills, but in appreciating the arguments of others.  If you’re reading vaccine information to help you formulate your own opinions on immunizations, then hopefully these videos will prove useful in determining if the reasoning presented is founded in logic or based on fallacy.   I’m confident that if we can use our critical thinking skills adequately, than we will each come to understand what science has demonstrated to be true. Vaccines save lives.


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