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Five Things I’ve Learned About Vaccines Through 21 Years of Parenting

April 24, 2017 34 comments

niiw-blog-a-thon-badgeI gave birth to five children in the span of nine years. My oldest daughter will soon be 21.  My youngest, 12.  Over the years, I’ve learned a few things about childhood illnesses and infectious diseases.  Like most parents, I’ve received plenty of unsolicited advice about how to care for my children and how to keep them healthy.  However, when I make health decision for my children, I rely on evidence based research and credible information from reputable sources.

That is why I agreed to partner with Every Child By Two (ECBT) as the editor and primary contributor to this Shot of Prevention blog.  Seven years ago, when we started this blog, parents seeking vaccine information on the internet often encountered a web of lies, deception, misinformation and fear mongering. Today, Shot of Prevention is one of many blogs that provide parents with evidence based information to help them make informed immunization decisions for their families.

Today, in recognition of National Infant Immunization Week, I’m sharing five of the most important things I’ve learned about vaccines through my journey as a parent and immunization blogger and it begins with science and it ends with action.

1.) Don’t Let Your Emotions Cloud Your Scientific Judgment.

Visit any online parenting forum and there are fewer topics that can get as heated and emotional as vaccines.  The majority of these conversations illicit fear and sympathy, and you’ll often hear parents say that they had to trust their gut or rely on their parental instinct. While we can’t deny our emotions, when it comes to vaccines we must not let emotions cloud our scientific judgment. Instead, we must look to peer-reviewed research and sound science to make educated and informed immunization decisions for our children.

When we do that, we realize that vaccines are some of the most rigorously tested medical interventions available today. And they should be because they are administered to almost every healthy child born in the U.S.  The four different surveillance systems we have in the U.S. serve as back-up systems to ensure the ongoing safety of vaccines.

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While it’s true that no medical intervention comes without risk, the chances that your child will suffer a serious adverse reaction from a vaccine are documented to be less than one in a million.

When you compare that risk to the risk of injury or death from the diseases that we prevent, vaccines win the benefit/risk ratio hands down.  So, brush up on your science and take the time to understand how vaccines work.

Listen to immunization experts address some of the most frequently asked questions about vaccines in these Q&A videos available on our Vaccinate Your Family Facebook page here and our YouTube channel here.  You can also check out these other resources to learn more:
Immunity and Vaccines Explained; video from PBS, NOVA 
How Vaccines Work; video embedded on Immunize For Good website 
Vaccines: Calling the Shots; Aired on PBS, NOVA 
Ensuring the Safety of Vaccines in the U.S.; PDF document from the CDC 
The Journey of Your Child’s Vaccine; Infographic from the CDC 
Vaccine Ingredients Frequently Asked Questions; Healthy Children, AAP
Vaccine Education Center Website; Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia 

2.) Appreciate Vaccines For Their Life-Saving Quality.  

Thankfully, science is advancing and newer, safer vaccines are enabling us to prevent more needless suffering, hospitalizations & death. However, it’s not uncommon for parents to question why their child may need so many shots.

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Admittedly, the method of administering vaccines can be painful at times.  I’m beginning to think that the reason parents are concerned about the number of vaccines their children receive is because it’s even painful for parents to watch their child suffer from the discomfort of a needle. And worst yet, there are often multiple shots at each visit during those first two years of life.  If vaccines were administered orally, through an adhesive patch, or through a way that didn’t involve pain, I believe parents might not have nearly as much concern.

Unfortunately, one of the hardest things to accept as a parent is watching your child suffer from things you can’t prevent.  But the reality is that with vaccines, you are preventing something, even if you may never see that disease which you are preventing. The reality is that some brief discomfort, a few pricks of a needle and even a mild fever, swelling, rash or big crocodile tears are far better than suffering from any one of the 14 different diseases we can now safely prevent through childhood immunizations.

Since we are privileged to live in a country where we have such easy access to vaccines, parents don’t often see just how dangerous vaccine preventable diseases can be. And while we may not have ever seen polio in our lifetime, we must never forget the fear that parents experienced before a vaccine was available. Sadly, most parents in the U.S. probably don’t even realize that polio still exists in other countries and that globally, measles remains one of the top five killers of kids under the age of five.

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In fact, our country is currently battling yet another measles outbreak in Minnesota. This outbreak appears to be direct result of anti-vaccine advocates wrongfully convincing members of the Somali community not to vaccinate due to the dispelled myth that vaccines were linked to autism.  Now unvaccinated children are being hospitalized with measles and public health professionals are hard at work trying to contain the spread of this extremely infectious disease.

Perhaps if parents were to learn more about the dangers of the diseases that vaccines help to prevent, they may feel less anxious about the shots their child is recommended to receive.  Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 9.16.16 AM.png

To learn about the 14 different diseases that we can prevent with today’s childhood immunization center, check out our Every Child By Two’s Childhood Vaccine Preventable Disease eBook.

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John Stone and the “Best of Age of Autism”: Wrong About Everything

February 23, 2017 2 comments
JoelHarrisonEvery Child By Two is pleased to launch another article in their Expert Commentary series featuring guest writer Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH, a retired epidemiologist who has worked in the areas of preventive medicine, infectious diseases, medical outcomes research, and evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. Today we will feature Dr. Harrison’s latest paper, John Stone and the “Best of Age of Autism”: Just Plain Wrong About Everything.


by Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH

John Stone is listed as the UK Editor for Age of Autism, a daily web newspaper. He is author of numerous articles posted on Age of Autism as well as an active writer of comments, not only to Age of Autism articles; but to articles on other websites, including this blog I have written a number of commentaries on John Stone and his antivaccinationist views, but after seeing Stone’s article “Paul Offit’s 10,000 Vaccines and the Milgram Experiment, ” now being posted for the fourth time, I just had to get out my pen and pad once more.

In his article, Stone discusses four topics:

  1. Using the Milgram Experiment as an explanation for why doctor’s vaccinate
  2. Profits made on the manufacture and sale of vaccines
  3. Paul Offit’s oft out-of-context quoted by antivaccinationists “10,000 vaccines”
  4. The Cutter Incident

In my paper, John Stone and the “Best of Age of Autism”: Just Plain Wrong About Everything, I show that not one of his claims has any validity; but, rather, clearly display many of the flaws in Stone’s thinking as well as other antivaccinationists, including: poor scholarship, a deficient understanding of scientific thinking and methodology, deficient knowledge of immunology, microbiology, and epidemiology, deficient understanding of basic economics, the illogic of false analogies, as well as a lack of common sense, plus a blatant hypocrisy.

Stone’s knowledge of the Milgram Experiments appears to be based only on one article he found in a popular magazine and on a movie clip. Based on his writings on the Milgram Experiments, it does not appear that he even bothered to read the original articles, and isn’t aware that it wasn’t the Milgram Experiment; but Experiments. If he had accessed the original articles, he would have found the study procedures and results to be quite different from the description in Psychology Today. Different enough to make him guilty of the False Analogy Fallacy, a logical fallacy that occurs when applying facts from one situation to a substantially different situation, precluding the ability to draw a logical conclusion (Rational Wiki. “False analogy”)

Stone repeats the antivaccinationists’ trope of 10,000 vaccines, ignoring context and a clear display of lack of common sense. As an analogy, imagine a 15 – 20 minute lecture or 2,500 word article about research into potentially almost limitless energy. The last sentence states: “Our research indicates we could theoretically put 10,000 gallons of gasoline in your car tank.” The average gas tank holds probably up to 25 gallons. Given Stone’s lack of common sense, I assume he would take the 10,000 gallons literally. Most rational people would understand, even without context, that the 10,000 gallons did not refer to actual gallons of gasoline but to the energy/mileage equivalent. The physical impossibility of giving 10,000 vaccines at once to an infant or anyone together with the exponential leap from the current 17 vaccines, there not even being remotely so many microbes that vaccines would ever be developed for, says it all.

He continues to display faulty reasoning, actually a display of hypocrisy, when attacking the profit motive behind vaccines. He and other antivaccinationists seem to have NO problem with the purveyors of complementary and alternative medicines making profits, so it seems that the making of profits is only unacceptable when selling something Stone and other antivaccinationists disagree with. Of course doctors get paid for giving vaccinations. Should they give them for free? As a further display of his ignorance, Stone doesn’t seem to be aware that the profit margin for vaccines pales in comparison to other pharmaceuticals and that the amount doctors make on administering vaccines is, at best, marginal. In fact, some doctors take a loss on vaccinations.

Finally, Stone goes back 60 years in time to the Cutter Incident where approximately 200 people, mainly children, were paralyzed from an inadequately killed vaccine and thousands more exposed. Stone is either unaware of or intentionally ignores that this incident led to ever-increasing safety regulations and surveillance of vaccines. If one were to use Stone’s approach to medicine, since many beneficial medicines and interventions had problems years ago, much of modern medicine would be rejected. In fact, historically, one can find problems with much of modern technology. Is Stone’s approach even rational? And, again, Age of Autism chooses to repost Stone’s article as an example of “The Best of Age of Autism.”

And there you have John Stone and the Best of Age of Autism in a NUTshell!

Read Dr. Harrison’s full article, John Stone and the “Best of Age of Autism”: Just Plain Wrong About Everything, click here.  

Please note: The opinions in this article reflect the views of the author who is not an employee of Every Child By Two and do not necessarily reflect the views of Every Child By Two.  Dr. Harrison volunteers his time to provide in-depth, well-researched analysis of articles which ultimately make false claims about the safety of vaccines.  His articles are summarized here on Shot of Prevention with links to the full response on the Every Child By Two website.

Sorry Kennedy, Being Anti-Vaccine Does Not Mean You’re Pro-Safe Vaccine

February 21, 2017 2 comments

Last week, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., of the World Mercury Project, orchestrated a major publicity stunt designed to question the safety of vaccines.  Since he had no real evidence to present, and the same accusations which have been repeatedly refuted for years, he attempted to garner attention by offering journalists a glimpse at a new anti-vaccine celebrity and the promise of a $100,000 challenge. 

During an hour-long press event on Wednesday, Kennedy was joined by other vaccine critics such as ‘Vaxxed’ movie producer Del BigTree, San Antonio District Attorney Nico LaHood, Tony Muhammed of the Nation of Islam and celebrity actor, filmmaker and father of an autistic child, Robert DeNiro.

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Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. addressed a small gathering of people at last week’s  press conference.

While each had their turn to suggest there was a worldwide scientific conspiracy to lie about vaccine safety, Kennedy concluded by announcing that he would give a $100,000 award to any American journalist who could produce a study that proved that the level of thimerosal used in vaccines was deemed to be safe.

(Of course, since he failed to mention the fee required to participate in the challenge, made no reference to a scientific expert(s) who would assist in evaluating the science, and refused to accept the mountains of studies that already exist on the subject, his promise of a payout was seen by many as an elaborate publicity scam.)

On Thursday, Kennedy continued his crusade on Capitol Hill by renting out a Congressional briefing room and attempting to lure legislators with the involvement of celebrity Robert DeNiro. While staunch vaccine refusers were invigorated by these meetings, hanging on the hope that Kennedy could possibly make inroads with the current administration and put an end to vaccine injury once and for all, the reality is that hardly anyone was listening.

With about 40 people in attendance on Wednesday, and not one member of Congress showing up on Thursday, it’s safe to say that Kennedy’s message is only echoing among those who already support him.  Even DeNiro appeared to have lost interest since he was notably absent from Thursday’s event on Capitol Hill.

As expected, there have already been dozens of commentary that address Kennedy’s misinformation.  However, there is still one statement he made that I feel the need to address.

Kennedy claimed, “I’m not anti-vaccine.  I’m pro-safe vaccines.”  

It’s understandable for people to say,“Yes, I vaccinate, but I don’t feel completely certain that vaccines are safe.” Since we’re unable to guarantee that vaccines will be 100% safe, this “pro-safe vaccine” battle cry is an effective way to appeal to parents who don’t have the time, the understanding or the inclination to delve into the science that supports the widespread use of vaccines.

cf8oebjwqaa6l2nBy using this “pro-safe vaccine” label, Kennedy and others like him play into the emotional need of parents to protect their children while dangerously misleading them into thinking that vaccines are far more dangerous than the diseases they prevent.  In essence, this statement is used to help anti-vaccine crusaders turn vaccine safety into a personal and anecdotal issue, when we should all be demanding that vaccine safety be investigated and addressed with scientific objectivity.

Kennedy continues to try to discredit his critics by questioning, “Why wouldn’t anyone be agreeable to studying vaccine safety?”  He seems to suggest that anyone who isn’t “with” him in arguing that vaccines aren’t safe, is simply against safe vaccines.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Vaccine experts ARE agreeable to studying vaccine safety. In fact, that is largely what they do. But unlike Kennedy, they don’t rely on anecdotal evidence.  They demand scientific evidence and they go to great lengths to get it. 

If we were to go back in history, we would see plenty of examples of how our current vaccine safety protocols have successfully identified problems and taken steps to address them.  Consider the history of the rotavirus vaccine.  The vaccine was withdrawn in 1999 after scientists associated it with a rare intestinal problem called intussusception.  This would not have been identified if it weren’t for the vaccine safety monitoring systems that we currently have in place.  And what about the nasal spry flu vaccine which was pulled just prior to this flu season?  The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) decided not to recommend the vaccine based on low efficacy studies, especially among children.  Again, an example of action taken by one of our current vaccine oversight committees.  There are plenty of other examples of vaccines being pulled from the market – the whole cell pertussis vaccine (DTP), Lyme vaccine, and oral polio to name a few. These instances occurred because of the vaccine safety protocols in place. Read more…

Did the Flu Take Down the Packers & the Steelers in the NFL Playoffs?

January 23, 2017 Leave a comment

In the final weeks of NFL play, as the Green Bay Packers competed against the Atlanta Falcons and the Pittsburgh Steelers took on the New England Patriots, rumors circulated that several NFL players may have had the flu.  

screen-shot-2017-01-23-at-1-34-51-pmSome sources say the players had fallen ill with a flu-like bug, though it’s unclear what that’s supposed to mean.  It seems likely that a doctor’s exam, along with a flu test, could confirm, with relative certainty, whether these players were in fact suffering from influenza.

Some sources reported that the players have had the “stomach flu, which is confusing since there is really no such thing as a “stomach flu“. With flu, some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this screen-shot-2017-01-23-at-1-41-49-pmis more common in children than adults.  It is much more likely that these symptoms alone suggest gastrointestinal issues that are often referred to as stomach bugs, which again, should not be confused with influenza.

Then there’s the reference to the “24-hour flu in a report from ESPN Staff Writer, Jeremy Fowler.  The article leads with a statement that up to 15 people in the Pittsburgh Steelers facility suffered a setback from a “24-hour flu bug”.  To clarify, the flu is never a 24 hour ordeal.  Rather, the flu can last as long as 5-10 days.

In an interview on NFL.com, we hear sportscaster Charley Casserly and former general manager of the NFL’s Washington Redskins saying,

“Some of the best games I had players play in was when they were ill.  They had the flu. Hey, I don’t know what it is, but the flu, the flu could be good.  It could be good for those players.  A lot of them play well.”

I’m guessing Casserly doesn’t know much about the flu.  He has probably never had it himself or he wouldn’t suggest that players could play well while suffering with it.

This varied media coverage of these high-profile athletes and their suspected illnesses is just another example of how the public continues to be misinformed about the flu.

The flu is a serious illness, that kills and hospitalizes thousands of people in the U.S. each year.  Yet the majority of people I talk to, day after day, are unfamiliar with flu symptoms and the dangers of flu.

Yesterday I had dinner with a good friend – a friend who was only in town because she had traveled four hours to bring her college-aged son back to campus after he had been home suffering with the flu for over a week. She explained that she had never had the flu, nor had either of her two college-aged children.  Therefore, she had never even considered the need for a flu vaccine.  She then went on to explain that she never knew how bad it could be, until she saw her son lying in bed for days. He was very ill and lost 10 pounds in one week.  As he describes it, “It was the most awful thing and I’ve never been that sick ever.Read more…

Stories of Polio, Meningitis, HPV, Hepatitis and Pertussis Top 2016 List

December 28, 2016 Leave a comment

Every Child By Two’s online platforms have reached over 11 million people with evidence based vaccine messaging in 2016.  As we look back at the record number of views and shares there have been on Shot of Prevention blog posts this past year, we’re especially grateful to our blog readers, contributors and subscribers.  

Whether you have shared a post, shared your story, or shared your expertise, know that our growth and success would not have been possible without your support.  Thanks to you, people are referencing our content before making important immunization decisions for themselves and their families.  In these final days of 2016, we hope that you will revisit these top five posts from the past year and share them with others in your social networks.  Together, we can continue to engage more people in these important immunization discussions.

 

1. My Polio Story is an Inconvenient Truth to Those Who Refuse Vaccines


Judy Post Polio with SisterIn 1949, Judith contracted polio along with 42,000 other people in the U.S. Judith survived five months in the hospital and multiple surgeries, but sadly 2,720 people died from polio that year.  As Judith bravely shares her story, she explains that it represents an inconvenient truth to people who are in denial about the risks of polio. She is continually shocked by people who refuse vaccines, who refuse to believe she ever suffered with polio, or who actually believe the polio vaccine is part of a government or “big pharma” conspiracy.  By sharing Judith’s story we hope to encourage continued polio vaccination and support of polio eradication worldwide and applaud people like Judith who are courageous enough to speak out in support of vaccines.  To read Judith’s story, click here.

 

2. How My Vaccinated Daughter Died From Meningitis and What I’m Doing About It  


EmilyStillmanEmily Stillman was pronounced brain-dead just 30 hours from the onset of a severe headache.  What they though was a migraine turned out to be meningococcal disease. In this post Emily’s mother Alicia explains that although Emily received a meningococcal vaccine, the MCV4 vaccine she received only protected her against meningococcal serogroups A, C, W and Y.  It did not protect her against serogroup B, which is what caused Emily’s death.  Since Emily’s death, a MenB vaccine has been approved for use.  However, most parents still don’t know it exists and therefore, most students are still not protected.

As the Director of The Emily Stillman Foundation, Alicia Stillman helps educate people about the importance of “complete and total” protection against all serogroups of meningococcal disease.  This means ensuring that teens and young adults receive both meningococcal vaccines; the MCV4 vaccine that protects against serogroups A,C, W and Y, as well as a MenB vaccine series.  To learn more about fully protecting our youth against meningococcal disease, read Alicia’s guest blog here.

 

3. Questioning Whether to Get Your Child the HPV Vaccine? Read This


hpv-fact-vs-fiction-series-1Although the HPV vaccine is one of the most effective ways we have to prevent numerous types of cancer, it is still being grossly underutilized.  As a result of persistent but inaccurate myths circulating on the internet, some parents are more fearful of the HPV vaccine than the human papillomavirus itself.  This is causing them to refuse or delay HPV vaccination for their children.

In this popular blog post, we highlight ten critical facts that address the most common misconceptions about HPV infection and the vaccine that can help prevent this very common infection. To learn more, be sure to read the post here.

 

4. Understanding Why Your Baby Needs a Hepatitis B Vaccine at Birth  


 

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There are many misconceptions about hepatitis B and how the infection is transmitted.  Because of this, many parents don’t consider their children to be at risk of infection and so they question the need for a hepatitis B vaccine at birth.  In this post, the Prevent Cancer Foundation explains the connection between hepatitis B and liver cancer and discusses ways in which infants and children can unknowingly contract hepatitis B.  Their Think About the Linkeducation campaign suggests that vaccinating infants before they leave the hospital is a critical first step in protecting your newborn from a virus that can lead to cancer later in life.  To learn more about Hepatitis B and the vaccine to prevent it, click here.

 

5. Barbara Loe Fisher is Right.  She’s Also to Blame. 


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Back in the 1980’s, Barbara Loe Fisher claimed that the whole cell pertussis vaccine (DTP)  was dangerous and causing too many adverse events.  Her complaints prompted the development of the more purified (acellular) pertussis vaccines that we use today; DTaP for infants, and Tdap for adolescents and adults. While studies have shown that these newer vaccines are not as effective as the old whole cell pertussis vaccine, they are the best protections we have against the dangers of pertussis.

Unfortunately, those who need protection the most are those who are too young to be vaccinated.  Infants are at high risk of severe complications from pertussis, to include hospitalization and death, but babies don’t begin receiving pertussis vaccine until two months of age.  After newborn Calle Van Tornhout contracted pertussis from a hospital nurse at birth, she died at just 37 days of age.  Callie’s death has had her home state of Indiana considering a bill that would mandate pertussis vaccination among health care workers.  But Barbara Loe Fisher is opposed to that as well.  To read more about the history of pertussis vaccines, click here.

 

If you have suggestions for topics you would like us to address in 2016, or you would like to contribute a guest post for publication, please email shotofprevention@gmail.com.  

Don’t miss any of our new posts.   Subscribe to Shot of Prevention by clicking the link at the top right of this page.  You can also “Like” our Vaccinate Your Family Facebook page to receive updates on important immunization news and join in our online discussions.   

Thanks again for your continued support and best wishes for a happy and healthy new year!

A Mother’s Plea: Don’t Let Flu Steal Your Healthy Child

December 8, 2016 Leave a comment

CDC Flu Blog-A-Thon
This guest post by Serese Marotta, Chief Operating Officer of Families Fighting Flu, is part of the CDC Flu Blog-A-Thon held in honor of National Influenza Vaccination Week.

As parents, we do everything we can to protect our children. We buckle them into their car seats, make them wear their bike helmets, hold their hand while crossing the street, and even get them their recommended childhood vaccinations. But what about getting our kids the flu vaccine?

Sadly, only about 42% of adults and 60% of children received their annual flu vaccine last season.  

jojo-and-sunflowers-croppedThese statistics may not mean much to you, unless you or a loved one have had a personal experience with the flu.  But they haunt me every day.  As a mother who lost her healthy, five-year-old son, Joseph, during the H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009, I want to do everything I can to ensure no other child dies from flu.

Despite what many people may believe, influenza is not like the common cold.  Influenza is a very serious and highly contagious disease that tends to develop quickly, especially in children.  Influenza can also lead to hospitalization or death, even in otherwise healthy individuals. Every year in the U.S., approximately 20,000 children under the age of five are hospitalized, and on average, 100 children die each year from flu infection and its complications. According to the CDC, 80 to 90 percent of pediatric flu deaths over the past few years have been in unvaccinated children, many of whom were otherwise healthy.

This is why I am writing this article and telling Joseph’s story again, in hopes that it will save someone else from losing a loved one to flu.

As a mother, I have always tried my best to protect my kids, including getting them vaccinated against the flu every year.  When my son Joseph was in kindergarten, he received his annual flu vaccine on September 26, 2009.  Unfortunately, the H1N1 flu strain was just developing, and it was not included in the seasonal vaccine that year. On October 9th he threw up a few times and became increasingly lethargic. Our pediatrician suggested we take him to the local urgent care and upon arrival, they found his blood oxygen level to be very low. They immediately transported him to the local children’s hospital where a rapid flu test came back negative and he was eventually diagnosed with pneumonia.

Several days into his hospital stay, the doctors informed us that Joseph’s culture was growing influenza, which was likely H1N1, but not to worry—it was “just the flu”.

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Concerned Parents Duped by Deceptive Sound Bites and Junk Science

December 1, 2016 2 comments

One of our priorities on Shot of Prevention blog is to provide accurate, evidence-based immunization information so that people can make educated decisions for themselves and their families.  Unfortunately, people are sometimes duped into believing things that are inaccurate, causing them to question the safety, efficacy or importance of vaccines.  If we are to improve vaccine confidence, than we must work to understand why anti-vaccine messages resonate with people.  In this guest post, we learn more about the research being conducted to help us change the trajectory of the anti-vaccine movement.

Concerned Parents Duped by Deceptive Sound Bites and Junk Science

by Meghan Bridgid Moran, Assistant Professor in the Department of Health, Behavior and Society at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Any parent voicing even the slightest concern about vaccinating a child is lumped in as a member of an inglorious club: “the anti-vaxx movement.” The news media castigates them, other parents shun them and the medical community can’t understand them.

The reality is more complex.

Sure, a very small percentage of parents refuse all vaccines for their children. And there are people and organizations that flatly and loudly assert, falsely, that vaccines are dangerous. But most parents are simply trying to do what’s best for their children in a world saturated with information and misinformation. They just want to protect their families. These are the people who deserve our sympathy, not our ire.

istock_000045885926_xxxlargeAnti-vaccine messaging—however misguided, however misleading—resonates with them. As a result, an increasingly alarming number of parents are opting out of routine vaccinations for their children. Every day, more kids are being exposed to once-tamed vaccine-preventable diseases like measles and whooping cough.

To understand how concerned parents could be persuaded not to vaccinate their children, a team of researchers at San Diego State University and I conducted a deep dive into 480 anti-vaccine websites to analyze their tactics and assess their methods. The picture that emerged from these sites—from Natural News to Mercola to Think Twice—is at once bracing and informative: Anti-vaccine websites leverage an arsenal of powerful and persuasive tactics to manipulate people into believing vaccines are dangerous.

Predictably, these sites appeal directly to people who are interested in choice, personal freedom and the ability to make their own informed decisions — all valiant ideals. “Natural treatments” and “homeopathic remedies” are held high and offered up as bona fide vaccine alternatives. Yet in the end, these sites betray those who visit them.

Here are a few key findings from our research

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