The anti-vaccine movement – and other similar questionings of authority and science for that matter – fascinate me as they seem to be a culmination of a number of modern advancements and current issues. Plus it bugs the shit out of me because it’s so stupid.
We seem to be in an age where we need to re-learn or re-discover why we have certain nice things. Like public health programs, unions, and consumer advocacy. If there hasn’t been an outreach campaign about something that the public forgets about things in about a generation. Sadly, with the anti-vaxxers, we will apparently have to experience a rash of preventable, tragic deaths before people bother to understand why we have vaccines in the first place.
The last major plague we’ve experienced – AIDS – only affected “those people”: those dirty gays and IV drug users (and they probably deserved it!). It didn’t directly affect the general population, so they don’t understand the impact of public health programs (or lack thereof). It took decades to get definitive research and treatment for AIDS patients after decades of screaming for help. That’s the thing that’s ironic – a group of people had to work hard to get treatment for a new disease, while a population today completely eschews tested and effective treatment for a known set of diseases. They will have to experience the tragedies of what happens when you go without.
I think the Internet is part of the problem too. Anyone can find something on the Internet to bolster their beliefs, and most don’t know how to vet research from an accredited institution versus someone’s “deeply held concerns” and opinions. I do know of one anti-vaxxer friend of mine on Facebook who worked at a university and should know better. But she’s constantly citing blog posts from “concerned parents” and links to science that has been discredited. She seems determined to stick to her beliefs despite nearly a century of medical research and advancements in public health. I don’t know how to convince her otherwise.
This anti-science set of beliefs is linked to an anti-authority movement. I’ll go out on a limb here to say that it’s rooted in anti-Obama. Perhaps since they can’t deal with a black president, and he’s in charge of the government and ultimately public health, therefore everything in authority is untrustworthy. I would go so far as to say that some parents are terrified to vaccinate their children because they are essentially injecting black in their children. Or that sneaky Obama is up to something and it’s probably forced autism.
All of the above makes me very concerned about the next new disease that hits the U.S. We didn’t handle Ebola very well. There was just as much confusion, accusing and fear about ebola as there was about HIV. Include mistrust of public health and the government and we will have a perfect storm of tragedy and death when the next new disease comes around. And most likely it will be preventable.
There seems to be two camps of anti-vaccine kooks: those who are Libertarian (or something) and dislike being “told what to do,” and hippy-dippy naturopathic enthusiasts who distrust western medicine. The latter may be convinced to vaccinate their children if you accuse them of racism. It might work.
Oh, and about autism: I don’t doubt it exists, but I think it’s overly diagnosed in an age where parents are working too much and can’t (or don’t want to) deal with the typical problems children go through. It’s the modern-day boogeyman, today’s Communist that puts the fear of god in mothers. Mothers who will click on anything with mention of it. It’s part of the hook that makes “concerned mothers” so willing to believe in the discredited threats of vaccination. They would much rather dope up their children with behavior-modifying medication than vaccinate their children. It’s easier that way and you don’t have to think about science.
I also wonder if there are parents who just can’t handle the thought of their children experiencing any kind of pain or hardship, like getting a shot in the arm. Seeing their children cry during what was once a rite of passage when I was a kid. Maybe these parents just can’t let their precious snowflakes experience the agony of a vaccination.
I suppose I could back up all of this conjecture with research from accredited institutions, but I’m too busy reading about the Kardashians.