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Dear parents, you are being lied to
June 1, 2014 1:44 PM   Subscribe

Scientist Jennifer Raff has put together an extremely comprehensive look, with loads of examples and citations, at all the reasons that the anti-vaccination movement is wrong. [previously]

As typical, read the comment section at your own peril.
posted by quin (131 comments total) 64 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well researched, well said and, sadly, almost certainly sure to be ignored by the people that need to read it.

I think Penn and Teller put it best in this video:SLYT
posted by Paladin1138 at 2:01 PM on June 1 [16 favorites]


You're never going to convince people. I have a friend who is a very bright woman who is convinced that she gave her child autism by vaccinating him.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:03 PM on June 1


Look at all the time and money they put into creating this! The conspiracy is even bigger than I thought!
posted by Salvor Hardin at 2:03 PM on June 1 [25 favorites]


A few of the comments, from the vaccine defender guys, are very nice:

You’ll see on this thread that almost none of the people suggesting vaccines are unsafe will even answer what sort of evidence would be likely to convince them, and a few have openly declared they refuse to learn any more on the subject as a whole.

When that’s the case, there’s really no conversation or education to be had.

It’s very much like the statements from Ken Hamm and Bill Nye during the recent evolution debate.
“What would make you change your mind?”
Hamm: “Nothing.”
Nye: “Evidence”


The thing that can be gleaned about that exchange is, the anti-vaxxers tend to be what I call loudspeakers, or maybe bullhorns is more appropriate: they just shout and shout and shout. You can't respond to them because they'll just shout over you. They won't allow themselves to be convinced, seeing that as a defeat instead of the essential process of a rational mind. There is no talking with someone who is devoting all his energy to shouting at you, going on and on. These people are only adding insanity to the conversation; they aren't receptive to sense at all, they only exist to spread their madness, while the people who fight against them are fundamentally reasonable. By not using their critical faculties they are harming the world.

This is all due to a more basic problem with our civilization, and it my well be our ultimate downfall, which is loud people who are resistant to facts, either willfully or because their information sources consistently lie to them, in many different fields. Because a Democracy is not an objective good: it only gives people the kind of government they deserve.

There needs to be greater respect in our culture for the sanctity of truth, of factual information, that it's not all basically mere opinion but hard-won and important. Because real truth, as any scientist will tell you, is the hardest thing to discover. Your mind is essentially made of bias, and it's a miracle we can overcome that even to the limited extent we have. Smart people devote their lives to discerning truth, but then these people come along, listen to shysters or pick up the barest information from a cursory web search, and try to throw out what's taken centuries to discover! They're like traitors to our species.
posted by JHarris at 2:08 PM on June 1 [179 favorites]


“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'”

― Isaac Asimov
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:16 PM on June 1 [140 favorites]


roomthreeseventeen: "You're never going to convince people. I have a friend who is a very bright woman who is convinced that she gave her child autism by vaccinating him."

That's really sad. I have three autistic children. I know that vaccination had nothing to do with it. It was a genetic twist of fate. I don't know what I would do if I felt that I was to blame.
posted by double block and bleed at 2:18 PM on June 1 [25 favorites]


I think it starts with mainstream media. The problem isn't that there was a fraudulent study that linked vaccines to autism; the problem is that the study was uncritically covered by the media, despite the fact that it was decried the moment it was publicized. The problem isn't that Jenny McCarthy is an idiot; the problem is that Oprah and huffington gave her an uncritical platform. The problem isn't that some people are wrong; it is that the media represented right and wrong as being equally valid positions that deserved equal time.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:20 PM on June 1 [107 favorites]


I've encountered a number of these anti- vaccine people, and the ones I've met tend to be very smart but not well-educated. And by not well-educated I mean the schools they went to failed them.

These people know they are smart but they've been lied to by so many experts that they can't trust anything anymore except their gut feeling.

I think we really need to make sure that people have decent science educations so they are at least given the tools to decide whether they can trust a claim or not. I like that this article has links to other articles that do just that. I would definitely send this to someone next time this issue comes up.
posted by maggiemaggie at 2:20 PM on June 1 [12 favorites]


I wonder what the opportunity cost of all those studies proving vaccines don't cause autism is.
posted by ddd at 2:29 PM on June 1 [11 favorites]


I wonder how many kids will get measles because of the original false study?
posted by double block and bleed at 2:47 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]


So these people feel the whole smallpox thing was a scam?
posted by juiceCake at 2:49 PM on June 1 [5 favorites]


"They're like traitors to our species."

It's worth remembering that many of them are parents who falsely believe they gave their children autism. Guilt and grief and ongoing struggle just to get by don't make dispassionate reason easier.

Their actions are morally wrong, endangering children and people with compromised immune systems, and I don't want to understate that, but let's keep in mind that they are not the enemy. The bad ideas in their heads are what we must fight.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:50 PM on June 1 [16 favorites]


I know quite a few non-vaxxers, none of whom are bad people or bad parents apart from that decision. I honestly don't know how community science education has failed so spectacularly in this area -- I've listened to people deciding whether to vaccinate or not and they talk about it as though it's something like, say, deciding whether to circumcise. Arguments in both directions, not really going to be the end of the world either way, reasonable people can disagree ....
posted by gerstle at 2:53 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]


Figuring out what actually convinces anti-vaccination people to change their minds strikes me as more interesting than focusing on more science, research and information. Clearly the anti-vaccination movement don't consider themselves as anti-science or anti-facts so treating this problem as if it's mainly caused by a lack of knowledge doesn't work.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:54 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]


I'm going to share this with my friends who are chiropractors.
posted by Rob Rockets at 2:56 PM on June 1 [8 favorites]


To get through, you need about ten helpful articles like this to make up for every remark like JHarris' (sorry, just a convenient example) or the toxic vitriol one can read on reddit about incarcerating parents, ostracizing them and taking away their children.
posted by michaelh at 3:04 PM on June 1 [2 favorites]


Sadly, one of the middle schools in my district sent home a notice to parents last week advising them that a student had been diagnosed with mumps. MUMPS! I weep for these children.
posted by rhythim at 3:09 PM on June 1 [2 favorites]


I would imagine a huge factor feeding these people's fears is the idea that the federal regulatory agencies are so cowed to industry interests that they can't trust regulators to tell them what is safe. It clearly doesn't apply in this case, but it is sad that that perception is now making kids sick.
posted by vorpal bunny at 3:13 PM on June 1 [6 favorites]


The tragic thing is that I think for everyone loudly proclaiming that vaccinations cause autism, there are probably hundreds saying nothing, on the grounds that they still want other people's kids to be vaccinated, while quietly not vaccinating their own so they can have it both ways.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:19 PM on June 1 [15 favorites]


Christ, George, that's a terrifying thought.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:39 PM on June 1 [4 favorites]


Something to make you feel a bit better about the vaccination statistics:

My sister is enrolling her child in school, and despite being a well-educated medical professional, was intimidated by the long, complex form detailing the child's immunization history.

The religious exemption form was much shorter and easier to fill out. She didn't, but she was tempted to just do that one instead.

How many of the 'unvaccinated' are actually, 'I don't feel like filling out a form'?
posted by Hatashran at 3:41 PM on June 1 [10 favorites]


I know quite a few non-vaxxers, none of whom are bad people or bad parents apart from that decision. I honestly don't know how community science education has failed so spectacularly in this area

I think you'll find it's part of the rise of conspiracy culture.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 3:44 PM on June 1 [5 favorites]


Hey, maybe we can get the pope to say anti-vaxxers are the devil.
posted by telstar at 3:51 PM on June 1 [2 favorites]


The religious exemption form was much shorter and easier to fill out.

See, here's the thing:

Those forms shouldn't exist in the first place. Society demands certain things, and one of those is vaccinating children, which should be fucking mandatory everywhere. (Absent actual allergies or being immunocompromised).

Vaccination is why we don't have polio anymore. Why can't the anti-vaxxers understand this really goddamn simple thing?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:56 PM on June 1 [37 favorites]


I am a scientist, a science teacher, and a great fan of science, technology and medical progress. I am firmly in the pro-vaccine camp.

And yet when my newborn son, my tiny, helpless, trusting child was in my arms and it was time to hand him to the pediatrician for his first vaccinations, vaccinations that I knew well might save his life, you'd be damn right I had some panicked "but what if the anti-vaxxers are right" thoughts running through my head. I still did it, but what I'm saying is, I get it. I get why someone who was not brought up in a culture that celebrated science would no be willing to let them stick that little needle into that chubby little thigh. It's a problem that needs to be solved to save the lives of children, but I get it.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 4:02 PM on June 1 [21 favorites]


I wonder how many kids will get measles because of the original false study?

Measles cases in the United States reach 20-year high, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.
posted by argonauta at 4:02 PM on June 1 [7 favorites]


Figuring out what actually convinces anti-vaccination people to change their minds strikes me as more interesting than focusing on more science, research and information. Clearly the anti-vaccination movement don't consider themselves as anti-science or anti-facts so treating this problem as if it's mainly caused by a lack of knowledge doesn't work.

I don't think that it's really possible to convince staunch anti-vaxxers that they are wrong. Thankfully, most people who may choose not to vaccinate are not staunch anti-vaxxers. An organization called Women Thinking, with the help of the James Randi Educational Foundation, conducted a marketing research survey at baby and parenting-focused expos in an attempt to figure out how to reach parents who are concerned that vaccinations are harmful but aren't necessarily convinced either way. The results are summarized in this blog post with a link to the (much more in-depth) report.
posted by muddgirl at 4:06 PM on June 1 [7 favorites]


I've encountered a number of these anti- vaccine people, and the ones I've met tend to be very smart but not well-educated. And by not well-educated I mean the schools they went to failed them.

That's my experience, too. Very bright, but poorly educated people. Often people who grew up in a homeschooling bubble or went to a fundamentalist college. They have these marvelous, powerful, untrained brains so they do tons of deep introspection and analysis based on completely false premises and using biased data. They have no idea that their data is bad--they sincerely think everyone else is messed up.

You also have to be a bit of a conspiracy nut or an off-the-rails cynic. The basic argument, after all, is that hundred of thousands of doctors and researchers are knowingly giving toddlers treatments that won't help them, may hurt them, and probably cause autism, just to make a bit more money, and the government is going along with it. That's a hell of theory, something that makes the "9/11 was an inside job" theory look like a tiny blip on the "evil conspiracies chart" in comparison.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 4:22 PM on June 1 [7 favorites]


Hey, maybe we can get the pope to say anti-vaxxers are the devil.

And then I can get some guy in Utah to say on his blog that Catholics are false Christians and inherently damned, that Francis's papacy is illegitimate because of a conspiracy from the 1950s anyway, and that the Vatican pours big money into causing autism because they can sell autistic children to the Japanese.

Somewhere, Hagbard Celine shrugs and returns to his lunch.
posted by delfin at 4:30 PM on June 1 [3 favorites]


Last autumn, I was at the hospital for a routine medical appointment when I heard some nurses talking about how they were going to sign a religious exemption for the flu vaccine because they didn't want to take it. Are you fucking kidding me? If you are a licensed medical practitioner, it should be a condition of your employment. No vaccine? No job.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:32 PM on June 1 [44 favorites]


The few anti-vaccine people I know are well educated, but have a set of core beliefs around a certain set of 'new age' beliefs that held firm despite that education.

My own sense, is that on some level, it also has to do with status. Like creeps with immaculate progressive politics, these people are very invested in the idea that they are special, that they are in fact the vanguard of our species, and that they are beyond the concerns of the rest of us.

Formerly good friends that came out as such spring to mind, and generally I try not to see them anymore, because my main impulse is to want to scream at them. These people and climate change deniers; ugghhh.....
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 4:33 PM on June 1 [5 favorites]


The anti-vaxxers I know personally have also demonstrated themselves to be breathtakingly cavalier with everyone else's health. As in, bringing (unvaccinated) kid to day care saying, "he woke up with a fever, but we gave him some Tylenol, and he's fine now" and BEING SURPRISED when day care said "Nope, can't stay here" So his Dad took him into work. A few months later, it was conjunctivitis instead of a fever, same scenario played out. Seriously dude, don't bring your goopy-eyed kid into the office. He's contagious.

It really makes me wonder if their kid presented with mumps or measles, would they take him to the grocery store on their way to the doctor's office?
posted by ambrosia at 4:39 PM on June 1 [17 favorites]


You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason their way into in the first place. Alas.
posted by yoink at 4:40 PM on June 1 [7 favorites]


I know way too many anti-vaxxers. The mantra in all decisions is "trust your Mama instinct, only you know what's best for your family", which is so frightening to me... There is no science, no truth, your doctor's years of education are meaningless, let your animal instinct be your guide. Because that's always great for society.
posted by waterlily at 4:42 PM on June 1 [11 favorites]


This is all due to a more basic problem with our civilization, and it my well be our ultimate downfall, which is loud people who are resistant to facts, either willfully or because their information sources consistently lie to them, in many different fields. Because a Democracy is not an objective good: it only gives people the kind of government they deserve.

A few responses to this paragraph: people who resist facts are not simply being lied to, they are willfully disregarding contrary information. Confirmation bias becoming the grounds for personal decisions, or worse, broader regulations. And "people get the government they deserve" is a harsh phrase, because this isn't simply bad policies (or indiviual decisions), it's a matter of people who otherwise would be safe because of herd immunity are no longer safe. [To be clear, I'm not criticizing the poster, I'm commenting on the ideas.]
posted by filthy light thief at 4:43 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]


You’ll see on this thread that almost none of the people suggesting vaccines are unsafe will even answer what sort of evidence would be likely to convince them, and a few have openly declared they refuse to learn any more on the subject as a whole.

I see the exact same thing with climate change deniers. Ask them what evidence they would personally require in order for them to accept its reality, and you tend to get blank looks, or a change of subject. It's not evidence they're looking for, so it's futile arguing with them from a position of rationality.

What I want to know is - do the anti-vaxxers never go on overseas holidays? There are plenty of countries who won't let you enter without a vaccination record for various diseases.
posted by Jimbob at 4:47 PM on June 1 [6 favorites]


Interestingly, this is precisely what religion looks like to people who are not religious: It's baffling, but there's very little that can be done about it.
posted by klanawa at 4:58 PM on June 1 [32 favorites]


Reading through argonauta's link, there were 288 cases of measles this year. The majority of those cases were in people non-vaccinated for personal or religious reasons. Measles was considered eliminated in 2000 (i.e. 0 cases for 12 months).

Why aren't we seeing 288 people in the news, yelling and screaming about how they were wrong?
posted by cacofonie at 4:59 PM on June 1 [9 favorites]


The tragic thing is that I think for everyone loudly proclaiming that vaccinations cause autism, there are probably hundreds saying nothing, on the grounds that they still want other people's kids to be vaccinated, while quietly not vaccinating their own so they can have it both ways.

Such a good point. I don't think anyone's claiming that vaccines don't prevent disease, or that disease isn't a threat. So: 'If my kid doesn't get diseases OR autism because everyone else is vaccinated, all the better for my family.' Selfish in a deluded way.

Sadly we are seemingly reaching a critical mass of non-vaccinated kids, where this strategy is starting to backfire on them. Hopefully even the 'believers' start to re-evaluate the comparative risks.
posted by mantecol at 5:01 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]


I find it hard to fathom how people can be so cavalier about the health of other people's children. Fine, make those decisions for your own kids--but it's not only your kids you're putting at risk.

So selfish.

One of my oldest friends admitted recently she'd not given her two pre-teen children the chicken pox vaccine, and they both came down with it this year. I don't see how anyone is better off for that. I couldn't bring myself to ask her to explain her thinking.
posted by suelac at 5:02 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]


There is a dystopian flavor to the notion that a person can be injected with god-knows-what against their will. Substances made & sold by the same pharma industry that brought us lovely things like thalidomide & agent orange. Any objections are waved away with cries of ridicule by arrogant people who know what's good for you.

I'm completely pro-vaccination, but you can see how a person can be seduced by the anti-vax crowd with this in mind.
posted by dr_dank at 5:04 PM on June 1 [8 favorites]


The problem isn't that some people are wrong; it is that the media represented right and wrong as being equally valid positions that deserved equal time.

To some extent, but the media also get very poor marks in terms of public trust these days. I think this is part of a broader failure and distrust of institutions in our society; the yahoos have always been with us, pace Asimov, but now we've reached a sort of apotheosis of Don't Trust Authority that actually begins to presume conspiratorial motives when there are none.
posted by dhartung at 5:09 PM on June 1 [5 favorites]


This is all due to a more basic problem with our civilization, and it may well be our ultimate downfall, which is loud people who are resistant to facts, either willfully or because their information sources consistently lie to them, in many different fields.

Besides the anti-vaxxers and climate change deniers, see also Rob Ford supporters. No amount of evidence and reason makes so much as a dent in their mindsets. This is something I mull over a lot these days, because I want to write a piece about it, and I keep trying to come up with a solution for the basic problem, which is, how do we educate the wilfully ignorant, or at least educate and motivate enough citizens so that there's a majority of reasonable people sizeable enough that it can't be held hostage by the wilfully ignorant minority? A better educational system and a more responsible press might be a start... but it would take massive overhauls in both areas and years of work before we'd even start to see a difference.
posted by orange swan at 5:11 PM on June 1 [4 favorites]


It's worth remembering that many of them are parents who falsely believe they gave their children autism. Guilt and grief and ongoing struggle just to get by don't make dispassionate reason easier.

Considering that the truth is that they didn't give their kids autism, you'd think it'd be easier for them to swallow. The reality lets them off the hook! It is, itself, sad.

Their actions are morally wrong, endangering children and people with compromised immune systems, and I don't want to understate that, but let's keep in mind that they are not the enemy. The bad ideas in their heads are what we must fight.

Agreed. I did use a simile instead of a metaphor, that they're like traitors to our species. And some of the more reprehensible ones you can throw out that 'like' easily. But yes, those that are just deluded by their information sources, I tend to pity them more than hate.
posted by JHarris at 5:22 PM on June 1


It's interesting, we tag people that don't vaccine their kids as ideological zealots, but there was actually a survey done here in Australia regarding vaccines, and despite their overwhelming presence in popular cutlure, staunch anti-vaxxers actually made up the minority of parents no vaccinating their kids.

Here, the majority of parents who didn't vaccinate were simply apathetic. They either didn't care, forgot, and didn't get around to it. In response, the government developed policies that tied family benefits to your child's vaccination schedule (and in my state you could only enrol in childcare if your kid completed the full vaccination schedule, or you needed a form signed by a doctor saying they weren't vaccinated). Obviously, this would not affect the 'true believers', but evidence suggested they are only a small proportion of those not vaccinating.


Unfortunately, the government changed and with it the policy. Interesting food for thought though, and a great demonstration of how the media distorts representation.
posted by smoke at 5:24 PM on June 1 [8 favorites]


how do we educate the wilfully ignorant, or at least educate and motivate enough citizens so that there's a majority of reasonable people sizeable enough that it can't be held hostage by the wilfully ignorant minority? A better educational system and a more responsible press might be a start...

It's not just a start, it's the end. Both of those have eroded in the US over the past few decades, and our nation's decline has neatly mirrored them. Strong education and press won't guarantee your nation's survival, but it'll give you the best chance.
posted by JHarris at 5:25 PM on June 1 [3 favorites]


A lot of the anti-vaxxers I know have a pretty deep distrust of "big pharma" in general, and that distrust may have some justifications. But then they apply that general distrust to literally everything related to the field and mistake it for critical thought.
posted by brundlefly at 5:40 PM on June 1 [8 favorites]


Even if Jesus H. Christ himself descended from the heavens and declared vaccines to have nothing to do with autism, these people would simply turn to the next sinister conspirator. There is no shortage of potential culprits!

For instance, PETA is now pointing at dairy as the cause of autism.
posted by delfin at 5:42 PM on June 1 [3 favorites]


that a person can be injected with god-knows-what against their will. Substances made & sold by the same pharma industry that brought us lovely things like thalidomide & agent orange.

To me this is on par with waving away lightbulbs and microprocessors and the like as evil because they are made by GE, the same company that makes miniguns and other mutionitions.

I'm not saying big pharma hasn't had a truckload of problems, but the evidence for use so outweighs that for avoidance, that I can't imagine anyone rational choosing this argument.

But then, as better writers upthread than I have already pointed out; this has nothing to do with rationality.
posted by quin at 5:47 PM on June 1 [6 favorites]


It never ceases to amaze me how many non-issues people choose to raise...there are things up for debate, but vaccines aren't one of them. Society shouldn't always have to go a few steps back...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 5:54 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]


It's interesting how make-believe (ie, belief, religion) is an allowable exemption for a public health issue (skipping vaccinations). Then again, we also allow parents to make terrible decisions (skipping vaccinations) which are certain to negatively affect their children (whose health is entirely their parent's charge), and we're OK with that, too.
posted by maxwelton at 6:06 PM on June 1 [5 favorites]


these people would simply turn to the next sinister conspirator. There is no shortage of potential culprits!

Just for laughs -- of the depressed, bitter kind -- I googled chemtrails cause autism. I was not particularly surprised at the large number of results.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:13 PM on June 1 [10 favorites]


To me this is on par with waving away lightbulbs and microprocessors and the like as evil because they are made by GE, the same company that makes miniguns and other mutionitions.


I'm pro vaccination but this is a terrible analogy.

Reason 1: Agent Orange and Thalidomide are both things made by the pharmaceutical industry that were originally declared safe and later declared not safe. The pharma industry (and some others) have a long history of this kind of thing. As such "trust us" is not that convincing of an argument at first blush.

Reason 2: It would be a closer analogy if you were required to buy GE processors. But still not a particularly good analogy. There IS something a little creepy on the surface of this idea:

"There is something that I insist/require you inject into your body and the bodies of your children"
posted by RustyBrooks at 6:14 PM on June 1 [4 favorites]


Reason 1: Agent Orange and Thalidomide are both things made by the pharmaceutical industry that were originally declared safe and later declared not safe.

(facepalm)

The chemical industry is not the same as the pharmaceutical industry.

Agent Orange is primarily 2,5,6-T, and I used to sell it at my family's greenhouse, and spray it to kill weeds growing in cracks in the pavement, etc. They absolutely did not say it was "safe," they said it was deadly and required special handling, and would kill plants and probably you, if you got any on you.

And it might interest you to know that Thalidomide is now being prescribed for cancer treatment and (strangely enough) leprosy. Women just have to be on birth control if they take it. So drugs once thought unsafe, are now considered safe (in specific circumstances).
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:27 PM on June 1 [33 favorites]


Maybe we need an emotional campaign, instead of a rational one. It's fear that these people are feeling, maybe that's what needs to be fixed?

I dunno.
posted by The Power Nap at 6:29 PM on June 1 [4 favorites]


Sadly, one of the middle schools in my district sent home a notice to parents last week advising them that a student had been diagnosed with mumps. MUMPS! I weep for these children.


I'm in a state that has an outbreak of the mumps going on right now!

The unfortunate thing is that the mumps vaccine isn't that effective- something like 60-80% (I happen to be one of the lucky ducks that got it when I was younger, after having gotten my MMR.) So that means that that a lot of the people who've gotten it have been vaccinated, so you have some folks going "See?? That means it doesn't work anyway!!!" when it really just means that (I think) you need a higher critical mass of people vaccinated to stop it from spreading; just a few more anti-vaxers + a college campus, and boom, 300+ folks in our county and the one over have it.
posted by damayanti at 6:34 PM on June 1 [3 favorites]


> Considering that the truth is that they didn't give their kids autism

I think the idea is that such a person would have -- I'll coin a phrase here -- "genetic guilt" over the diagnosis. That the genes the passed on to their kid made them autistic. I'm not passing judgement on that line of thinking or advocating against vaccines, but I've heard people express that sort of sentiment. Like was mentioned, grief is powerful and irrational.
posted by boo_radley at 6:36 PM on June 1 [2 favorites]


I find it interesting that a lot of the people I know like this, with anti-medicine, new-age beliefs are the same ones who are anti-Common Core. I'm like, no, man, your kids absolutely need to get this scientific literacy to combat the nonsense spouted in your house!
posted by Biblio at 6:36 PM on June 1 [2 favorites]


In the 1960s it was not believed that spraying agent orange in massive doses would have the adverse effects it did. It's believed that the reason it did was that most of it was contaminated with dioxins which had longer term and more damaging effects than expected. It was supposed to be safe for the usage it approved for (defoliating vietnam) but it turned out to not be safe.

You can distinguish between the chemical industry and the pharmaceutical industry if you like. The point is the "science" decided it was OK to spray vietnam with agent orange and then later science decided it wasn't OK.

I'm not surprised that thalidomide has legitimate uses. That doesn't really change the fact that it was approved for use in cases where it turned out to have unexpected and quite bad repercussions.

In the short term science is not particularly good at guessing the long term effects of choices that are being made. We have only hind sight to go on.

I think vaccinating children is really very important but that doesn't mean that there isn't also something there to trouble people.
posted by RustyBrooks at 6:37 PM on June 1


And forgive me but the idea that 'scientific literacy' will solve this problem is laughable. Most people - on either side of the debate - have not and will not read any of the scientific research available. Most of us aren't capable of evaluating it in any reasonable terms. We rely on the opinions of people who we assume have read, understand, and can corroborate that research. And probably, they have. But the idea that we ourselves can make informed decisions based on science about medical issues is not particularly likely.
posted by RustyBrooks at 6:39 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]


The point is the "science" decided it was OK to spray vietnam with agent orange and then later science decided it wasn't OK.

The very idea of there being a cohesive body of knowledge called "science" instead of the ongoing Sonne-like trench warfare of scientific research, characterized by bloody, costly advances measured in inches and the telomeres of grad students, only to be betrayed at the last second by the treacherous Canadians holding the line to the south.... is quite hilarious to me.

You could get ten doctors in a room with the same qualifications and we would violently disagree about any number of things. If you want to see some real fireworks, get a nurse practitioner and a psychologist to chip in their two cents. Are we not all educated in the same sciences?
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 6:43 PM on June 1 [22 favorites]


Sure, but that doesn't actually help. I'm using "science" in kind of an ironic sense because I actually mean the policy arm of science, which is mixed in with politics, industry and public policy.

Science is hugely messy, and wrong about lots of things all the time. It's still the best thing going and so if you are looking for something to help make decisions, it's probably best to go with the research that's been done, which hopefully contains some useful truth in it.

All I'm saying is that I have sympathy for people who are not that convinced by the scientific consensus of the day, such as it is. I don't think that the alternative (which is, like, guessing yourself what's best) is by any means a good idea.

(and I happened to think the GE metaphor is just totally missing what it is people are afraid of)
posted by RustyBrooks at 6:48 PM on June 1


For years scientists have assured us that dihyrogen monoxide was safe. For years, like cattle, we unwittingly consumed this substance because they said it was "neccessary to life as we know it". This summer, countless will pay for this misplaced trust with their lives.

Science is fickle. The truth is relative. The universe is unknowable. Trust in me. Surrender to my power.

Cast out the demon substance. Learn the truth!

http://www.dhmo.org/facts.html
posted by eagles123 at 6:48 PM on June 1 [5 favorites]


The way to increase vaccination acceptance is through how it was done in the first place, decades ago: Published accounts of death and suffering of those who haven't vaccinated. Sad but probably the only way.....
posted by storybored at 6:51 PM on June 1 [9 favorites]


Yeah I do feel like we're destined to have some disease resurgence. It's been long enough now that people have forgotton what polio and measles and stuff were really like. Or I suppose maybe people remember, but they are operating under the idea that most people will still get vaccinated so it'll turn out more or less fine. Like most things, it reminds me of the Simpsons (the bear tax episode)
posted by RustyBrooks at 6:55 PM on June 1


You can't reason someone out of an argument they didn't reason themselves into.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:10 PM on June 1 [4 favorites]


That doesn't really change the fact that it was approved for use in cases where it turned out to have unexpected and quite bad repercussions.

Regarding the US, this is not a hotsy-totsy example. The FDA did not approve Thalidomide for use until well after the crisis was over. The thalidomide which had affected US-born babies all came from supplies used for testing purposes.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:12 PM on June 1 [5 favorites]


And it's not like thalidomide hadn't been approved yet. The FDA famously kept refusing to approve it.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:15 PM on June 1


My sister is enrolling her child in school, and despite being a well-educated medical professional, was intimidated by the long, complex form detailing the child's immunization history.

The religious exemption form was much shorter and easier to fill out. She didn't, but she was tempted to just do that one instead.


Wow. A public health pundit on CBC Canada the other week suggested: "Just make the op-out option for vaccines complicated and expensive."
posted by ovvl at 7:18 PM on June 1 [8 favorites]


SMBC explains a lot about the problems we're having with Science and "Science" these days.

It also doesn't help that when I was in school 40+ years ago, we weren't taught much about "the Scientific Method", but we were taught a lot of "Scientific Facts", some of which have been replaced by better knowledge since then... not a lot, but enough to cast doubt on everything if you didn't have a good grounding on the Scientific Method...
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:18 PM on June 1 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure that knowing the scientific method is even helpful in this case (in a lot of other cases, sure). Take for example, hobo gitano's 10 doctors and a nurse practicioner, all with wildly varying opinions about something. They're all trained in medicine, exposed to the scientific method, and so forth.

Which is to say, you don't believe that vaccines are a good idea "because you know the scientific method"
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:21 PM on June 1


For years scientists have assured us that dihyrogen monoxide was safe. etc etc

I am as a pro-vax as it gets, but I gotta say, this kind of superior, super WASP-y bullshit is exactly the wrong way to change minds. I genuinely don't understand why people do this (the overlap with militant athiesm is... more than coincidental), except as some kind of revenge-of-the-nerds fantasy scenario, which I find just so immature and piss-weak.

I mean, really, what is the point? Ridiculing people has so little value, especially when there's evidence, as I posted above, suggests there are a lot of people not vaccinating cause they simply don't care enough. And even for the people who do care, and believe they're harmful, it's just going to make them double down.

Discussion about actual public health, and the kind of discourse that has led to distrust of public health initiatives, medicine, and pharmaceutical companies is much more interesting than HURF DURF ANTI-VAXERS, imho.
posted by smoke at 7:23 PM on June 1 [24 favorites]


Discussion about actual public health, and the kind of discourse that has led to distrust of public health initiatives, medicine, and pharmaceutical companies is much more interesting than HURF DURF ANTI-VAXERS, imho.

It's not an either-or thing, though. Policies which encourage people to appropriately vaccinate their children are important, as is our right to mock people who needlessly choose to not vaccinate their children.

I'm also a little bemused by the occasional posters who remind us that anti-vaxxers are often decent people in other respects. I don't doubt that most anti-vaxxers are, in many other respects, perfectly nice people! Many otherwise decent people say, believe, and do all kinds of horrible, stupid crap.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:31 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]


Because I don't want my kids to die from some disease they caught because other parents decided that in their special little snowflakeness they've figured out something that thousands of scientists and medical professionals have somehow missed. Or, because they somehow think that said professionals are homicidal maniacs/corrupt members of a medical establishment bent on hurting them.

It's not about "waspy superiority". It's about genuine fear for the well-being of myself and my children.

So sorry, buddy, no punches will be pulled. It's not like minds can be changed on this issue anyway.
posted by eagles123 at 7:32 PM on June 1 [8 favorites]


The right to mock people is important?

Maybe in some liberty sense, in a public health policy sense I really really don't think so. Think we're gonna have to agree to disagree on this one.

I mean if it's about genuine fear, wouldn't you try to engage and change rather than marginalise and mock?
posted by smoke at 7:35 PM on June 1 [2 favorites]


Objection noted. I'd also like to note that the other side of (fake) politeness and professional detachment is a certain patrician paternalism that absolves people of responsibility because of their (supposed) incapacity to respond correctly to a certain issue. Such is also a form of "waspy superiority".
posted by eagles123 at 7:36 PM on June 1 [5 favorites]


Maybe in some liberty sense, in a public health policy sense I really really don't think so.

Yes, in a liberty sense. Nobody AFAIK is petitioning the government to set up a PR campaign to literally label the anti-vaccination movement as being "stupid".
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:39 PM on June 1


Well yes, but by the same token, no government is setting up a law to make the mockery illegal, either. Seems kinda irrelevant to the discussion.
posted by smoke at 7:42 PM on June 1


I might point out the irony of spreading the meme "an anti-vaxer's mind can never be changed" as scientific fact based on a magazine article quoting a single study which does not actually reach such a broad conclusion.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:45 PM on June 1 [4 favorites]


Well yes, but by the same token, no government is setting up a law to make the mockery illegal, either. Seems kinda irrelevant to the discussion.

Not responding to any imagined government program, nobody has suggested anything resembling that. I'm responding to your expressed opinion that general public mockery is "bullshit", especially in light of the fact that such mockery is not being directed at people who who simply "fail" to vaccinate, but rather those who actively refuse to.

I understand that the tone of discourse is important, but you have not made a particularly compelling case that mockery of the anti-vaccination movement is that big of a problem.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:47 PM on June 1


For my part, I'm not proposing basing the next public health campaign to vaccinate people on mockery. I'm also not trying to spread the meme "an anti-vaxers mind can never be changed" as being "based on scientific fact".

I'm sorry to have derailed the discussion into a tone argument. I'm just frustrated because everywhere I look it seems like arguments based on science and reason are losing out to arguments based on, for lack of a better term, irrationalism.

I am pessimistic on minds being changed on this issue, however. I base that on personal observations throughout the course of my lifetime. I wish I didn't feel this way.
posted by eagles123 at 7:52 PM on June 1 [3 favorites]


There's an interesting journal article about this here: When public health debates become abusive.
posted by smoke at 7:57 PM on June 1 [3 favorites]


By definition, the only worthwhile arguments are tone arguments. Everything else is pointless and disrespecting of core beliefs.
posted by aramaic at 8:02 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]


I mean, really, what is the point? Ridiculing people has so little value

I don't think ridiculing people is worth defending, but ridiculing beliefs is OK. I think one of the most effective methods to effect social change is social pressure. It worked pretty well for anti-smoking efforts. There will always be true believers, but making anti-vax an unacceptable position within society is worthwhile, and I think it's starting to happen as of the last year or two, at least from what I can tell by the increasingly vocal backlash against anti-vax proponents.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:05 PM on June 1 [3 favorites]


There needs to be greater respect in our culture for the sanctity of truth

I think this is exactly backwards. There's plenty of respect in our culture for the sanctity of truth; unfortunately, much of it is for things that aren't objectively true. What we need more respect for is the possibility that we may be wrong and someone else might be right.
posted by Slothrup at 8:28 PM on June 1 [6 favorites]


Where can I get in on all this sweet, sweet vaccination profit?
posted by petrilli at 8:35 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]


I am as a pro-vax as it gets, but I gotta say, this kind of superior, super WASP-y bullshit is exactly the wrong way to change minds.

Change minds? Fuck that. I don't, at the moment, have kids. I'd like them, at some point, perhaps.

This is what I do know. I am vaccinating those kids. And if they contract any of those diseases they've been vaccinated against, because some shit-for-brains asshole played fast and loose with their kids' and my kids' lives?

I would fucking ruin them. In every fucking way I could think of. I don't care if they believe. I don't care if they're convinced. I care that my kids suffered shit they shouldn't have at their most vulnerable ages because of some asshole's horrifying ignorance or carelessness.

Yes, it's eye for an eye. Yes, it's also the flip side of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. But you gotta do what you gotta do. For your kids.

So fuck those guys.
posted by qcubed at 8:38 PM on June 1 [8 favorites]


i would love to see some statistics on what the overlap is between antivaxers, and the people who successfully got portland to ban fluouride in the water supply.

The campaign used the exact same kind of assy logic, a lot of the same kinds of language and premises/appeals to emotion backed up by "science", etc. it was all straight out of the same playbook.

and it won.

it needs to federally be declared child abuse to not vaccinate your kid.
posted by emptythought at 8:40 PM on June 1 [4 favorites]


I am as a pro-vax as it gets, but I gotta say, this kind of superior, super WASP-y bullshit is exactly the wrong way to change minds. I genuinely don't understand why people do this (the overlap with militant athiesm is... more than coincidental), except as some kind of revenge-of-the-nerds fantasy scenario, which I find just so immature and piss-weak.

Nah i'm with you, i hate this stuff too. And it has 100% overlap with the whole flying spaghetti monster lol group of people.

It's not about changing minds, it's just about mocking and feeling superior. Nerds, when put in a position of debating something like this, seem to simultaneously need to put down the person they're debating and bizarrely see everyone as that one jocky guy who bullied them in middle school so they see it as "punching up".

It becomes more about being right and rubbing the puppies nose in the shit than actually changing minds, and it's snarky in a really gross and ugly way all along the process.

ugh.
posted by emptythought at 8:44 PM on June 1 [7 favorites]


RustyBrooks: "the "science" decided it was OK to spray vietnam with agent orange and then later science decided it wasn't OK
...
science is not particularly good at guessing the long term effects of choices that are being made
"

You keep reifying SCIENCE like it's a thing that thinks. That's simply not true; it's a process. Conceptualising SCIENCE as a thing that thinks, that has intention as a moral actor, that's a slippery epistemological slope that leads down the paranoia trail to CONSPIRACY.
posted by meehawl at 9:02 PM on June 1 [12 favorites]


Ideas and beliefs have consequences if people act upon them. If someone has a belief that, when acted upon, puts other people at risk, it shouldn't surprise them when others become upset. If that same belief also involves assigning nefarious intents and/or incompetence to large groups of people, it really shouldn't come as a surprise when others react negatively.

Are these reactions always constructive? No. They are emotionally honest, though. I think there can be a value in that, because they express the feelings of the people who are hurt by people acting on a certain belief.

There is also a certain inherent respect in that emotional honesty that recognizes the views people hold as something arrived at freely, rather than something to be manipulated. Not everything is a dry, airy, academic debate. There are strong emotions on both sides of this issue.
posted by eagles123 at 9:20 PM on June 1 [2 favorites]


Nerds, when put in a position of debating something like this, seem to simultaneously need to put down the person they're debating and bizarrely see everyone as that one jocky guy who bullied them in middle school so they see it as "punching up".

Sounds like someone got beat up by a nerd in high school.
posted by klanawa at 9:22 PM on June 1 [3 favorites]


I am as a pro-vax as it gets, but I gotta say, this kind of superior, super WASP-y bullshit is exactly the wrong way to change minds.

We don't need to change minds. Only behavior.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:29 PM on June 1 [6 favorites]


My wife recently worked on a documentary on this subject. Her role was filming a family in the neonatal ICU: their 2-month-old son caught whooping cough a week before he was due to get vaccinated. The rest of the family was vaccinated, so he must have caught it from someone else.

He had machines keeping him alive--breathing for him, filtering his blood--for two months straight.

He seems fine now, almost a year old. But Jesus.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:48 PM on June 1 [12 favorites]


Yeah, so I'm horrified by the drop in vaccination rates, the return of measles, the horrible burden of parents thinking wrongly they've given their children autism. Awful, awful, awful. But if the anti-vaxers I know are anything to go by, they skew smart, kind, mistrustful of pharma, and have legitimate squeamishness about making what they see as major medical decisions for kids who don't have agency yet. Not saying I think there's a legitimate controversy. Not even close. But if we're reducing this to a contest of sufficient chest thumping, I don't think anyone's going to be moved.
posted by ~ at 10:54 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]


"Take for example, hobo gitano's 10 doctors and a nurse practicioner, all with wildly varying opinions about something. They're all trained in medicine, exposed to the scientific method, and so forth."

I've been in rooms like this, and it is exactly as described, everyone with their own opinion on the specifics of how or why something works precisely as it does, but the difference it, and this is true with so many other "science" issues like global climate change, and even *shudder* evolution, is that while the scientists are certainly debating the minutia of a hypothesis, they agree on the vast majority of the science since multiple experiments and tests have proved the validity of the theory to everyone's satisfaction, and now they are just biting at the edges of what is known into what isn't known so that we can continue to move the bar of facts forward.

A lot of non science people see this infighting and assume that it means that the jury is still out on the overall issue, not that one person believes that evolution was able to make burst-mutations that only occurred over thousands of years instead of tens of thousands or millions. They don't look at the fine detail of the argument, and only see the dispute, and that becomes "teach the controversy".

For things like evolution, which disbelieving only makes the arguer seem foolish, the vaccination issues being treated this way actually kills people. Right now. Today.

I don't think we'll ever argue the zealots out of their positions, but I do think that a hard push to get the layman to better understand the scientific method and all the disagreements that go along with it would kill off a lot of this doubt.

The best way I can explain it to my non-science associates is that a disbeliever will see an experiment or study fail and say "Ha! This proves I was right" whereas the scientist will say "Ha! This proves we were wrong, and can now move on to the next theory."

Because failure is what makes the scientific method the scientific method. Not a soapbox for people to prove established facts wrong by virtue of some small part not fitting into the overall agreed hypothesis.
posted by quin at 11:46 PM on June 1 [14 favorites]


Just a correction on the comment; "the 'science' decided it was OK to spray Vietnam with agent orange and then later science decided it wasn't OK".

"Science" never had an opinion on the effect Agent Orange had on people prior to it's deployment. Agent Orange was developed and used as a herbicide and was never intended to be sprayed on people.

BTW One reason we know so much about dioxin toxicity and the harm Agent Orange caused to returning Vietnam Vets is because "science" was used to determine what all these sick vets had in common - and voila we discover Agent Orange was the probable cause.

In fact there are claims by the manufacturer at the time that they had informed the military that dioxins were a byproduct of Agent Orange. Even then dioxin was not deemed to be carcinogenic until 1985, 25 years after it was first sprayed over Southeast Asia.

The "Rainbow" herbicides (Agent Orange, Pink, Purple etc,) were used to remove the cover foliage and food supply of the enemy - this was a military decision not a scientific one. Not so much conspiracy as expediency.

Back to your discussion...
posted by Zedcaster at 12:14 AM on June 2 [15 favorites]


"There is something that I insist/require you inject into your body and the bodies of your children"

You forgot the second part of that: "For the good of all humanity."

Anti-vaxxers deserve no respect, they deserve no place at the table. They are committing child abuse, pure and simple, and it's not only their own children they are abusing.

Vaccination should be mandated by law, with the only exemptions for medically-proven allergies or immunocompromisation.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:28 AM on June 2 [10 favorites]


To echo Bunny Ultramod above, the feckless media certainly is to blame in a number of areas. Consider GOP intransigence--is it ever labeled as such by the mainstream media? Almost never. Rather, they complain about "partisan gridlock", as though both parties are equally to blame. They complain about "ideological extremism" as though it weren't the case that one party has gone off the deep end, while the median member of the other party is where she was 30 years ago. Because, God forbid anyone accuse the media of being liberal.

This fear of taking sides is one of the principal reasons why there are questions in peoples' minds about vaccinations, or climate change.
posted by persona au gratin at 2:10 AM on June 2 [7 favorites]


it needs to federally be declared child abuse to not vaccinate your kid.

Send in the National Guard to enforce the fluoridation of Portland’s water.

I’m only half joking.
posted by Fongotskilernie at 2:29 AM on June 2


I had to get an MMR booster before I went to college, which struck me particularly hilarious, as I was an 18-year-old sitting with a bunch of babies at the public health offices (as I didn't have a GP since, y'know, I was 18 and there wasn't a pediatrician I could easily see).

Plus, I didn't get a lollipop afterwards. So disappointing.

On the other hand, I couldn't talk the college doctors into giving me the chicken pox vaccine one time when I was exposed, because they weren't sure it'd do any good. Fast-forward five years, and the hand of pox-covered chickens strikes me down.

I really wish I had gotten that vaccine. I have tattoos that look mildly ridiculous now due to chicken pox scars.
posted by Katemonkey at 4:29 AM on June 2


Maybe we need an emotional campaign, instead of a rational one.

I completely agree with this. If people think that all scientific research is funded and corrupted by pharmaceutical interests, there is no point in proving over and over that the risks of not vaccinating are greater than the risks of vaccinating. I think what we need is a public education campaign full of video of tiny babies with pertussis, in the ICU and hooked up to machines and struggling to breathe. Or interviews with parents who lost children to preventable diseases. Or one of those classic tearjerker ads with no words, just music playing and pictures of children who've died.

If I were a bajillionaire this is totally what I'd be funding.
posted by gerstle at 5:40 AM on June 2 [9 favorites]


One thing about the antivax movement I hadn't fully realised until recently was that they think they're the sceptics. We're the dupes, unquestioningly accepting whatever we're told because it comes from someone in a white coat - they're the ones doing their own research, making up their own minds, and educating themselves on the history of all the times Big Pharma did something evil or medical and public health advice was dangerously bad.

They are wrong - badly and dangerously wrong - in the conclusions they draw about vaccine safety. But the approach they're taking to get there isn't hopelessly incorrect right from the start. Big Pharma actually has done a lot of shitty things, medical advice has been dangerously skewed by profit motives, drugs have been marketed as safe and then later discovered to be very much the opposite, researchers and doctors aren't objective automata immune to human flaws, the risk/benefit calculation of particular vaccines isn't universally agreed on everywhere (the chickenpox vaccine isn't part of the routine childhood schedule here in the UK, for example), public health initiatives have sometimes been dangerously misguided, and so on and so on.

I know we on the pro-vaccine side are not claiming any of these things, but I suspect it looks to the antivaxxers as if we are, and as if we're the gullible ones for trusting the doctor/pharmaceutical industry/medical establishment.

I choose to find this somewhat encouraging, because at least the impulse to be sceptical about health and medicine can in principle be channeled in a constructive direction, even if some people are just never going to be convinced. The OP article is pretty effective at accepting that scepticism and turning it round - "The people who claim to be acting in the best interests of your children are putting their health and even lives at risk". Maybe it'll reach a few people.
posted by Catseye at 6:04 AM on June 2 [5 favorites]


I hate it that each time they run a vaccination article in the news, there's always a picture of a kid getting a needle who is screaming & crying. (this one didn't, for once!)
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:40 AM on June 2 [1 favorite]


Anti-vaxxers don't get a cookie for being "skeptical" of Big Pharma, especially since their "skepticism" only flows from a form of harmful credulity. Many bad and stupid beliefs may either draw from, or superficially resemble, otherwise laudatory concepts. Many racist cranks think they're sticking it to mainstream science and authority, but I doubt that we'd like to applaud them for their independent spirit. I don't see anyone giving similar credit to those critters who fulminate about "the liberal Jew-run media", despite the fact that general skepticism about mainstream media can, in other forms and contexts, actually be a good thing. Many sexist people genuinely feel that everybody would be happier if women got back in the kitchen - we don't celebrate them for their attempted beneficence.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:26 AM on June 2 [2 favorites]


One thing about the antivax movement I hadn't fully realised until recently was that they think they're the sceptics. We're the dupes, unquestioningly accepting whatever we're told because it comes from someone in a white coat - they're the ones doing their own research, making up their own minds, and educating themselves on the history of all the times Big Pharma did something evil or medical and public health advice was dangerously bad.

Yep, I have a couple of anti-vax friends, and this is their POV. They laugh at me.

(I have a PhD in neuroscience. They often ask me questions about science and accept my answer pretty uncritically -- I always tell them how much I know about a subject -- it's just this one thing which apparently I am the dupe about. So weird.)
posted by gaspode at 7:38 AM on June 2 [10 favorites]


Back in the pre-Cambrian era of the 1990s, when I was in school, I was in the epicenter of this whole thing as a pre-paediatrician with an ongoing PhD in public health. I remember reading the Wakefield study and thinking "whoa....what if we're wrong on the safety of vaccine?" What I take away from that is two things: (1) people had an open mind about possible issues, and rushed to try to confirm if Wakefield was right. There was no stubborn resistance that I saw, and (2) when this whole recent wave of Anti-Vaxx started up, there was a receptive ground for doubt in both medicine and the media/general public. Years later, with dozens of real studies showing no correlation and Wakefield turning out to be a fraud of the worst kind, anti-vaccination is still one of the 3 or 4 hot buttons that everyone around me knows will send me into a white-hot rage. Look Big Pharma is a commercial enterprise, and should be evaluated as such -- Pfizer is not an NPO. But beyond that, this issue is settled except in the minds of those who believe it like a religion. And that's why I never believe in "talking the right way" or being nice to the anti-vaxx side, or thinking about how to communicate facts in a compelling way that will change minds. They will not. It's a religious-level belief and no amount of persuasive rhetoric will change it.

Grrrrrrrr.
posted by Vcholerae at 7:47 AM on June 2 [3 favorites]


The right to mock people is important?

Is it really the right to mock, or a MAJOR money making opportunity going to waste? I guarantee there's somebody out there reading this thread and t thinking "Give me the funds for anti-DHMO filter kits and a few infomercials, and I'll give us millions. Probably hundreds of millions. Because it's immoral for fools to keep their money."

People have monetized UFO believers, anti vaccers, and any number of other irrational mindsets. Shouldn't it just be a matter of time before DHMO gets the same treatment?
posted by happyroach at 8:15 AM on June 2


If people want to see good example of persuasive, nonhostile pro-vax rhetoric, check out the Vaccination section of the book Baby 411. It's been a few months since I've read it, but I recall it as having been well-done. It does a very good job of preemptively "listening" to an anti-vax or vax-ignorant audience, if that makes sense, so that the eventual conclusion doesn't seem like it's punching anybody in the face.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:25 AM on June 2


Anti-vaxxers don't get a cookie for being "skeptical" of Big Pharma

I'm not suggesting they 'get a cookie' for it, ffs. I'm suggesting that it might be possible to reach them by appealing to that scepticism, as the author of the OP article does.
posted by Catseye at 8:28 AM on June 2 [1 favorite]


Honestly, I think mockery and marginalization have a legitimate place in this mess. Gentle pursuasion also has a place.

But it is known and demonstrated that mockery and marginalization can change behavior, and really that's the end goal here: changing the behavior of the anti-vaxxers. If we change their minds that's a bonus, the goal is getting kids vaccinated.
posted by sotonohito at 8:54 AM on June 2 [5 favorites]


And that's why I never believe in "talking the right way" or being nice to the anti-vaxx side, or thinking about how to communicate facts in a compelling way that will change minds.

We have three options at this point. Mandatory vaccination, resurgence of these diseases, or finding a way to convince people. Unless you have some ideas for how you could possibly get mandatory vaccination to be a political reality, it makes no sense to me to say that we're not going to look for more effective arguments because these people annoy us and we're not willing to stoop to their level.
posted by gerstle at 8:58 AM on June 2 [2 favorites]


There needs to be greater respect in our culture for the sanctity of truth, of factual information, that it's not all basically mere opinion but hard-won and important.

There are a lot of people whose least favorite reason for believing something is that the evidence supports it.

I mean if it's about genuine fear, wouldn't you try to engage and change rather than marginalise and mock?

Didn't someone else in this thread mention how people can be so emotionally invested in their beliefs that they resist engagement in any intellectually honest way? I won't say that justifies mocking them, but they don't not deserve it.
posted by Flexagon at 10:17 AM on June 2


Having successfully mounted the ramparts on Facebook for months with gentle persuasion and some light mockery, I am now being introduced to Anti-Vaxx 2.0: Gardisil.

What irritates me is the endless supply of goddamn energy. This shit wears me out, but there seems to be an inexhaustible supply of vim and vigour from people for whom peer-reviewed studies on tens of thousands of subjects bear zero weight against an anonymous commenter on Facebook.

My general and wildly inaccurate observation is that these are people who lack agency in their daily lives. I don't know any antivaxxers that strike me as thoroughly together people who are confident, successful and happy. Their lives often seem to be defined by things that just Aren't Working Out in significant areas.

It feels like they view the world as complex and scary and so thoroughly Beyond Their Control that they seize at anything that makes them feel like they've got a grip on it, and this particular flavour of conspiracy comes with a friendly "but the children!" taste that makes it a bit easier to swallow than lizard people or 911 Truthing.

This book has proven generally useful for explaining broad concepts across the board -- it doesn't tackle vaccination specifically, but does a great job of explaining how our brains short-circuit when given raw data of causality vs. a horrible story of something going horribly wrong.
posted by Shepherd at 11:54 AM on June 2 [5 favorites]


> Maybe we need an emotional campaign, instead of a rational one. It's fear that these people are feeling, maybe that's what needs to be fixed

Mr Corpse recently tried the tactic of "lose your patience with a co-worker and shout at him at length about his failure to vaccinate his child and how that makes him a bad parent," and it not only convinced the person he was shouting at but also one of the people working within earshot. So, there's that method.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:01 PM on June 2 [6 favorites]


Zealots do not manage complexity well.

Recently, a young person I know was hospitalized with measles. In real life, measles are not really dangerous for children - but they are immensely dangerous for adults. A lot of us old people know this. Before the vaccine we were sent to play with sick friends, so we could get the disease while young and get over it. I think this is one element which confuses antivaxxers.
To be honest, I suspected my young friend of being an anti-vaxxer, and confronted her with it. But she was equally angry and naturally scared. Her child was contaminated before the legal date of vaccination, and then he contaminated her. Because of a very special personal history, she is not vaccinated. If everyone had been vaccinated this would not have happened. Someone we don't know who is put her in mortal danger, and is not accountable.

I am not exaggerating. My young friend could have died and her son have become an orphan because of some idiot antivaxxer.
posted by mumimor at 2:35 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]


ovvl: " A public health pundit on CBC Canada the other week suggested: "Just make the op-out option for vaccines complicated and expensive.""

I figure the danger from not vaccinating your kids is on par with that from legally owned long guns. The long gun course to get a PAL is 16 hours and two tests. And then your PAL takes up to six months while they process the background check. 16 hours followed by a test and a multi month waiting period sounds just about right for anyone who wants to opt out of provincially mandated vaccinations.
posted by Mitheral at 6:25 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]


Also those stupid bastards at the CIA who figured Hepatitis B vaccination efforts would make a good cover in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden deserve repeated swift kicks to the testes. The quest to eradicate Polio was handed a significant setback in no small part to the actions of those douchebags.
posted by Mitheral at 6:39 PM on June 2 [8 favorites]


In real life, measles are not really dangerous for children - but they are immensely dangerous for adults.

And worse: measles can be dangerous for children as well. It was a surprisingly big child killer before the 20th century. There's an antivax movement tendency to write it off as "oh measles wasn't that bad, we all had it as kids and we were fine", but a lot of kids weren't fine.

Glad your friend is okay now. Measles is nasty stuff.
posted by Catseye at 8:04 PM on June 2 [2 favorites]


All the kids who died aren't around to post on the internet that they died. It's the ultimate in self selecting samples.
posted by Mitheral at 8:54 PM on June 2 [5 favorites]


I got into a comment thread argument with an anti-vaxxer today (I know, I know...) and, in response to the public health/herd immunity argument, they said this:

Thats too damn bad. I take resposibility for my health and trust my skills to keep disease at bay over the profit driven sickcare that you people will die for! I choose for me and I say it proudly.

If it weren't for the bit about profit, I'd say this was an Objectivist. So strange.
posted by brundlefly at 8:59 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]


All the kids who died aren't around to post on the internet that they died. It's the ultimate in self selecting samples.

Well I died once, it really sucked but it wasn't the worst thing that ever happened to me.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:05 PM on June 2


The Daily Show and liberal idiocy on vaccines.
posted by gaspode at 5:35 AM on June 3 [3 favorites]


But beyond that, this issue is settled except in the minds of those who believe it like a religion.

I understand parents' initial concern. Panic, even. What I don't understand is why non-religious anti-vax parents are now, still, given the same legal deference as parents who deny their children blood transfusions or choose for them prayer over medical treatment for religious reasons, but without the societal scrutiny.

When it comes to the medical treatment of children in the US the courts generally interpret the First Amendment and religious shield laws in favor of parents, allowing them to make decisions that are not always in the best interest of the child. Occasionally a tragic case gets national attention, and while we may have public debates about the law, rarely is there a debate about the medical soundness of the parents' decision. We mourn the needless death of a child and we try to make peace with the fact that it is currently the price we pay for religious freedom, and that the incidents are few and far between. Importantly, these individual cases do not pose a public health risk.

Anti-Vaccine Megachurch Linked to Texas Measles Outbreak

Although some of the religious anti-vaxxers are at least partially self-segregating their children by homeschooling, there seems* to be legal precedent for states to require children be immunized before attending public school even over the religious objections of the parents, as in West Virgina:
Although most states have chosen to provide a religious exemption from compulsory immunization, a state need not do so. [...] ("[I]t has been settled law for many years that claims of religious freedom must give way [to] the compelling interest of society in fighting . . . contagious diseases through mandatory inoculation programs. . . . The legislature's creation of a statutory exception . . . goes beyond what the Supreme Court has declared the First Amendment [] require[s].. . ."); [...] (noting that a state need not "provide a religious exemption from its immunization program" [...] finding that smallpox vaccination requirement does not violate free exercise of religion, because individuals' "freedom to act according to their religious beliefs is subject to a reasonable regulation for the benefit of society as a whole") (emphasis mine)
Currently only two states, West Virgina and Mississippi, require mandatory vaccination to enter public school. If some religious objectors and all non-religious objectors had to find an alternative to public school maybe they would give the evidence a second look.

Maybe we need an emotional campaign, instead of a rational one.

West Virginia Dept of Health & Human Resources: No measles cases in West Virginia despite national surge [PDF]

Maybe we need a legal one?


*IANAL
posted by Room 641-A at 7:39 AM on June 3


The Daily Show and liberal idiocy on vaccines

Kevin Drum: Sorry, "Daily Show": Anti-Vax Nuts Come From Both Sides of the Aisle
[I]n case anyone cares about the actual truth, here's the truth: anti-vaccine lunacy has no special ideological valence. Liberals and conservatives share it in approximately equal numbers.[...]The black line [from this chart] represents how risky various groups think vaccines are, and it's pretty flat: it starts at around 18 percent among the very liberal and ends at about 20 percent for the very conservative. That's as bipartisan as it gets. I suppose it's possible that if you broke out the tiny minority who think vaccines are extremely risky, you might find more hippie-dippie lefties than gun-toting righties. I don't know. But it's a minuscule fringe belief in any case: Fewer than 1 percent of parents refuse to allow their children to receive any vaccines at all.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:11 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


Oh, sure. It was just a funny clip.
posted by gaspode at 2:14 PM on June 3


40 Percent Of Parents Are Skipping Or Delaying Their Kids’ Vaccines For No Good Reason
posted by homunculus at 5:13 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


99.9%* of parents who are skipping or delaying their kids' vaccines are doing so for no good reason.

* Actual medically verified allergy to a vaccine ingredient or immunocompromisation are the only good reasons.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:36 AM on June 4 [3 favorites]


California declares whooping cough epidemic
posted by homunculus at 7:44 PM on June 13


Florida Mom Kidnaps Daughter to Avoid Vaccines, Learning Black History
posted by homunculus at 10:52 AM on June 14


There's an old Japanese proverb, "There is no medicine to cure a fool."
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:04 AM on June 14


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