Measles – MEASLES!, which were all but eradicated in the United States by 2000 – has been experiencing a comeback in 2014. This was due almost entirely to unvaccinated people, who catch it from other unvaccinated people.
But what can we do to try to UNDERSTAND this choice by what someone called The Know Better Party? (Check out the great links to the facts about vaccines.)
There is an interesting article in the New Republic, Don’t Blame Anti-Vaxxers for the Measles Outbreak. Blame American Culture. that says: “Parents who opt out of vaccines come to their decisions by prioritizing the very virtues American culture readily recommends: freedom of choice, consumer primacy, individualism, self-determination, and a dim, almost cynical view of common goods like public health.”
Miriam Axel-Lute, an Albany writer, commented there, and on her Facebook page:
So I agree that what this author is describing is a problem in American culture, but in my experience it doesn’t line up well at all with who opposes/opts out of vaccines. Here’s my theory… Vaccine opposition tends to be concentrated in places where people have the resources and wherewithal to challenge the medical model of birth–and there they are on very solid scientific ground.
If you have just gone through pregnancy and birth, deflecting a whole lot of scare-tactic hooey about how home birth and cosleeping are both criminally dangerous, you can’t drink anything in labor, episotomies are necessary, etc. and have been given all sorts of stupid conflicting information about breastfeeding and milk supply from professionals who ought to know better, you are very primed to be skeptical of the medical consensus and likely to believe instead the people who were more helpful and accurate on those other topics…
As someone who supported his wife’s decision to change ob-gyns in her ninth month of pregnancy because her old doctor had dismissed our birth plan, there is definitely a credibility issue with the medical establishment in terms of childbirth and children’s needs, generally, e.g. the overuse/overprescription of antibiotics.
A participant in the very civilized Facebook discussion noted: “When people argue something like vaccines should be mandatory… it is in the same vein as forced c-section/forced hospital birth/illegal midwives.” Or it may certainly feel that way.
My point is NOT to say no to vaccines, but to try to understand the other point of view, so we can try to change their minds. For instance, convincing reluctant parents to vaccinate their child by explaining the “backfire effect”. This parent-to-parent approach in this Mother Jones article may be instructive.
In short: Don’t Call Them Dumb: Experts on Fighting the Anti-Vaccine Movement: “People enjoy lashing out at anti-vaccine folks, (but) it turns into an ‘us versus them’ thing…They are committed to that point of view. You can provoke a kind of backlash reaction if you are not careful,” with even fewer people getting vaccinated. Most people do not respond well to feeling bullied.
Those of us who know the importance of immunization need to continue to talk about it with facts and compassion, rather than with vitriol, disdain and schadenfreude, mostly because the latter attitudes simply won’t work.
Guess which state is #1 in vaccinations. Nope, not my guess, either.
A fellow named Rob made a cogent comment on this debate:
“In most of these cases [of public debate] (overprescribing drugs, climate change denial, gun ownership), there are marketing and PR firms making untold sums of money to stoke public fears and doubts about scientific research. That is one thing that sets the anti-vax crowd apart – no one is making lots of money off of people NOT vaccinating, at least not on the scale of these other issues. And maybe that could explain why they are the targets of such intense vitriol: they don’t have multi-million dollar disinformation campaigns bolstering their credibility.”
Film Review: When There Was No Vaccine.