Often, vaccine choice and vaccine resistance proponents focus on devastating vaccine reactions when they try to support their stance. While it’s true that vaccines have numerous unpleasant (even deadly) and vastly underreported side effects, I would like to propose a change of tactics.
We need to focus on the lack of efficacy with vaccines. And there is plenty of evidence from documented medical sources on how vaccines have not been able to stop breakouts of diseases. (Read my other posts.) The medical community has most people thinking that vaccine reactions are so incredibly rare as to be non-existent.
This idea is so ingrained that it will be very difficult to remove from most people’s minds. I’ve seen parents whose children have screamed for hours the night after a DTaP vaccine or whose children have had febrile seizures following a vaccine take their children right back for more shots. The biggest defense vaccine proponents have is that vaccine “save lives”, i.e. are very effective at preventing disease. If the vaccine theory were a strong fortress, trying to convince people based on dangerous reactions would be like trying a full frontal assault. You’re trying to hammer away at the most strongly guarded part of the fortress in plain view of everyone.
If we want to build bridges with people in the pro-vaccine camp and help them understand us, we need to go around to the back of the fortress and focus on the issue of efficacy. Because here’s the great thing: both vaccine proponents and vaccine resistors want better health for themselves, their children and the public. When you help them see that vaccines are not nearly as effective as they have been led to believe, some people start to consider our point of view. I know that for me, the nail in the coffin of leaving vaccines behind came when I found sound research demonstrating high rates of failure. So next time you want to help someone understand the dangers of vaccination, focus on efficacy and leave reactions off the table for the time being.
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I find it incredibly ironic when I see people and media declaring that people who refuse vaccination “hate science”. Yes, of course the reason I am against vaccination must be because I hate science. That’s why I spend my free time reading science magazines, immunology and epidemiology journals, medical textbooks, public health statistics and reputable newspaper reports. (End sarcasm.)
When I was in college I went to my campus’ international cinema frequently. One time I saw a movie from China about a family dealing with life after the Communist Revolution. (For the life of me I can not remember the name of it and haven’t been able to find it out online.) Near the end of the movie, their daughter is grown, married and pregnant with her first baby. She goes to a hospital to have her baby and it is staffed by teenage girls. When the Grandmother-to-be asks the girls if they have experience delivering babies, the girls assure her they know what they are doing.
(During China’s Cultural Revolution, educated professionals were frequently attacked and harassed or even tortured and killed in the name of preserving the revolutionary spirit that had led to Mao Zedong’s takeover of China 20 years previously. The idea behind this ideology, of course, was that a loyal young follower of Chairman Mao was far more trustworthy than educated people and intellectuals.)
As the grandparents wait together for the baby’s birth, they hear the young girls screaming. The mother is losing consciousness and they don’t know what to do. (I believe she is depicted as having a postpartum hemorrhage; a complication that is very common, but very treatable with an experienced doctor or midwife.) The mother dies and the grandparents and father are left to raise the baby boy without her.
If you’ve read my post on education and vaccines, you probably know that I’m going to draw an uncomfortable parallel between Communist China and American public health here. Because just like Communist China championed ignorance as a virtue, our public health system in America is doing the same. The educated parents, doctors and celebrities are the ones who read a little information from the CDC and parrot back comfortable slogans about how vaccines save lives. People like me who spend their days reading material on public health, immunology and epidemiology are dangerous.
The result is that we are the sickest nation in the developed world while spending the most on healthcare. Obviously what we’re doing isn’t working so we need to ask more questions and be more open to different points of view. Not less.