The Anti-vaccination Movement

by Grace Maxwell

The anti-vaccination movement is one that is growing in recent years and has the potential to be one of the most harmful extraordinary beliefs out there. The root of the belief from person to person but with one common denominator: the belief that vaccinations are harmful and unnecessary. Some believe vaccinations cause other diseases in children, most popularly Autism, while other believes they are ineffective and are a way big pharmacy companies seek to make a profit. The belief has been around since the beginning of vaccinations, but has picked up popularity in recent years due to a social media being a large platform to share such beliefs and celebrity endorsements for the anti-vaccination movements. This is another extraordinary belief that is being perpetuated by those who oppose scientific evidence as a way to back up facts. There is scientific evidence to suggest the importance of vaccinations, but many people who are anti-vaccination choose to ignore it or justify it otherwise. It is a public safety risk and is dangerous for many, including people missing out on potentially life-saving preventative medicine.

Anti-vaccinators argue there is scientific evidenced behind their beliefs, however, their “evidence” is stringing together exceptions to the rule, outlying events and rarities. One argument anti-vaccinators make is that vaccines kill people, which has been true in the past. People advocating for vaccinations do not deny the risk accompanied with vaccinations, however, people dying from vaccination is the exception and not the rule. In one case, there was an outbreak of Polio in Nigeria that was due to a bad Polio vaccine. Again, an outbreak being caused as a result of a vaccination is an outlier and does not accurately depict effectiveness of vaccinations. In fact, there is overwhelming evidence that supports the claim that vaccinations lower the spread of diseases. In one case, vaccination in Japan dropped 70% in 2 years which caused the cases and deaths due to whooping cough to jump from 393 cases and no deaths in 1974 to 13,000 deaths and 41 deaths just two years later. Another example is with the Meningitis vaccination. After the vaccination was introduced, cases went from 15,000 a year to less than 51.

The most prominent cognitive error anti-vaccinators fall victim to is the confirmation bias. There is evidence out there that supports their claims as detailed above, however, if they took a look at the bigger picture and sought out all available information, they may change their beliefs. These people are guilty of only seeking out and believing the data and information that aligns with their already strong beliefs. They also are likely to have their beliefs reinforced because of the “experts” and celebrities that endorse such beliefs. People can be easily influenced by the opinions and beliefs of people they feel are qualified. For many experts in the field of anti-vaccinations, their degrees and medical experience is enough for many to qualify what they say as valid and important.

These beliefs can be seen in many contexts, crossing line of race, gender, culture, class and education. People with this belief come from a wide and varied background so there are no real common denominators amongst anti-vaccinators. However, many of these beliefs are perpetuated and put forth in the context of their children. A lot of vaccinations occur in childhood, so the decision to not vaccinate a child is made by parents. These parents are also often parents who believe in holistic medicine or full out reject government regulated anything. The anti-vaccination community is also a place where people feed off of one another to further strengthen those beliefs.

Ultimately, the confirmation bias the group dynamics of the anti-vaccination community have contributed to further perpetuation such beliefs. These people need both motivation and ability to seek out other beliefs and they have neither. If they lost a child or fell sick from a common disease that could have been protected against from a vaccination, they would likely retreat to the idea that it was nature’s way, and nothing could have stopped it or rather saying it was far less likely the disease took them than the vaccination so there was no way to prevent it. Either way, the lack of accurate information and the encouragement of their beliefs from

4 thoughts on “The Anti-vaccination Movement

  1. I liked reading this post and found it very informative and well-done. I definitely agree with you that this extraordinary belief is one of the most harmful because not getting vaccinated can lead to a wide array of health problems. I also agree that confirmation bias plays a role here. In addition to this however, I think the fact that a licensed professional and researcher was the one who came out with the findings. When lay people hear about research, especially through the twisted media, this can have a detrimental effect and be convincing for many people. Even though this researcher had made up the data, it never spread to the public enough and had a lasting impact on people’s views on vaccines.

  2. I did my last post on this topic as well, and it is one that I am very passionate about. I think a lot of people who believe this are simply misinformed, but to be misinformed on an issue such as this one can have a much greater effect than people think. By not vaccinating, you are not only putting yourself/your kids at risk but the rest of the people in your life as well. I think it is selfish to choose not to vaccinate because of this, but that is just my opinion.

  3. I find that it’s ironic that another person named McCarthy is one of the people in the forefront of a big scare amongst the American people. I know they’re not related by blood, it is pretty humorous.I recommend Penn and Teller’s show where they debunked the anti-vaccination movement on their show Penn and Teller: Bull***.

  4. This topic is one that i can definitely relate to, I know many people who do not believe in vaccines and do not vaccinate their kids, and it is unfortunate that people continue to spread this lie over the media, i think i big issue with these types of beliefs is pseudosymmetry in the media, which confirms this belief in a lot of people who are not educated on the topic.

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