Throughout our history, humans have been very insecure. Fear of sickness and disease haunts our species. This is why we invest so much time and money in developing medicines. However, scepticism on medicine and science is increasing nowadays. In recent times, a new class of individuals who refuse to vaccinate their kids have emerged. They claim to protect children from the Big Pharma. These people have been termed as “anti-vaxxers” with reference to their opposition to vaccination and other immunisation programs. The major concern raised by anti-vaxxers is that vaccines cause autism in children and that they are unnecessary for a healthy life. The consensus among anti-vaxxers is that vaccines are only cash cows for the Big Pharma and not vaccinating children will not have any adverse effects on their immunity and resistance to diseases.
The pharmaceutical industry has been accused and found guilty of numerous things lately. It is most certainly not a benevolent industry that exists solely to guarantee immaculate health to public. However, refusing inoculations on grounds of suspicions surrounding the motives of the pharmaceutical enterprises is a very weak argument and a failed conspiracy theory at its best. Before we look at the reasons for such an outcry against vaccinations, it is necessary to study the public health crisis caused by the resistance in order to understand the repercussions of such actions.
In 2010, there was a whooping cough outbreak in California. It was the nation’s worst health crisis in over 50 years. Experts claim that it was spread by children whose parents applied for medical exemptions to school vaccination requirements. This resulted in ten deaths. In San Diego County alone, there were 5,100 exemptions from vaccination and so 980 whooping cough cases. A similar outbreak had occurred in 2013 with measles spreading across the Welsh region. It is interesting to note that the outbreak in 2013 affected mostly the generation that missed their vaccination due to the publication of the Wakefield Paper, a fraudulent study linking measles vaccination to autism in kids. The report was classified false and debunked by researchers, but the word, however, spread like wildfire and the ignorant masses found themselves a new reason to skip their vaccines.
Very recently, in 2018 Europe was hit yet again by an outbreak of measles, a disease that had been prevented by inoculation since 1963. As much as 41,000 people were affected. The United States has also been no stranger to such events and is currently battling the outbreak of measles since 2018. To worsen things, the Italian parliament has now passed legislation dropping mandatory vaccinations for children to enter schools. The main reason for the rise of anti-vaxxers is quite simple. As parents, people are afraid of the dangers that their children might face and act in a very irrational manner once something is branded as dangerous in pop myth. This concern combined with ignorance makes them a very difficult class to deal with.
Access to medical information via internet has dramatically changed the dynamics of the healthcare industry and patient-physician interactions. When it comes to vaccines, the false information is plentiful and easy to find. Online anti-vaccination authors use numerous tactics to further their agendas. These tactics include, but are not limited to, skewing science, shifting hypotheses, censoring opposition, attacking critics, claiming to be pro-safe vaccines, and not anti-vaccine, claiming that vaccines are toxic or unnatural, and more. The internet in its current state is so dangerous because it shows people what they want to see. And when it comes to vaccines, fake information is available in abundance. Consequently, we are now battling a collection of misinformed, paranoid and highly vocal individuals who will only shut themselves off, when facts are thrown at them.
While the fear and paranoia of concerned parents are understandable, they are still nowhere close to being valid. The problem of anti-vaxxers needs to be addressed at the principle level. The menace of anti-vaxxers is a prime example of the minority’s tyranny affecting the wellbeing of the majority. The minority, no matter how ill-informed, need only be vocal, resolute and adamant to contest anything on the basis of their faith, and the majority is obliged to indulge them. No one seems to be concerned about the fact that an ill-informed opinion need not be given the same importance as a proven fact. It is time that the lenient approach towards rogue and irrational minority changes. Providing them with our scientific reasons has no impact. They believe that they are entitled to their faith and that the scientific evidences are fabricated. Since such a class of people cannot be reasoned with, the majority needs to don a different role.
The anti-vaxxers must be considered as serious groups, and not be classified as a fringe distraction with no or little impact on public health. Instead, the majority needs to focus on the adverse effects of low immunisation rates. It is necessary to spread awareness on the dangers of not vaccinating. A society more concerned about its own health and safety will be more successful in challenging the anti-vaxxers’ rhetoric. The line to be drawn is clear. An opinion holds no water when tangible harm is identified as a consequence of entertaining that opinion. If someone’s child is prohibited from carrying toys that might harm another kid, then an anti-vaxxers’ child is definitely not allowed to endanger other kids by spreading preventable diseases.
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