Friday 6 February 2015

Why Anti-Vaxxers Aren't Likely To Go Away

The measles outbreak at Disneyland has sparked a fresh wave of pleas for people to get their kids vaccinated and a fresh wave of arguments why vaccines don't cause autism.

But I think it's all rather pointless.

The Vaccinate-Anti-Vaxxer divide is starting to look and sound like the abortion debate.  Both sides have passionate advocates, strong views and are effectively playing on entirely different playing fields.  The pro-vaccination camp has reams of scientific research and the not-uncompelling argument that vaccines save lives.  The anti-vaxxers claim that the truth is being hidden by Big Pharma and have anecdote after anecdote from parents.

It's not entirely without precedence for companies to not understand or to hide the negative impacts of their products.  Vioxx, DDT and DES are all examples where catastrophic and deadly side effects were noticed after the product was in common use.

Vaccines aren't in that category.  But I don't think the anti-vaxxing campaigns will ever accept that. 

I have two kids with autism.  While it is certainly an improvement over dead children and I don't have to feel guilt over having caused someone else to lose a child because I do vaccinate my children, I can understand parents who are angry and desperate to find something to blame.  I can even understand parents who are worried about their child getting autism and want to increase the odds against it.

These aren't bad or ignorant people who are maliciously putting their own children above the health and welfare of everyone else.  They are concerned and have been inundated with plausible-sounding "facts" from all sides.

I think it is a shame that there seems to be a real lack of critical thinking and information analysis among the general population.  Critical thinking often seems to be confused with not believing whoever has the most education or money. 

We need to stop assuming that the other side is lying to us.  We need to sit down and go through the arguments logically, step by step, and find real answers.

Then maybe we can meet the eyes of those who have lost children to entirely preventable diseases and find a way to prevent it from ever happening again.

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