Article by Meredith Steinberg
Since Dr. Andrew Wakefield and colleagues traumatized vulnerable parents with falsified research that linked the Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism, the anti-vaxxer movement has reached a momentous peak in history (Hussain et al., 2018). These controversial ideas prey on the vulnerability of new parents and help to motivate skepticism surrounding immunizations, doctors, and the pharmaceutical industry (Lyman, 2019). Measles, a formerly eliminated infectious disease, has taken root across the U.S., and there are no signs of abatement. As a society that strives to promote public health and safety, it is our job to determine the next steps in combating the large portion of people that are opposed to accepting immunizations. Furthermore, we must work towards eliminating this dangerous idea.
Despite the astounding amount of evidence that shows that vaccines are both helpful and necessary for a properly functioning and healthy society, parents have found greater comfort in their own “philosophical reasoning” for opting out of immunizations. Well-funded anti-vaxxer groups, spear-headed by educated and affluent people, are perpetuating the idea that vaccines cause greater harm than good (Bahler, 2019). I do understand that some people are medically unable to be vaccinated, and that others have a choice to opt out based on core religious beliefs. However, my personal irritation stems from parents that have decided to decline vaccinations based on false information, as their actions have serious consequences for those around them. An anti-vax stay-at-home mother can spend the time and money to ensure her kids do not experience any long-term harm from the measles outbreak, but a newborn baby cannot receive an MMR vaccine until it is almost one year old, and will therefore be at great risk for contracting the disease. It is not fair to leave powerless children vulnerable to infectious diseases, and those responsible should face consequences.
Families that have been impacted by the outbreak should have the right to hold anti-vaxxers accountable and file lawsuits claiming compensation for any medical expenses acquired. We must also focus on creating a panel that carefully examines every case that is subject to a possible lawsuit. It is vital that there is a group of people who are working to crack down on parents and doctors that are facilitating loopholes to avoid vaccinations for their children. Consistent with these changes, we should be involved in altering public perception of current knowledge and finding a way to reach these ill-informed parents to work towards a future where outbreaks of eliminated diseases are nonexistent.
We must find fast-acting ways to prevent and reduce the relentless advocacy of anti-vaxxer groups. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram should be working to remove any information that displays false material about immunizations or shows support for the anti-vaxxer community. It is also important for these companies to go a step further and voice the dangers of vaccine hesitancy through their platforms. Furthermore, influential people have a duty to give their opinion and use their power and leadership to have a positive effect on others and change distorted knowledge. Celebrities have the opportunity to launch vaccine campaigns and gain support from their followers, which could have a tremendous effect on the anti-vaxxer movement. Using our power to combat false words that are being proliferated is key to making a difference and improving the health and overall well-being of those around us.
Our efforts need to be concentrated in debunking anti-vaxxer groups in a way where we can hold parents accountable and change the minds of their supporters. This will work towards our main interests in keeping communities healthy and safe and preventing regression in modern medicine. Immunizations were bioengineered to improve the health of society, and it is vital that we continue to work towards improving knowledge and making changes in order to advance in a world where threats to health and safety are ubiquitous.
Bahler, Kristen. “Rich People Are Leading the Anti-Vaccine Movement — and Experts Have a Theory Why.” Money, 15 Apr. 2019, money.com/money/5641663/anti-vaccine-rich-people/.
Hussain, Azhar, et al. “The Anti-Vaccination Movement: A Regression in Modern Medicine.” Cureus, 3 July 2018, doi:10.7759/cureus.2919.
Lyman, Stewart. “Pharma’s Tarnished Reputation Helps Fuel the Anti-Vaccine Movement.” STAT, 26 Feb. 2019, www.statnews.com/2019/02/26/anti-vaccine-movement-pharma-tarnished-reputation/.