20050404_jenny_mccarthy
Anti-Vaccination advocate Jenny McCarthy, photo by Duncan Arsenault.

In the age of the internet, it is pretty easy for misinformation to spread like wildfire. For better or worse, just about everyone has a voice that they are eager to share, and people with opinions that could easily be considered harmful to society or not exactly exempt from that. Take the anti-vaccination movement, for example.

What is the Anti-Vaccination Movement?

The anti-vaccination movement was founded by a man named Andrew Wakefield. As a medical researcher, Wakefield wrote a research paper in the late nineties that claimed there was a direct connection between the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and autism. The medical community eventually took Wakefield to town by exposing him as a fraud and de-crediting his paper. Despite this, Wakefield’s theory that there was a direct connection between vaccinations and autism garnered a lot of support, to the point where many parents have chosen to abstain from vaccinating their children. It has been nearly twenty years since Wakefield’s initial “findings,” and the anti-vaccination movement is currently more vocal than ever.

With celebrity endorsements from people like former talk-show host Jenny McCarthy, big names in the media have played a major part in furthering the agenda of the anti-vaccination movement. When someone with a decent sized fan base appears on televisions across the globe to say that vaccinations are harmful to children rather than beneficial to the world at large, there are plenty of people willing to listen and take their word as the truth. This is a problem for a variety of reasons.

What’s the problem?

The anti-vaccination movement is dangerous because its entire message attempts to work against major advancements in the medical field. Vaccinations are beneficial to society because they help minimize preventable diseases, and have even managed to eradicate some of those diseases in general. When was the last time there were widespread reports of Polio in the United States? Definitely not during my lifetime, and I can thank vaccinations for that. Unfortunately, I can thank the anti-vaccination movement for the increase of whooping cough and measles cases across the country. When modern medicine can help prevent diseases and general suffering, it is mind-boggling to me that people would try to work against the advice of credible doctors.

However, credibility is another primary issue with the anti-vaccination movement. For whatever reason, people would rather believe the regurgitated falsehoods that people like Jenny McCarthy spew instead of medical professionals that have studied disease prevention for an abundance of years. I am all for questioning the status quo, but when doing so, it is important to consider your sources. I am inclined to put more trust in doctors that are currently working and trying to make advances in medicine than fraudulent doctors and one of the correspondents for Dick Clark’s New Years’ Rockin’ Eve. Releasing false information and claiming that it’s true is unfortunately not all that hard anymore. I fully believe that movements like the anti-vaccination movement would have less of a platform if people made more of an effort to look beyond their Facebook timeline and do a little bit of fact checking.

Outside of the issues I have with the anti-vaccination movement regarding false information, I also find the movement’s view of autism fairly insulting to those on the autism spectrum. While I understand that parents want the best for their children, it’s fairly ridiculous to contribute to other children becoming sick than to have a mental condition that plenty of people manage to function with on a daily basis. Autism isn’t a primary reason that children are dying across the globe, but the diseases that vaccinations prevent are. I believe that members of the anti-vaccination movement need to gain some perspective.

What can be done?

Ultimately, enough damage has been done by this movement to directly affect the lives of children today. However, I don’t think all is lost. Vaccinations aren’t going anywhere, and I think if an effort is made to educate the masses on what vaccinations actually accomplish, future generations will be able to drown out the noise that the anti-vaccination movement often makes. If people use the platform that they have to advocate for parents to vaccinate their children, we might just be able to work towards a healthier society that’s free of certain preventable diseases.

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