An open letter about anti-vaccination discussions

imagesAmy sent this open letter written by a woman to her father, who had posted anti-vaccination information on his Facebook account, thus — according to the writer — contributing to an anti-science mentality that very much affects reseachers’ ability to move forward.

From Tara C. Smith, an epidemiologist:

Know the results of this vaccine backlash? Research dollars are diverted away from real causes of autism and other conditions. And kids are dying. Just in the U.S., there have been more than 1000 vaccine-preventable deaths in the last 6 years, and over 100,000 vaccine-preventable illnesses. Freaking whooping cough has made a huge comeback in the U.S. A big reason for the resurgence of these diseases is because anti-vaccine myths and scares spread so easily between acquaintances–in person, and on social media; scares that you’re now perpetuating with your own posts. Sure, it’s a free country and you have every right to share these pictures and memes, but have you thought about the possible harm it might do to others when you click “share”?

I haven’t paid close attention to the anti-vaccination crowd, and Smith’s discussion of diverting research dollars away from important work — based on a groundswell of information carried by social media sites — makes me go “Hmmmm.”

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8 Responses to An open letter about anti-vaccination discussions

  1. Just Vegas says:

    I doubt it does much to research dollars but it wouldn’t be the first time that happened. I’d be interested in evidence supporting that comment. Otherwise, I agree with her on the rest. Stop mucking around with stuff you don’t understand, it’s killing people.
    Scientists are some of the most altruistic people I know and they are the ones doing the research and claiming efficacy and safety. I get not trusting the FDA but the anti-vax crowds is causing very real harm with no evidence to back their claims.

  2. Cynical Susan says:

    My neighbor believed the anti-vax campaigns. Her little boy got the measles and was VERY sick. The younger doctors at the hospital couldn’t diagnose it because (of course) they’d never seen it before. But he WAS diagnosed, thank goodness, and treated. He’s now been vaccinated and so has his younger sister.

    • Susan Campbell says:

      I remember being a young parent and grasping at straws on various issues. It’s tough, making the right decisions, but it’s always easier to not see a conspiracy everywhere you look.

  3. ChrisB. says:

    My problem with the vaccine debate is that it more often than not puts people who would normally be skeptic about other issues, e.g. the military industrial complex, factory agriculture, into the position of apologists.

    People who normally stand as proudly in favor of “the right to privacy” and are therefore “Pro Choice” now stand on the opposite side of that line.

    The argument that the anti-vaccine folks are short on evidence isn’t even fair because if you know anything about medical research, most of it is funded by big business. I wouldn’t expect Pfizer to fund research that might cut into their business. What I would expect is that pharmaceutical companies would lobby with congress to create laws to limit their liability when someone is harmed by a vaccine. And that’s exactly what they have done.

    Some scientists may be “altruistic” but like everyone else, they have to make a living and most of the money in medical research is on big pharma’s dime. That’s who pays for those fancy research centers at Yale.

  4. Cynical Susan says:

    Someone on your FB page sort-of equates anti-vax people with anti-GMO people (suggesting maybe that both are anti-science). Is that a common comparison?

    • Susan Campbell says:

      That’s a new one to me. This is what I get for posting something because “Hey! This is interesting,” instead of kind of knowing what I’m talking about, which is the case in roughly 15 percent of my posts, but I’m trying to raise my average to 20. I don’t know. Is the comparison because both camps might want things more naturally-occuring? I’m guessing here.