Lately I’ve found myself getting into arguments with anti-vaxxers on social media. A tiring and unpleasant experience, it’s brought home to me just how cult-like the whole anti-vax movement is, and how closed-minded they are. You cannot reach them, and I certainly don’t argue with them with that in mind. Rather, I post in hope of reaching those who are undecided.
This can be a tricky call. Statistics are good, but too dry to really cut it. Not to mention the anti-vaxxers simply come back with their own stats and links that supposedly ‘prove’ their contentions. Never mind that these are either from contaminated sources (ie those of like mind, in a sort of circular argument), or, on closer inspection, really don’t prove anything of the kind they claim. [‘Vaccine injuries’ are a typical example.] We need something more.
So if any of you find yourself arguing with these people, and realise it’s not the anti-vaxxers you need to reach but those who might be wavering, I’ve realised there are two main points that are likely to appeal to them. I plan to use them myself, and if you’d like to use them too, feel free to link to this post, or to copy and paste, with suitable acknowledgement of the source, or a link back to here. Anyway, these are the points I’ve come up with -
If you’re someone who’s not sure about whether to vaccinate or not, think back over your life, and ask yourself the following questions.
a) Were you raised in a developed country? If yes, it’s likely you received whatever vaccines were common at that time. And if for some reason you weren’t, it’s likely that most of those roughly your age (what researchers call your ‘age cohort’) were. If however you grew up in an under-developed country, the immunisation record for your age cohort is likely to be far more patchy or non-existent.
b) Do you remember kids of your generation getting sick and/or dying of any of the diseases that can now be vaccinated against? I’m thinking here of diseases like TB, whooping cough, diphtheria, scarlet fever, measles, mumps, rubella, and chickenpox. If you’re older, did you suffer through these diseases yourself, or remember them ‘going around’ as epidemics? And during these epidemics, did you hear your parents talking anxiously of who might be infected, and how (eg from attending a party with infected children)? Do you remember whole families being quarantined, or friends you weren’t allowed to visit for ages or never saw again after they got sick, or relatives who died young?
c) Did you grow up before or after the vaccines for these diseases were introduced in your country? Younger generations are far more likely to have been vaccinated for pretty much all of these diseases, if they grew up in a developed country.
If the answers for these questions are yes, yes and no, or yes, no, yes, or even no, yes, no, then that’s one powerful pro-vaccine argument right there. Some of these diseases are now coming back in Western countries of course – and, not-so-coincidentally, right in the very places where vaccination rates are dangerously low.
Just to give one example, my own generation grew up AFTER vaccines for whooping cough, diphtheria, TB, tetanus and scarlet fever were introduced, but BEFORE the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine came in. So we didn’t get the first group of diseases, but we did get the second. I know, however, that those as little as ten years older than me did commonly get whooping cough, while those only a generation younger didn’t get any of these diseases.
If that’s not enough to convince you, consider the following –
2) Rational Common Sense.
Anti-vaxxers frequently argue that these diseases are ‘still happening’, but are being mislabelled by doctors, researchers, scientists, hospitals and the government. This can only mean that either –
a) Doctors, nurses, etc, are so incompetent that they can’t recognise these diseases, even though the symptoms are widely known, and pretty unmistakable. It’s difficult to mistake whooping cough for ‘just a regular cough’, or measles for ‘just a rash’, for example. Yet the anti-vaxxers would have you believe that all medical staff etc are this incompetent. All of them. All of the time. Everywhere. In every clinic and hospital, everywhere in the Western world, and possibly beyond. How likely is this, you must ask yourself?
And yet, according to the anti-vaxxers, it’s either this, or –
b) That these same doctors, nurses, hospitals, researchers, government departments, etc, etc, are all in cahoots, conspiring to obscure and deny the truths, and keep the rest of the world’s population in the dark.
For what reason, you might ask? Good question. The anti-vaxxers never really answer that. Conspiracy theories abound, but tend, as do all such theories, to lack all rationality. They become an end in themselves, defying logic and plain old-fashioned common sense. We all know how difficult it is to get one or two people to keep a secret for long. How logical is it that hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps millions, from all around the world, are engaged in such an enterprise? For decades on end? Someone, somewhere, somehow, would start to spill the beans. And probably lots of them.
The anti-vaxxers of course claim that people already have, but weren’t believed. Firstly, these supposed ‘whistle-blowers’ invariably prove to be very few, and also part of the anti-vaxxer crowd, with the same confused and misleading ‘data’. Secondly, it still doesn’t explain WHY this was done.
Explanations about ‘Big Pharma’ wanting to make a profit etc, etc, don’t really meet the logic test. Doctors, pharmaceutical companies, etc, don’t actually make that much on vaccines, on the whole. Not to mention that pharmaceutical executives, doctors, scientists, etc, live in the same world we do, after all, and by and large want the same things as we do – a safe world for their descendants to grow up in.
Yes, there are ‘rotten apples in every barrel’, and a few might be corrupt, selfish, greedy creatures only in it for the money, but it defies logic and a basic understanding of human nature to think they are ALL like that. I’ve met some of these supposedly terrible people, and they’re human beings, just as we are. (It’s also worth noting that one of those truly ‘rotten apples’, who was struck off after having found to have faked his research for financial gain, is none other than Andrew Wakefield, yep, that’s right, the ‘guru’ of the anti-vax movement himself. Hmmmmm….)
Put simply, conspiracy theories about vaccines belong in the same category as ones about alien anal probes and Elvis still being alive.
So, if you’re reading all the screeds of supposed ‘facts’ the anti-vaxxers post everywhere at every opportunity, turn to these two things to test their claims – experience and logic. The anti-vaxxers fail spectacularly, on both counts.