Home > American Culture, Society > The Vaccination Paranoia

The Vaccination Paranoia

For a while now there’s been increasing rumblings of a vaccination controversy.  Apparently this is coming more to the fore-front as Newsweek saw fit to publish an article arguing for the benefits of vaccinating your children.  I know to some of my friends and colleagues in the healthcare community, this anti-vaccination movement seems to be coming nearly out of thin air in the last few years.  They are confused as to why any parent would argue against vaccinating their child in a Western nation.  While I absolutely agree with them, this didn’t exactly come out of nowhere for me.  Until I started working in hospitals, I myself wasn’t vaccinated. *

My parents, mainly my mother, were part of the first wave of the anti-vaccination crowd.  Their reasons for not wanting me to get vaccinated were officially religious.  They believed that your body is the temple of the living god, and therefore you should not purposefully inject anything harmful into yourself.  To them, even though a vaccination is a gentled-up version of the virus, it was still perceived as injecting harm.  In the fundamentalist crowd the leap to “this lighter version of the virus will allow my child to build antibodies so the strong one won’t harm her” just wasn’t made.  I’m not sure if they didn’t believe the science, didn’t understand it, or just didn’t think it was necessary.  Whatever the case, a vaccine was injecting a virus into your body, and that was wrong in the eyes of god so that was that.

Of course there was the other layer thatnon-fundamentalist parents who are anti-vaccination today are also claiming today–the contents of the shot are harmful and at best dumb the kid down, at worst give them Autism or paralyzes them.  Frankly, if this was true, we’d have an epidemic of Autism and paralysis right now.  We obviously don’t.  Most of my public school graduating class was vaccinated, and they were the most intelligent graduating class from my school in ten years, with a record number attending high-ranking colleges.

Even after I had deconverted, thereby losing the religious concern, I still for a long time believed that vaccinations were a big government conspiracy.  We’re seeing this concept now with the H1N1 vaccinations.  There are groups out there saying at best that the pharmaceutical community created the virus so they could profit from the vaccine and at worst that the vaccine will kill or maim all the poor people (or a certain race of people or whatever group the person making the claim is part of).

I know from my own experience that these claims are being made out of fear and ignorance.  People who don’t understand science, were never properly taught science, or who were raised to fear outsiders make claims like this.  Any educated person knows that the scientific community works incredibly hard for the greater good.  What an insult to the scientists who worked to make the H1N1 vaccine to claim that they maliciously created the virus just so they could sell a vaccine!  Claims like this about vaccinations are the same as claiming that the scientific community is evil–a community that works hard every day for the greater good of individuals and society as a whole.  Frankly, yes, I believe the government is messed up in many ways, but one of the things they do right is to support the scientific community, yet these paranoid groups see this support as a conspiracy.  The scientific community is not the government, and just because the government endorses something the scientific community is doing does not make it evil.

What we are seeing building today is the result of a failing educational system and increasing paranoia.  Our society is by and large encouraing paranoia and panic at an increasing rate.  You just have to remember America before 9/11 and after 9/11 to know exactly what I’m talking about.  I’m not going to be all conspiracy theorist about this, but our society is increasingly uneducated and afraid.  Instead of seeking to raise calm, rational, scientific individuals we’re turning into a bunch of paranoid, uneducated, panicking people making bad decisions for the future.  Knowledge and logic impart calm and peace.  I know this from personal experience.  When I thought that schizophrenic symptoms were caused by demon possession, I walked around afraid.  When I learned the biological basis of schizophrenia and the treatments available, I was no longer afraid.  The same is true for the vaccination paranoia.  It is a symptom of a lack of general public knowledge about science.  They are wrong, but there is no quick fix for this.  The answer is an educated, rational populace, and that is going to take time and effort.

*  My father claims he snuck me off to get one round of vaccinations when I was a child.  I don’t remember this, however, and we all know there’s more than one round of childhood vaccinations.
  1. December 8, 2009 at 11:25 am

    I agree there is paranoia, on both sides of this blanket. However, I DO believe that there is a middle ground that isn’t really touched upon, by those who believe that yes – vaccinations are helpful in light of some diseases that people are known to not fight off well, but still do not wish to jump on the “Vaccinate for Everything” bus. I haven’t vaccinated myself or my kids for flu, and do not intend to. They are healthy, and I believe that science has shown that our own antibodies produced after infection tend to fare better against some diseases than those by vaccination. Both of my children contracted chickenpox AFTER being vaccinated – one of them BECAUSE of the vaccination, who then infected the other (who was vaccinated prior).

    In any case, I believe that the scientific community is helpful, but there is a little truth in a lot of opinion, and that there is validity in some vaccinations being passed on. 🙂

    • December 8, 2009 at 11:34 am

      I think in the scientific community there is a perception of some vaccines being more important than others and multiple things impact vaccination. For instance, healthcare workers are bound to be exposed to the flu consistently in higher concentrations than the non healthcare worker, so getting the flu vaccine is important, whereas for the average person it’s a judgment call.

      As for people sometimes getting chickenpox/measles/mumps after getting vaccinated, the rebuttal I’ve heard at work is that the case is less severe than if the child had never been vaccinated at all. It’s more like a minor cold than a serious full-blown illness.

      Of course my point in general in this post is to the teetotalers or the “it’s a conspiracy” folk. I’m always about well-thought out decisions, and it is true some vaccinations are more important than others.

      The other thing I should have mentioned is that vaccination isn’t just for the good of the individual, it’s for the good of society. If some people aren’t vaccinated, they will still contract the illness allowing it to mutate so that vaccinated people can get it. This is one of those cases where we should be thinking about the good of society as a whole.

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