A New Epidemic: The Spreading of Fear and Misinformation by The Anti-Vaccination Movement

Outbreaks of vaccine treatable diseases are currently on the rise in the United States and the main culprit is the anti-vaccination movement, a movement that uses fear and misinformation to scare people into not vaccinating their children. The movement fails to show the benefits of vaccinations, such as the complete eradication of smallpox, and puts many families and kids at risk of harmful, life-threatening diseases.

After countless studies conducted on the relation of vaccines to autism in children, none have found a direct correlation between vaccinations and the occurrence of autism in children. Furthermore, the Canadian Medical Association Journal on the occurrence of vaccine-related allergic reactions, reveals that someone has about a 1 in 760,000 chance of having a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine. A person’s chance of lightning striking them is higher than the chance of anaphylaxis, about 1 in 700,000. So why do people still believe vaccines are putting their children at risk?

To answer this question, we must first examine studies that have disproved the movement’s claims of autism caused by vaccinations. A study conducted in 2011 found that eight vaccines are very safe, with rare exceptions. Another study in 2013 conducted by The Journal of Pediatrics that researched ingredients used in vaccines concluded, “increasing exposure to antibody-stimulating proteins and polysaccharides in vaccines during the first 2 years of life was not related to the risk of developing an ASD” (Autism Spectrum Disorder).

The first study that caused widespread fear of vaccinations was a bogus scientific study published in 1998 by Andrew J Wakefield in the Lancet that claimed there was a link between the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and autism. The study has since been redacted by the Lancet, as the study used fabricated data. As the National Center for Biotechnology Information states, “Britain’s General Medical Council ruled in January, the children that Wakefield studied were carefully selected and some of Wakefield’s research was funded by lawyers acting for parents who were involved in lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers.”

The anti-vaccination movement uses scare tactics and fake scientific studies to scare parents into believing they are harming their children if they chose to vaccinate them; however, parents who chose to not vaccinate their children puts their kids at a much greater risk for many viruses and diseases that could otherwise be preventable. The harm extends beyond their own children. Choosing not to vaccinate can be harmful to those with compromised immune systems, because they cannot be vaccinated.

vaccine hesitancy was named one of the top 10 global health threats to address by the World Health Organization in 2019. In order to stop the harmful anti vax movement, we need to do a better job educating the public and lawmakers.