I’m writing this opinion piece not for those who vaccinate themselves or their children, because they accept the science either because they reviewed it and accepted it, or they know it works. It’s not written for the antivaccinationists, because they don’t listen to logic anyways. It’s written for those who may be on the fence to understand that the argument isn’t balanced between two sides of equal veracity. It’s not a balanced argument at all.
Anti-vaxxers are lazy
Vaccine denialists think that a few hours, or a few days researching on google, or reading other vaccine denialists on a internet page, or trolling around an antivaccine Facebook page is sufficient to understand immunology, virology, bacteriology, vaccines, and epidemiology. They are now experts. They make claims that vaccines cause Type 1 diabetes. They make claims that vaccines shed the disease to others. They make claims that vaccines cause autism. None of these are true, not even close.
Science is hard work. It take years to become a researcher or world-class physician. Scientists spend hundreds of hours in laboratories and in classrooms. They attend conferences where their work is criticized and questioned. They focus on thousands of hours of writing and reading other’s works. Science takes dedication, and not part-time surfing of the internet; it takes all of your heart and time. It is not easy.
And these anti-vaccinationists think they can understand complex biochemistry and immunology in a few hours. And they accept data from the weakest sources, because they are too lazy, too intellectually bereft of critical thinking skills to take the time to actually understand real science and to critique bad science. They do not want to spend the time to become world-class researchers because they lack the skills, they lack the intellect, they lack the time, or they lack the motivation to do so. It doesn’t matter why they failed to do so, but too many others have invested the effort to become scientists and physicians, and their efforts should be respected and trusted.
Instead of real science, the antivaccinationists rely upon various logical fallacies because they have no real evidence to support their position. For example, they default to the Big Pharma ad hominem claiming that these vaccines are just thrown into the market for money, without understanding that the several hundred researchers, who develop those vaccines, probably have accumulated 10,000 years of scientific research, have published tens of thousands of articles in peer-reviewed high impact journals, and have dedicated their lives to understanding the basics of immunology, virology, biochemistry and many other subspecialties of biomedical sciences. These individuals have given their working lives to alleviate human suffering. And these vaccines represent that hard work, not a few hours of surfing the internet for conspiracy theories.
In the NEJM article by Gregory A. Poland, M.D., and Robert M. Jacobson, M.D., The Age-Old Struggle against the Antivaccinationists, the scientific problem of the anti-vaccination crowd is clearly stated: “…the reality that none of the antivaccinationists’ claims of widespread injury from vaccines have withstood the tests of time and science. We believe that antivaccinationists have done significant harm to the public health. Ultimately, society must recognize that science is not a democracy in which the side with the most votes or the loudest voices gets to decide what is right.“ All we get from the anti-vaxxers is yelling and screaming, without anything serious.
Anti-vaxxers do not deserve respect
Vaccine denialists whine about not getting respect from the so called pro-vaccine people. (As an aside, I do not consider myself “pro-vaccine”, I just consider myself pro-science and pro-children, and vaccines are both scientific and save children’s lives.) They claim that they are presenting science.
Why should I respect a group of people who cannot provide one single peer-reviewed paper published in a real journal that shows a significant issue with vaccines? They tend to mine news or research for anything that slightly supports their beliefs, while ignoring everything else that does not. They never present new research that’s supported by other researchers, that’s repeated by a wide variety of research groups, and then added into meta-reviews by respected groups such as the Cochrane Reviews. They over rely upon personal anecdotes that have no basis in reality and can’t be proven. They make claims like “my child had vaccines and had XYZ happen.” How do we know? And certainly, how do we know that there’s a causal relationship?
It’s impossible to respect a group that brings nothing to the discussion. It’s still amusing that the anti-vaxxers still bring up Mr. Andy Wakefield’s debunked and retracted study as their “proof” that vaccines cause autism.
But the most important reason why I shouldn’t respect your opinion is that children’s lives are at risk. Your vaccine denialism can harm children, and that’s why you should be ignored and disrespected.
Anti-vaxxers are arrogant
There is nothing as arrogant as how the antivaccinationist believe that their opinion is somehow more important than the vast weight of 99.999% of physicians, healthcare workers, researchers, scientists, public health officers, and just about anyone with a vested interested in the health of community. In essence, they exhibit a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. They are utterly incapable of recognizing their own mistakes and misinterpretations of science. Again, like I mentioned before, they believe that their quick research on the internet somehow exceeds years of hard work studying the various fields of science, enduring criticism, finding new ideas, and supporting them with massive research. The arrogance is so overwhelming.
Anti-vaxxers are selfish
Clearly, the antivaccinationists care only about their cause. Because if they didn’t, they would actually read what the real experts say, and then vaccinate their children today. They have a belief that these childhood diseases are not that serious, but as we have said over and over again, kids die of these diseases. These children don’t die because they are weaker or somehow different than the kids who are not vaccinated, they die because the diseases are dangerous. I personally cannot understand why these parents choose to risk their kids lives, but the cause seems to matter more than anything. How can we trust people who make that choice?
And to answer the strawman fallacy that is often made by the antivaccinationists that “vaccines are dangerous”, once again, the evidence does not support them. None. The evidence says that vaccines are safe and efficacious, and that is supported by the most brilliant minds in science and medicine, people who have dedicated their lives to studying it.
Anti-vaxxers are manipulative
Just read any news article about vaccines, whether positive or negative. The comments will be blasted by anti-vaxxers with their anecdotes, false claims, mined research, quote mining, and other junk science. The >90% of people who vaccinate their children either don’t care, or don’t comment, since they just vaccinate because they already have decided it is the right thing to do, and there is no debate. They don’t care. So you have a tiny minority of individuals who make it make it appear that there is a real debate, when there isn’t one. This is a time-honored method of the global warming and evolution denialists, who create a debate, when there is nothing but scientific support for the theories.
Scientists, being thoughtful and nuanced in their discussions, often try not to be emotional or provocative in their points. They rely upon well-researched science in discussing vaccines. They trot out complex graphs that don’t have two sentences that are easy to digest by those whose science education was done on the university of google. So, the anti-vaxxers pull out a very badly done study on a vaccine causing XYZ saying “this proves that vaccines cause XYZ”, when it shows nothing at all. But their manipulative argument is so much easier to read than a complex scientific deconstruction of the poorly done paper, published in a fourth rate journal.
Conclusion: Vaccines save lives
If you’re examining the “debate” between vaccines and the vaccine deniers, it’s not a matter of putting the evidence on one side or another. The quality of evidence for vaccines is solid gold, solid platinum. It is published in the most prestigious medical and science journals in the world. They are reviewed and critiqued over and over again. The scientists and physicians stand in front of their peers and accept careful discussion and debate. They revise their hypothesis and repeat over and over again. They do not sit in front of their laptops trying to find the one article to support their data, but they actually talk to patients, gather data from thousands of data points, review it, analyze it, and publish it. This is very hard work.
The evidence for the anti-vaxxers is almost nothing. They rely upon what they observe in a narrow world around them. They hear about a story on the internet and accept it as a fact. They take a poorly written article that has little data supporting it, and use it as their support. They don’t have any science whatsoever, yet make claims as if they are.
Think of it this way. If you have heart disease, there are a number of options on how to treat it. It can be anything from medicine to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol to interventional cardiology to bypass surgery. To make that decision on which path to take requires a pile of diagnostic tools, but in the end it requires the learned opinion of a cardiologist. That cardiologist has 4 years of college, usually in a science program. It is followed by 4 years of medical school, which requires a combination of both classwork and intense clinical work. That is followed by 3-4 years of residency, where the physician receives progressively more intense training in cardiology. This is followed by another 2-3 years of focused, intensive training in one sub-field of cardiology. Would you trust your heart to someone who studied surgery on the internet for a few hours? Why would you trust your child to someone who studied vaccines for a few hours on the internet? What are they going to know? Nothing.
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