Against Vaccinations? How?
“Liberty cannot be preserved without general knowledge among the people.” – John Adams
As a Brazilian and as a Pharmacy Student, nothing shocks me more than knowing that some people are organized to fight against immunizations. I remember watching the Penn & Teller show called “Bullshit” on this subject. Of course, their show uses the “F-Bomb” as a common ground, but it shows something about this movement and it makes me ask myself, how? With this, I need to prepare you, my dear reader: This is an opinion article from me, Lucas Ercolin. My words are not IPSF’s opinion.
I believe that written argumentation is more important than videos in order to understand some arguments, especially if we consider that non-verbal communication has an important influence on our agreement or disagreement process. So, I start looking for the reasons on this anti-vaccination movement. By reading everything from the most absurd arguments to some philosophical views, I can divide the reasons I found during my research into 3 categories: Religion, Liberty and Fear.
I do not want to go further on the Religious argument, firstly because discussing dogma will take us to nowhere and because it may be unjust to point out the religions that have issues with vaccination. In addition, some of the contra-arguments that I could use are similar for Liberty. The most famous quote from the French Philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre is “Man is condemned to be free”. This maximum quote is related to the relation between freedom and responsibility. You are free to choose, but you are responsible for what you do. Even if it is an existentialist philosophy, it goes straight to the “Liberty” question.
Anti-vaccination groups argue that they are free to decide about vaccination or not for themselves, or for their children, no matter the reason behind it. In fact, they are right. In Brazil, where we have a Public Health System that vaccinates all the population without costs to the patient, which seems obvious to prevent illness. However, in U.S.A., where there is no Public Health System, or in other countries where immunization can be paid for, this freedom needs to be considered. Therefore, I will divide this thread on “If I can have it” and “If I cannot have it”, to analyze the responsibility on this topic.
If the person cannot have access to vaccines, because money or difficult access, then penalizing them would be an injustice. If the person can have the immunization and decide to not have it, no matter the reason, they accept the responsibility on any issue based on their decision, from themselves becoming ill, their children becoming ill, making other people ill or even dying.
This subject is discussed on the TV show “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” (“Selfish”, Season 10, Episode 19): A mother is accused to have killed her child, but the evidence shows that the city is on a measles outbreak, because of a mother that refused to vaccinate her boy. Who is the responsible for the kid’s death? Her free decision against the immunization of her kid caused a death, even if it indirect.
Based on the responsibility of the free decision, any issue that can be proved as result of the non-immunization should be consider as a bad thing, from dying to letting other people be sick because of you. However, the argument to break their own responsibility is based on Fear. They said that they will not be vaccinated because its bad side effects…which ones?
The most famous fear is autism. In 1998, Andrew Wakefield published a fraudulent research paper in “The Lancet”, one of the most important medical journal in the world, claiming that the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine causes autism. In 2010, The Lancet announced that they “fully retract this paper [Wakefield’s] from the published record”. In 2011, the British Medical Journal detailed, on a series of articles from Brian Deer, how Wakefield faked some data. They even found the 12 children who participated in the fake study to show how it was done. Other fears are based on what is in the vaccines and how they are made. This point is usually used as argument from non-health professionals, based on misunderstanding or lack of knowledge. The main scapegoat is thimerosal, but formaldehyde is usual in anti-vaccination campaigns. Some vaccines have one (or both) compounds in their composition, however, many studies don’t show any kind of link between the bad effect and those substances, in the way that they are used on the vaccines. I will not get into the discussion about the merits of each compound on the vaccines.
The last fear that I want to consider is on “why should I vaccinate?” Some people consider that, if you do not have a reason to be immunized, it will only add an issue, even if it is minimal. Some diseases are rarely found in kids, as Hepatitis B, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), etc, being a reason to not vaccinate. Others believe that the human immune system is ready to fight against illness in a safe way, making vaccines unneeded. For the first point, I have no arguments against, but as an observation: I got my immunization for Hepatitis B when I entered in the university, at 18 years old. In Brazil the HPV free vaccination, for girls between 11 and 13 years old, and although it is new, it reached more than 80% of the public target. There is no reason to give medicines and immunization to those who do not need it, but we have all the reasons to give vaccines for those who need. However, things change on the second point. Is widely spread the idea that being sick makes you “stronger” (if you survive). I could argue that this information is false and extend this article for to more than 1000 words, but I will consider that it is true… Moreover, it still is not an argument for be against vaccination, because being sick can led to some of the same issues that the vaccinations can cause which may let you sick. Vaccination will not, plus vaccinations can save your life from the same disease.
Chairperson of PARO 2013-14