Anti-Semitism and Vaccines

The Anti-Defamation League defines anti-semitism as “The belief or behavior hostile toward Jews just because they are Jewish. It may take the form of religious teachings that proclaim the inferiority of Jews, for instance, or political efforts to isolate, oppress, or otherwise injure them. It may also include prejudiced or stereotyped views about Jews.”

So what does anti-semitism have to do with vaccines?

No, there isn’t a vaccine to protect against anti-semitism.

Tragically, it has to do with the arguments of some of those who oppose vaccines.

These arguments often involve someone bringing up Hitler, Nazis, or concentration camps when discussing vaccines (Godwin’s law).

Believe it or not, one popular anti-vaccine argument is that “modern-day vaccines have their roots in Nazi medical experiments.” They don’t.

Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin were both Jewish immigrants who developed polio vaccines. Courtesy CDC / Mary Hilpertshauser

In fact, several of our most famous vaccine developers, including Jonas Salk, Albert Sabin, Baruch Samuel Blumberg, and Irving Millman, were Jewish.

It likely doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone that these anti-vaccine arguments do have consequences. In Pakistan for instance, some groups, including the Taliban, push conspiracy theories that the polio vaccine is part of a Jewish plot to sterilize Muslims, getting in the way of efforts to eradicate polio.

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