How Quickly Can You Debunk Anti-Vaccine Propaganda?

It is well known that much of the stuff on anti-vaccine websites is pure misinformation that is simply put out there to scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

At least it is well known by the people who understand that vaccines are safe, vaccines are necessary, and that vaccines work.

If you are on the fence or hesitant to vaccinate your kids, you might not be so sure and might not know who to trust when it comes to getting information about vaccines.

That’s why it is important to get educated, be skeptical, and do your own research.

How Quickly Can You Debunk Anti-Vaccine Propaganda?

What do you think about the following photo description that is making the rounds on anti-vaccine websites and on Facebook?

How quickly could you figure out if the information is true or not?

Is this a photo of kids in iron lungs because of the Cutter Incident?
Is this a photo of kids in iron lungs because of the Cutter Incident?

Of course, the Cutter Incident is actually true and plenty of folks ended up in iron lungs, mostly because of natural polio infections though, not because of the polio vaccine.

“In 1952 alone, nearly 60,000 children were infected with the virus; thousands were paralyzed, and more than 3,000 died.”

Jason Beaubien on Wiping Out Polio: How The U.S. Snuffed Out A Killer

Let’s start doing some research…

The first clue that this isn’t real is that the cases from the Cutter Incident would have been spread out over the five Western and mid-Western USA states where kids got this particular polio vaccine. With about 200 of them severely affected, they almost certainly would not have had such a large group of people in iron lungs, enough to fill a gymnasium, in just one area.

The next clue is that the iron lungs aren’t plugged in.

That led me to a quick search for ‘iron lung photos’ and an article on Understanding Historical Photos that features the iconic “Iron lungs in gym” photo.

“At first glance, this image shocks and saddens from the enormity of the problem of sick children in need of iron lungs. On closer examination, it is clear that the equipment that usually accompanied people using iron lungs, such as tracheotomy tubes and pumps and tankside tables, is not present (compare the picture to photographs in the section on the iron lung). This scene was staged for a film. It is not historically accurate as a respirator ward, but is an example of an established photographic technique (famously used, for example, by WPA photographers in the 1930s) of directing the viewer’s response by creating a shot that would not naturally occur. ”

Smithsonian National Museum of American History on Understanding Historical Photos

A little more research helped me discover that the photo was taken:

  • for an informational film that was being produced by the March of Dimes
  • in the auditorium of the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey, California USA
  • in 1953

So it took less than a few minutes to figure out that the folks who claim to be “exposing the truth” about vaccines are pushing pure propaganda.

Remember, the Cutter Incident happened in 1955, two years after this photo was taken…

So, a staged 1953 photo for an informational movie for the March of Dimes does not show kids in iron lungs from the Cutter Incident!

How long would you have believed this or other polio myths?

How long would it take you to debunk them?

What to Know About Debunking Anti-Vaccine Propaganda

Learn just how quickly most anti-vaccine misinformation can be debunked if you simply practice being a little skeptical and do your own research.

More About Debunking Anti-Vaccine Propaganda


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6 thoughts on “How Quickly Can You Debunk Anti-Vaccine Propaganda?

  1. My husband’s brother died when he was 7yrs old in NY form the vaccine, and my husband had abortive polio. I have noticed that there has been no mention of NY as a state that had a death after the live virus incident. My poor inlaws recieved no compensation..not even from their ins. Company.!!
    He was one of the first to receive the vaccine I believe. He had little card that said..”I’m a polio pinoeer”..or something like that. My mother in law has kept that ever since. So sad!!

    1. It took me 15 minutes to find your information about the photo is wrong. The text accompanying the photo (re the Cutter Incident) is false, as you described. But the picture is NOT from a 1953 March of Dimes film. March Of Dimes was established in 1958.

      The Smithsonian never made that statement you’ve quoted. It’s from a seriously dubious conspiracy theory website. Why would you miscredit that?

      Other more reputable websites have the picture as ‘undated’.

      I think you really ought to amend this page or delete it from your site. Misinformation does nothing for stopping anti-vaccine lies.

  2. mmmm. I just read this and looked at the photo. The bottom line says that this is the picture used to promote the vaccines. Nothing at all to do with the Cutter Incidence. At least thats how i read it.

    1. The whole content of this page is bunk. The quote that’s meant to be from the Smithsonian is actually from an anti-vax conspiracy site. The March of Dimes was established in 1958, 5 years after its claimed the photo was ‘staged’ for a film.

      There’s also some pretty big electrical cables on the right hand side of the picture!

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