The 3 Components of Anti-Vaccine Propaganda

Can you recognize anti-vaccine propaganda?

This anti-vaccination caricature envelope was likely issued by the Anti-Vaccination Society in 1879.
This anti-vaccination caricature envelope was likely issued by the Anti-Vaccination Society in 1879.

Do you know how some folks scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids?

“Recognizing disingenuous claims made by the anti-vaccination movement is essential in order to critically evaluate the information and misinformation encountered online.”

Anna Kata Anti-vaccine activists, Web 2.0, and the postmodern paradigm – An overview of tactics and tropes used online by the anti-vaccination movement

No, it’s not just about saying vaccines are full of toxins and poison. The problem with that strategy, is that while parents would be afraid of vaccines, they would also still be afraid of their kids getting sick if they were intentionally not vaccinated and caught a vaccine-preventable disease.

John Birch (B) and the other anti-vaccine heroes of the day on their way to fight the vaccination monster.
Anti-vaccine propaganda hasn’t changed much since vaccines were depicted as a monster in the early 19th century.

How do they help reduce this cognitive dissonance?

That’s easy.

They make it sound like vaccine preventable diseases really aren’t that bad, which isn’t hard to do, since few people actually remember what they are like since vaccines work so well. In fact, they might even try and make you believe it is good to get these diseases.

Lastly, they push the idea that vaccines don’t even work. They even have graphs!

Throw in some a lot of vaccine injury stories, a few conspiracy theories about doctors and Big Pharma, some cherry picking of quotes and evidence, and maybe say something about package inserts,  and you have the basis for most anti-vaccine talking points.

So the basic idea (of anti-vaccine propaganda) is that you shouldn’t vaccinate your kids, but you also shouldn’t be concerned that you aren’t vaccinating your kids because vaccines don’t work anyway, and measles, polio, and smallpox, etc., are basically just a mini-vacation from school

Even mild smallpox, as depicted on this WHO Smallpox Recognition Card, included flu like symptoms, a few weeks of pustules, and then waiting for the lesions to scab over...
Even the mildest cases of smallpox (no other complications), as depicted on this WHO Smallpox Recognition Card, included flu like symptoms, a few weeks of pustules all over your body, and then a few more weeks of waiting for the lesions to scab over, which left you with pitted scars…

Think you can recognize anti-vaccine propaganda now?

The 3 Components of Anti-Vaccine Propaganda

Do you see how anti-vaccine propaganda works?

One or more of these three basic themes is repeated over and over again in most anti-vaccine arguments, posts, or stories:

  1. Make you think vaccines are dangerous by overstating the side effects and risks of getting vaccinated. And never mentioning any of the many benefits of vaccines.
  2. Make you think it’s no big deal to get measles or polio, by underestimating the risks of vaccine-preventable diseases and overstating the benefits of natural immunity over the protection you can get from vaccines. And never ever mention that the reason you aren’t likely to get polio is because most people are vaccinated (hiding in the herd strategy).
  3. Make you think that vaccines don’t even work. They even push the false idea that there are still big outbreaks of measles in China, that the smallpox vaccine didn’t eradicate smallpox, that herd immunity isn’t real, that DDT caused polio, and that vaccine-preventable diseases have never been controlled or eradicated – we just changed the names to something else. After seeing the smallpox photo above, do you really think that anyone would fail to recognize a kid with smallpox?

Don’t be fooled.

Get educated about vaccines.

What to Know About Anti-Vaccine Propaganda

Anti-vaccine groups use standard propaganda methods to manipulate folks into thinking that vaccines are dangerous and don’t work and that your child would be better off getting sick with a vaccine-preventable disease, like polio or measles.

More About Anti-Vaccine Propaganda

 

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