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Is It Rational to Be Anti-Vaccine?

Why do some people think that they are making a rational decision when they skip or delay their children’s vaccines?

Are parents making a rational decision when they skip or delay their children's vaccines?
Are parents really making a rational decision when they skip or delay their children’s vaccines?

Is it because they “know” that they are right?

Or because others reinforce their beliefs?

Is It Rational to Be Anti-Vaccine?

Whatever the reason, we should be clear that skipping or delaying vaccines, leaving your child at risk to get a vaccine-preventable disease and putting others at risk, is really not a rational decision.

“It is not the case, of course, that people make decisions about vaccination based solely on rational, evidenced-based, scientific perspectives.”

Timothy Caulfield et al on Injecting doubt: responding to the naturopathic anti-vaccination rhetoric

Instead, people often seem to skip or delay vaccines after fear helps a number of cognitive biases, heuristics, and logical fallacies take hold and change their perception of risk into something that is much different from reality. That fear is stoked by misinformation and propaganda they see on the Internet or hear from friends and family.

Or they become influenced by the idea that their child has been damaged or injured by a vaccine, even though in the great majority of cases, it has been shown that vaccines do not cause those problems.

“Well, if you’re going to inform yourself about vaccines, I think anybody who’s truly informed will realize that getting a vaccine is much better than not getting one. If you’re choosing not to vaccinate your child, it’s because you’re getting, frankly, bad information about vaccines.”

Paul Offit, MD

So call it what you want, but no, in general, it is not rational to be anti-vaccine, especially considering that:

Do you know what the biggest clue that it isn’t a rational decision in most cases?

Changing Your Mind About Vaccines

When a rational person is given new evidence or information that not only challenges their worldview, but blows it out of the water, what do they do?

They change their mind.

“It is irrational to hold any view so tightly that you aren’t willing to admit the possibility that you might be wrong.”

What would it take to convince you that you were wrong?

When do anti-vax folks change their minds?

“I don’t feel I’m putting my child at risk. There’s nothing that’s going to change my mind on this on that specific vaccination.”

More often than not, it is after one of their kids gets sick or there is a disease outbreak nearby.

Instead of changing their minds in the midst of disease outbreaks and immunization mandates, some parents decide to break the law

If you are not vaccinating and protecting your kids, what would it take to get you to change your mind about vaccines?

Do you need to see double blind placebo controlled studies, studies with saline placebos, studies with vaccines tested together, or long term safety studies?

Do you need to remind yourself what the pre-vaccine era was like? Or understand what will happen if too many people stop vaccinating their kids?

Don't wait until it's too late to vaccinate your child.
Don’t wait until it’s too late to vaccinate your child.

Whatever it takes, hopefully you don’t wait too long and regret your decision.

Of course, no one wants to intentionally harm their children. But you can’t do what’s right and make a rational decision if you are relying on bad information and advice.

More on the Idea of Rational Anti-Vaccine Beliefs

6 thoughts on “Is It Rational to Be Anti-Vaccine?”

  1. “Do you need to see double blind placebo controlled studies, studies with saline placebos, studies with vaccines tested together, or long term safety studies?” — Yes…. but will this ever happen for every vaccine in use?

    1. The original question also needs an answer; “When do anti-vax folks change their minds?” — When you have actual scientific proof that there is no harm or long term affects. It seems that the only answer you give is that science has proven that vaccines are safe and effective. But you never show us the science. You never show us the long term safety studies… and don’t bother showing me studies for new vaccines, because the study is comparing it to the last vaccine that was determined to be safe. Treat every vaccine like a drug, and go through the proper rigorous testing. And then we’ll talk.

  2. I went into this thinking I’m going to disagree, because I was thinking that anti-vaccine people are being rational but using incorrect facts.

    But I think you addressed that nicely and covered this in discussing the changing your mind issue. Holding onto a belief in the face of evidence may be very human, but not rational.

    1. Dorit: The problem is that you could follow links for hours and still not find actual studies about what is being said. Most of the “links” point back to another article on this site, and few of those have much more information other than what has been said over and over: “vaccines are safe, effective, with few risks”.

      The pro-vaccine folks seem to have one strategy: make the so called “anti-vax” people look stupid. They use the same phrase over and over; “the science is proven; vaccines are safe and effective. The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to get vaccinated.” and/or “Anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists continue to spread misinformation that tries to scare you away from vaccines”. Meanwhile, the so called “anti-vax” people provide study after study, and data point after data point showing that there are reasons to question many vaccines. And most of the “anti-vax” people are NOT saying that vaccines should not exist, they are saying that vaccines may cause harm in some cases, and that vaccines should undergo the SAME clinical trials as every other drug on the market. If a product is potentially dangerous, wouldn’t you want to know about it? Maybe it’s not the vaccine itself that is causing the problem, but the vaccine in conjunction with something else in our environment is causing the issues. Shouldn’t you want to know what the cause is? Shouldn’t we try to figure out why the autism rate is going up? Shouldn’t we try to figure out why overall health is declining? Great, we eliminated measles… but we increased the rate of ______ (fill in the blank with ANY health issue).

      Most people think that vaccines have been thoroughly tested for safety. The ‘scientific community’ tells us that science has proven the safety of vaccines, but fail to mention that the safety study is not what we are lead to believe. Would you feel safe using a product that was tested for safety against last years edition of the same product? “Yes, my medical grade neurotoxin was tested, and proven to be safe. Here is the safety study that I ran against the batch I made last year… (**2 weeks later**)… See, no autism. See, he’s not dead. My product is safe for every person on earth.” . Neurotoxin isn’t safe, but the study could prove through science that it is safe. Similar to our court system when an innocent person is convicted of a crime they didn’t commit. Just because the science shows a trending result, doesn’t mean it is the 100% truth with no other possible outcomes… science is constantly being tested and our theories questioned. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that science is infallible.

      Pro-vaccine people don’t listen to an opposing view, and they simply trust what is being told to them on a daily basis. They are told that vaccines are 100% safe and effective, and that the side affects are so rare, that it’s almost not worth mentioning. But ask yourself; how many man-made substances are safe for every person on earth?

    2. I think the whole premise is wrong. Antivaxxers are rational – opposing vaccines is the most effective way they can meet their goal of harming or killing people – so that’s the method they choose. Wakefield thinks that child-murder is an act of love, but he chose wholesale, rather than retail

      (note that several antivaxxers either formerly or currently promote tobacco use – again, perfectly rational, if dead people are the goal).

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