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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

Bob Sears Was Right

Are you surprised that I think Bob Sears was right about something?

This quote about measles returning was eventually removed from the first edition of his vaccine book that was published in 2007.
This quote about measles returning was eventually removed from the first edition of his vaccine book that was published in 2007.

You shouldn’t be…

Bob Sears Was Right

Unfortunately, one of the few things he was right about is the only thing most folks didn’t seem to hear.

“With the growing mistrust of vaccinations in our country, more and more parents are saying no to vaccines. They’re refusing all vaccines altogether. And I think if more and more parents keep making those decisions, we’re going to run into a lot of trouble with these diseases. Illnesses that are very rare right now, that most parents don’t have to fear, could escalate and could start killing babies left and right if fewer and fewer parents are vaccinating.”

Dr. Robert W. Sears: Why Partial Vaccinations May Be an Answer

He repeatedly warned that measles and other diseases would come back if parents didn’t vaccinate their kids.

“As parents’ fears of vaccines grow, I think we may see fewer and fewer parents decide to vaccinate. And then we could see what used to be very rare illnesses become more common. We might see measles escalate. We might see diphtheria come back into the United States. God forbid, we might see polio come back. Then children are going to start dying. And then a lot of those parents that had chosen not to vaccinate might change their mind, and they might start vaccinating again, and then new parents might be more inclined to vaccinate their babies if we see these diseases come back.

Now, I hope and pray that doesn’t happen. I hope that we can maintain adequate herd immunity in our country so we don’t see these diseases return. But that worry of diseases coming back into our country, and the worry of diseases running rampant and killing a lot of babies, I don’t think that supersedes the parents’ basic right to choose what they want to do for their children. And if parents want to accept the disease risk because they don’t trust the vaccines, I think they have the right to make that choice.”

Dr. Robert W. Sears: Why Partial Vaccinations May Be an Answer

Were you surprised when they did?

“Why is it that every time there are a few cases of measles, everyone panics? I just don’t get it.”

Bob Sears

And predictably, folks like Sears have downplayed their return.

“This measles outbreak does not pose a great risk to a healthy child. And quite frankly I don’t think it poses any risk to a healthy child.”

Jay Gordon on Doctor explains why he lets kids avoid the measles vaccine

Were you expecting them to start recommending that kids get vaccinated and protected?

Larry Palevsky spoke at an anti-vax rally in New York during their record setting measles outbreak.

Ironically, folks like Bob Sears thought they were helping to get more kids vaccinated by pushing their non-standard, parent-selected, delayed protection vaccine schedules, but in reality, all they did was scare parents even more.

To be fair, Bob Sears wasn’t the only person to predict the return of vaccine-preventable diseases.

“I do believe sadly it’s going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe. If the vaccine companies are not listening to us, it’s their f*cking fault that the diseases are coming back. They’re making a product that’s sh*t. If you give us a safe vaccine, we’ll use it. It shouldn’t be polio versus autism.”

Jenny McCarthy on Autism and Vaccines

Nor the only person folks blame…

But he may have been one of the first to predict what would happen if parents actually listened to what he was saying…

More on Bob Sears and the Return of Measles

Healthy Kids Can Just Die

No one likes to think about it, but yes, healthy kids can just die.

Tragically, misunderstanding this fact can lead some parents who have lost a child to blame vaccines.

Healthy kids can just die and they are often attacked by anti-vaccine groups who push them to blame vaccines.
The 8 year-old child they are talking about died of SUDEP or Sudden Unexplained Death of Epilepsy.

It certainly doesn’t help that anti-vaccine folks are targeting families who have recently lost a child, pushing them to blame vaccines…

Healthy Kids Can Just Die

Speaking of vaccines, that leads us to one group of healthy kids who can die suddenly – those who die with a vaccine-preventable disease.

All of those kids who die with the flu each year? Many are healthy. And many are unvaccinated.

Infants who die with pertussis.

Teens who die with meningococcemia.

They were all typically healthy – at least they were before they got sick.

And then some of them died.

Of course, vaccine-preventable diseases are not a common way for children to die in developed countries anymore – thanks to vaccines.

Healthy Kids Dying is Not a Vaccine Injury

Again, although no one likes to think about it, healthy kids can just die.

Surprisingly, about 10% of deaths in children over age 12 months are classified as sudden death, including many in healthy kids with no explanations for how they died.

These types of sudden, unexplained deaths are actually the 5th leading cause of death in children between the ages of 1 and 4 years. That adds up to about 400 deaths a year in the United States alone!

Were some of these kids recently vaccinated?

Of course.

Just like some infants who die of SIDS were recently vaccinated.

That doesn’t mean that the vaccines caused the deaths though.

“Dealing with the sudden, unexpected death of a baby to any cause is devastating – but in the case of a death for which no specific cause can be found, the lack of answers about why your baby has died can be overwhelming.”

Surviving the Sudden Death of a Baby

So why do some people blame vaccines?

“The parents’ need to understand why their baby died came across very strongly in most interviews despite parents not being asked specifically about this.”

Garstang et al on Parental understanding and self-blame following sudden infant death: a mixed-methods study of bereaved parents’ and professionals’ experiences

Few people like the idea that there isn’t a known reason for why a child died.

“Our results suggest that most parents really want to know why their baby died; not knowing why their baby died may cause further distress to parents, whether this is due to long waits for the results of postmortem examinations or because deaths remain unexplained. An unexplained death by its nature is an unpredictable event rendering the parents powerless to prevent future tragedies, thus increasing the anxiety and grief; having as much information as possible should help parents to emotionally accept and make sense of the death to themselves.”

Garstang et al on Parental understanding and self-blame following sudden infant death: a mixed-methods study of bereaved parents’ and professionals’ experiences

Saying it was vaccines gives people an answer.

“The aggregated theme, We Feel Like We’re to Blame, was composed of three categories: (a) Not where s/he was supposed to sleep, (b) Naming the cause of death increases my guilt, and (c) It was our fault. Mothers often felt that they were being told that the baby’s death was their fault.”

Stiffler et al on When Baby Stops Breathing: Analysis of Mothers’ Interviews

And in the case of SIDS, especially if the baby was in an unsafe sleeping environment, it is easy to see that blaming vaccines might help those who were made to feel that the death had been their fault, even though bedsharing is widely pushed as a safe alternative to roomsharing in many parenting circles.

It isn’t.

“The mothers talked about how difficult it was trying to move on after an unexpected infant death. They expressed that they are not only dealing with the grief of losing a child, but they are dealing with the feelings of guilt, despair, and regret. In this aggregated theme, there were three categories: (a) I can’t talk about it, (b) One step forward, and (c) Support helps me get through.”

Stiffler et al on When Baby Stops Breathing: Analysis of Mothers’ Interviews

One thing should be clear.

Seeking support in anti-vaccine Facebook groups is not healthy and will not help parents deal with their feelings of guilt, despair, or regret.

Shaming was described from the mothers’ perspective “ . . . it sounds so blaming and makes me feel like they think we killed our baby.” Parents were dealing with the grief of losing children, but they were also exhibiting feelings of guilt and responsibility for the deaths. The mothers did find support and eventually moved forward emotionally. In the end, as one mother succinctly expressed, “I am pregnant now . . . we are happy, but are scared, too.”

Stiffler et al on When Baby Stops Breathing: Analysis of Mothers’ Interviews

These parents instead need support and doctors, nurses, first responders, child protective service workers, and medical examiners that don’t worsen their grief and guilt.

If you need to blame vaccines, then go ahead and do so, but please also get some extra help from the resources below.

And lets work to figure out why these healthy kids are dying, so we can get better at saving them and preventing these deaths.

More on Healthy Kids Can Just Die

Getting Advice About Flu Vaccines

As flu season approaches, it seems like everyone wants to give you advice about flu vaccines.

How do you know who to listen to?

Getting Advice About Flu Vaccines

How do you know who’s advice to avoid?

Amanda Bitz wrote a popular post with some good advice.

The best advice about flu vaccines is going to include a recommendation to get vaccinated and protected.
You getting the flu shot, should be a thing.

Another nurse thought she could do a little better…

Exercising and drinking clean water isn't going to help you avoid getting the flu...
A healthy person can’t pass illness to anyone unless they get sick with the flu…

Nurse Sherri wasn’t the only one who felt the need to write a response after reading a post with advice about flu vaccines.

Great advice about flu vaccines!
XOXO – save each other – vaccinate!

Not surprisingly, anti-vax folks have not liked Beth Purkey’s post.

The holistic lioness is probably the worst person to go to for advice about flu vaccines.
XOXO – Save this generation, the next and the ones to follow – DON’T VACCINATE?

What can you see in their responses?

An anti-vaccine toxicologist is not someone you want to go to for advice about flu vaccines.
Herd immunity cannot be achieved by vaccines?

Mostly that they cherry pick a few case reports and studies that they think fit their narrative – that flu vaccines are dangerous, don’t work, and that getting the flu ain’t so bad.

And they top it off with a few conspiracy theories, stuff about shedding, and lots of talk about vaccine inserts.

So who do you want to get advice about flu vaccines from?

Who do you want taking care of you in the hospital if you are sick?

An anti-vaccine nurse is not a good person to go to for advice about flu vaccines.
Lindsey wasn’t trying to scare anyone, she was empowering them with facts so they could make a choice and feel LESS FEARFUL of naturally occurring pathogens that we live amongst all day, every day.

Folks trying to sell you stuff, from essential oils and CBD oil to misinformation about vaccines and the flu, or an “ACTUAL certified medical professional” who knows what they are talking about?

“The single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year, but good health habits like covering your cough and washing your hands often can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like the flu.”

Healthy Habits to Help Prevent Flu

How serious are you about wanting to avoid getting the flu and keeping your family healthy?

Have you gotten your flu shot yet?

Has your family?

More on Flu Vaccines