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Bad Vaccine Analogies

Analogies can help explain how vaccines work, especially good vaccine analogies.

Not having a cookie doesn’t make you immune to getting cookies…
Not having a cookie doesn’t make you immune to getting cookies from someone else…

They can also help explain how folks who do not support vaccines think.

Bad Vaccine Analogies

I wonder if all of their bad analogies will end up on tee shirts…

Would you use a parachute that was only 9% effective? Or would you just jump out of the plane and hope you can fly?
Would you use a parachute that was only 9% effective? Or would you just jump out of the plane and hope you can fly?

What do you think of Larry Cook’s analogy?

To be fair, the flu vaccine, in some years, can be as low as 9% effective.

Does that mean you can compare it to using a condom, parachute, or alarm clock that is only 9% effective?

How about this scenario:

You are on a plane that is about to crash and there is something wrong with the only parachute that is left on board. You inspect the stitching but estimate that you only have a 9% chance that it will deploy and get you to the ground safely. There is no backup parachute. Do you use it anyway, jump out without it and see if you can fly, or take your chances in a plane that is barreling towards the ground?

In most other situations, unless it is a life and death situation, you wouldn’t risk using a parachute that was only 9% effective. But what if that was your only option?

What if there is only a 9% chance that the parachute will get you to the ground without any injury, but a 80 to 90% chance that it will get you to the ground without dying? Would you use it then?

Would you use an alarm clock that was only 9% effective? No. I’ll set the timer on my phone to wake me up…

And that’s why we sometimes get a flu vaccine that is far less than 100% effective.

What’s the alternative?

Being unprotected and at a higher risk to get a severe case of the flu.

More Bad Vaccine Analogies

Larry Cook isn’t the only one to come up with bad vaccine analogies.

Why would you let your kid eat a poisoned cupcake?
Why would you let your kid eat a poisoned cupcake?

Of course, vaccinating and protecting your kids is not analogous to giving them a poisoned cupcake.

While vaccines are not risk free, serious reactions are extremely rare.

In fact, for this analogy to make even a little sense, you would have to have one million kids eating one million cupcakes.

Even then, the analogy falls apart.

Who would give their kid a cupcake if there was a chance that it was intentionally poisoned, even if the risk is just one in a million?

What’s the benefit of eating the cupcake?

Is this the last cupcake on earth? Is your child starving and is this cupcake the only thing he can eat? Is it a magic cupcake that can cure them of a life-threatening disease?

We vaccinate our kids, even if there is a one in a million chance of a severe, life-threatening reaction, because of all of the benefits they get from being vaccinated and protected.

Vaccines are not 100% safe, but they have few risks, and are safer than getting the diseases they protect us against.
Vaccines are not 100% safe, but they have few risks, and are safer than getting the diseases they protect us against.

How about all of the vaccine analogies about cars and seat belts?

Anti-vax folks like bad car and seat belt analogies.
Anti-vax folks like bad car and seat belt analogies.

Why don’t we call people who push for safer cars anti-car?

Jay Gordon doesn't think that that he is anti-vaccine.
Jay Gordon doesn’t think that that he is anti-vaccine.

Do these car safety advocates tell people to stop riding in cars or that a safe car can never be made?

Wanting safer vaccines doesn't make you anti-vaccine.
Wanting safer vaccines doesn’t make you anti-vaccine.

Do they say that kids will be hurt every time they ride in a car? Do they tell parents to just drive one day a week or one block a month?

Peanut butter or the plague??? Vaccine advocates aren't immune to bad vaccine analogies...
Peanut butter or the plague??? Vaccine advocates aren’t immune to bad vaccine analogies…

Unlike folks who are anti-vaccine, those who want safer cars generally still drive and ride in cars!

Making Sense of Vaccine Analogies

Have you heard the folks who say that they won’t set their kids on fire to keep someone else warm? They somehow think this is analogous to getting vaccinated and keeping herd immunity levels up to protect those who can’t be vaccinated.

No one wants to set your child on fire...
No one wants to set your child on fire…

You understand why that’s a bad analogy, right?

In addition to protecting others because your child doesn’t get sick and won’t expose them to a life-threatening disease, by vaccinating and protecting them, your own child doesn’t get sick!

Unlike setting your child on fire, it’s a win-win deal.

Well, it’s a win-win unless you believe classic arguments against vaccines, such as vaccines are poison or that vaccines don’t really work to prevent disease.

And maybe that’s why these bad analogies actually do work very well for some of these folks. They believe the misinformation and propaganda that help prop them up.

More on Bad Vaccine Analogies