The Anti-Vax Movement: What You Need to Know

D. Anthony Thomas - 07/18/19

When people thought about problematic changes in society that occurred due to the growth and pervasiveness of the Internet and social media, most thought about threats to data security, cyberbullying, and the erosion of privacy. However, today’s political climate has made it clear that our consumption of information online is leading some to challenge the concepts of objective facts and valid research.  Phrases such as “Fake news” and “alternative facts” are not only reshaping political debates.  They are changing the larger conversation about medicine.  Accepted truths of the medical community are being challenged and scrutinized in ways that were unthinkable even a decade ago. Perhaps the most obvious example of Internet-grown skepticism that has lasting medical consequences, is the Anti-Vaccination Movement or “Anti-Vaxxers”. 

The vast majority of scientists and doctors believe that common vaccines, like those used to prevent the spread of measles and rubella, are safe and effective. Anti-Vaxxers scoff at the the prevalence of vaccines, claim that their success is overstated, and in some cases, argue that vaccines are dangerous.  Here are three of the more provocative stances taken by the most vocal members of the Anti-Vax Movement:

1. Vaccines cause Autism.

The Centers for Disease Control clearly believe that there is no link between Autism and vaccinations.  This official decree however hasn’t stopped Anti-Vaxxers however, who still cling to a discredited, twelve child study, as the basis for their “regular shots equals Autism” conspiracy theories.  Jenny McCarthy’s early misinformation just when awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorders was growing, also didn’t help matters.  In short, Anti-Vaxxers that buy into this theory believe that the administration of common vaccines, particularly in rapid succession, increases the odds of children developing a form of Autism or other developmental disorders.  

2. Vaccines contain toxins.

Technically, this stance is based in fact.  Some vaccines did and still do contain substances that can be harmful such as Thiomersal, which is a mercury compound.  However, according to established experts in the medical community, the amount of mercury, formaldehyde, aluminum, and other known toxins in vaccines are so miniscule, they’re harmless.  To Anti-Vaxxers, toxins are toxins, and the accepted medical institutions are grossly overstating their harmlessness in vaccine form.

3. There is no immunity like natural immunity.

For some Anti-Vaxxers, the best way to fight a disease is through exposure.  The good old immune system should fight the malady, and then immunity will be the natural by product.  However, you don’t have to be a medical expert to grasp the potential downsides of willingly contracting diseases.  Measles usually aren’t life threatening.  However, it’s not unheard for Measles sufferers to be hospitalized.  About one out of twenty children  that contract it also come down with pneumonia as an added complication.  Pneumonia of course, is deadly. 

Modern medicine embraced vaccines for a reason.  Forsaking vaccinations in favor of immunity through exposure is trading imagined threats for real danger.