Thursday, April 10, 2014

Anti-Vaccination Movement and Climate Change Deniers

With the bright sunshine outside my window (and our first ever batch of clothes hanging on our clothesline to dry) I wanted to write something positive. I truly did.

But I believe this post has been brewing and burbling up... and needs to be shared.

The anti-vaccination movement reminds me disturbingly of the climate change deniers.

Unless you've been living in a social media black hole (and I'm guessing if you're reading this blog, you haven't) there has been a recent burst in anti-vaccination articles floating around online, on green blogs and on Facebook feeds. It's beyond frustrating and disappointing.

I've thought long and hard about why a group of intelligent and health-conscientious people would completely disregard what scientific evidence is clearly showing and decide to actively distrust all medical professionals on a topic such as vaccines and health.

I think as a "green" movement we've gone a bit too far.

I understand. For the last ten years (and more) we, the green crusaders, have spent time, energy and raised our voices against corporate lies. No really- that sounds melodramatic, except that we've accustomed ourselves to no longer trusting companies to tell us what is "safe" in their products, disappointment in the lack of government action in carbon control and growing feeling that all points of authority have a hidden, corporate agenda.

As a whole medical professionals and Health Sciences are not corporate, corrupt and nor are they in it for the money. Anyone who thinks so has never counted the hours of extra work we (even SLPs) do for our patients- unpaid.

Oh I'm not naive- I do believe that western medicine could be more holistic and not all medical professionals are amazing saints. However, just like I choose to believe information from climatologists over an opinion article, I choose to find the statements and information coming from Health Sciences research and those medical professionals trained in understanding the results and ramifications over crunchy bloggers choosing a "toxic-free" lifestyle.

Up until recently Science has been held aloft, separate. We greenies have scoffed and railed against those choosing to ignore the obvious science behind climate change. It has frustrated us to no end that groups of individuals would be swayed by anti-climate change rhetoric.

But the anti-vaccination movement chooses to ignore the science of what our medical health professionals are telling us. Vaccines are safe, choosing to not vaccinate your child puts our society's (most vulnerable) health at risk with measurable effects of the anti-vaccination movement resulting in increased rates of preventable diseases.

This post isn't about providing links to science-y or opinion articles on the topic. There are plenty already out there and I am not pretending to be an expert in vaccines or disease prevention. What I am sharing is this message: As an environmentally conscious person I *know* critical thinking is essential. Please don't let "critical thinking" devolve into distrust of all. 

The questions I would request you ask yourself are the following:

1. Why is climate science more credible than health science?
2. Why would an entire group of medical professionals, trained to understand (as best we can) the intricacies of human health, lie to the very people they have sworn to help?
3. What do medical professionals stand to gain if you vaccinate your children?
4. What is the point of having "experts" in a field (ie medical professionals) if you are going to distrust their every word?
5. Do you honestly feel you can be an expert in all things?

Critical thinking does NOT mean a mass distrust of all things. Critical thinking means knowing what sources are credible and choosing, from an analytical perspective, which voices (ie experts) to believe.

Allowing our cynicism to spill over into all areas of our lives does not equal calm, informed choice making. I choose to trust in those experts who are trained to understand the subtleties and complexities of human health to help me make informed decisions. And that, is critical thinking.


  1. this is a subject that revs me up. So if someone voices the 'anti vaccine' crap I do not hold back in the name of politeness. :) I have no explanation for why people would choose to believe this other than it vaccines give a reason for an unsatisfactory answer from science as to the cause of autism and other issues.

  2. Thank you for this excellent post! One of my editors just asked me to write an response piece on vaccination, and I hesitated because I war worried about alienating my green readers with our pro-vaccine stance. It's refreshing to read a post that reconciles both vaccinating our children and living an eco/health conscientious lifestyle.

  3. You outline some really good thoughts here. I've head such a range of reasons to avoid vaccination-- from the Jenny McCarthy-believers to those that believe that vaccines are a way for the government to systematically weaken and dumb-down the population in order to exert more control (I'm not kidding. Conspiracies galore.)-- but as someone who works in Alt-ac, I get to see first-hand the tremendous amount of time, effort, training, and skill that goes into the research that determines health policy. It's real and it's legit (not to mention, tested and double-blind peer-reviewed).

    Even those who are into non-Western medicine should be looking more for ways to reconcile the two approaches. Personally, I LOVE using a Naturopath and often find that alternative treatments (diet, acupuncture, massage, exercise, etc.) are effective when Western medicine isn't. That being said, I don't know any Naturopaths who can provide an *alternative* to vaccination. So, if the decision is "proven science" or "nothing," I think I'll go with the science.

    As a side note, my comments are also coming as a person who has pretty bad reactions to shots. I don't get the flu shot for that reason. At the same time, if it was a matter of something serious like polio, rubella, or the whooping cough, I'd gladly suck it up, get the shot, and deal with the ickyness for a few days.

  4. My biggest concern is over-vaccination. Seems like a lot of shots are given in a short period of time to young children. Do they need all of those shots? I do think over-vaccination may be making people sick and hurting their immune system. Is it really necessary for healthy people to get a flu shot every single year? I'm not completely against vaccination and I'm not completely for them. I'm more of a pick-and-choose to what makes sense for an individual based on if they are in a high-risk group or around high-risk individuals. It makes sense for kids to get a polio and measles vaccination, etc. For myself, I'm quite healthy, I got my first cold this winter in 2-3 years, I'm in my 30's, I'm not around young children or people at risk, it doesn't make sense for me to be getting a flu shot every year which may not even be effective, so I don't. Also, that helps save the supply for the people that really do need to get the shot. If someone has a compromised immune system, they need to take care of themselves, maybe they shouldn't be out at the malls and grocery stores and in places where they might get sick during the cold and flu season. It's not my responsibility to make sure they don't get sick... Shaming me for not getting a flu shot isn't going to help. (I'm not saying you specifically are shaming me or anything, just in general for the people that bash vaccine skeptics.) People need to do their research and do what they feel comfortable with.


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