Ever since vaccination started getting billed as "a parent's right to choose," there's been a growing resistance against the anti-vax movement. But it wasn't until the recent measles outbreak at Disneyland that a rash (pun alert!) of articles, news segments, blog posts, and tweets have spread across the internet like smallpox in an outhouse circa 1750. Everywhere I turn, there's a token vaccination article, to which I say, "You go, media!" For once, the media seems united in an effort to eradicate, or at least ameliorate, the idea that not vaccinating babies and children is a valid choice. And in a sense, everyone who's dedicating time and/or internet clicks to sounding the anti-vax alarm is attempting to do what vaccines are designed to do, too -- protect the public. By building a "herd" mentality and creating a digital stack of pro-vaccination articles, this abundance of content serves to "protect" parents who are researching vaccination against giving credence to the smaller number of articles that are anti-vaccine.
Is it possible to inoculate the population at large by doing this in the media? I'm not so sure. Until recently, most outlets were happy to collect pageviews by posting controversial articles filled with suspicion and lies, written by quack doctors or crunchy moms (or Jenny McCarthy), and the effects of those articles, which reinforced anti-vaxxer's sentiments, have been considerable. And technically, pro-vaccination articles are also big business for media outlets, which are currently churning out post after post with the knowledge that those posts will do well and get shared on social platforms. But if I had to choose between being "fair and balanced" and publishing anti-vaxxer propaganda for the clicks, versus doubling down and spamming the shit out of newsfeeds with pro-vaccination content, I'd choose the latter in a second. It appears that finally -- finally -- some of those mainstream outlets realize that what they've being doing all this time is damaging -- and that the internet has played a huge role in the decline of vaccinations in the U.S.
Consider Juniper Russo, a mother of two, who says in her story on NPR, "I had a lot of online acquaintances who claimed that their kids had become autistic because of vaccines. I got kind of swept up in that." When a young parent's paranoid approach to vaccination is met with vociferous support from hardcore anti-vaxxers who spend large amounts of time yammering online, that can lead to real life damage. And when internet publishers shy away from responsibly reporting true facts in lieu of collecting internet outrage clicks (the "best" kind of clicks!) by providing a platform to idiot doctors spouting bullshit, some people listen. Many people share. And the response from the anti-vax community is predictably going to be, "I told you so."
I wrote a column about how parents talk about vaccination on Facebook a year and a half ago -- before the worst of the recent measles outbreaks, but after whooping cough was on the rise -- and now I'm at it again because of an epidemic so tragically absurd, even President Obama has said anti-vax parents should use "common sense." I'm glad there's a sudden deluge of pro-vaccine discussions and articles, but it's a bit horrifying to consider how much more damage could be done in the real world as a result of viral articles (no pun intended this time!) about faulty science or religious beliefs or conspiracy theories that back anti-vaxxer ideology. What's even scarier is the fact that so many parents readily admit to being heavily influenced by their online peers, some of whom they don't even know, on social media and in forums. From where I'm sitting, it's not that hard to see how the anti-vaccine movement has gained this much momentum, and it's up to all of us to discredit our friends and online acquaintances when we see them parroting misinformation about vaccines. In the meantime, let's check out some sketchy examples that showcase just how crazy some people really are. (Hint: One person says "kids who get the whooping cough vaccine often get the whooping cough anyway." Ooookay, lady.)
1. Conspiracy Theorists Need To Chill
This horseshit article about 'courts' confirming that the MMR vaccine causes autism was published and re-published on sites with names like "Underground Health," and I saw some otherwise very intelligent people post it in my own newsfeed. However, none of them sounded as bonkers as Leah, who uses the expression "common sense" to refer to vaccination just like President Obama did! Except, like, the opposite of what President Obama meant. Also, I read the line, "Does that make us rebels, irresponsible parents, or free human beings? - guess it depends on how you spin it," out loud to myself, and I used a verrrry condescending tone. No blindfolds here.
Anita is the worst kind of mommyjacker. Her comments are unwarranted, unwanted (as opposed to "presumed unwanted," since I'm guessing Tori fundamentally disagrees with Anita here), AND she TRIPLE MOMMYJACKED in an effort to make her wacko points which include declaring "brain injury" as a side effect of being vaccinated. Something tells me she wasn't educated about "the dangers of vaccines" at an accredited institution.
3. Mama Drama: Vaccine Edition
Oh, SNAP. These two grammarians really go at it, just like Zuckerberg envisioned would one day happen when he created The Facebook in his underwear. Although, who could've predicted that so many people would be arguing in 2015 about fucking vaccines. I guess anything is possible when you're dealing with mommyjackers like Katrina who jump on other people's posts to argue a medieval outlook with demands like "stop dribbling shit!!"
This conversation reminds me of an old post on STFU, Parents in which a mom named Taisha famously said, "I do not want any vaccination injected into my children that have the cells of aborted fetuses in them. I take that VERY VERY seriously." Is it asking too much to request that we turn a state -- say, Arizona -- into an anti-vaxxer Land of Paradise? So the rest of us (and our kids) can live without rashes on our faces? That'd be cool.
5. Vast And Credible Research
JJ Keith's article on the Huffington Post is what inspired my last vaccine column, and it remains relevant for this one. More articles like hers should be published so that conversations like this one are had. NO, A., "there is NOT vast and credible research on both sides of the issue." J. done schooled your ass with that flash of reality. Go back to the drawing board on this subject -- and for the love of god, stop comparing vaccination to previously debunked "cure alls." We're smarter than that now. Join us.