The Anti-Vaccine Movement and how it has Caused a Regression in Modern Medicine.


By Luigi Pugliese, Assistant Reporter


Recent times have given us much to fear in terms of illness and the suffering it causes. Luckily, with the advancement of modern medicine, vaccines have given us a way to protect ourselves from these ailments and prevent their spread. However, groups of people have existed since the creation of these vaccines who oppose producing and administering them in their entirety, claiming that the vaccines only serve as a government effort to hurt and control people, seemingly ignoring the facts of the subject, and refusing to consume media that does not share their viewpoints.


Vaccines are one of, if not the most, significant developments of preventative medicine ever made. Vaccines have played a vital role in the decreasing rates and, in some cases, complete eradication of common childhood diseases, such as smallpox, polio, and malaria. However, through the rampant spread of misinformation, widespread distrust has developed towards vaccination, with those who believe this preferring to leave themselves fully vulnerable to these diseases overtaking the vaccine. This is an erroneous conclusion, as many widespread and terrible illnesses, such as polio and smallpox, have been entirely eradicated by vaccination, and they have rarely been reported to have any significant long-term adverse effects at all. The spread of this movement can be attributed to the demonization of vaccines by the media, with prominent and influential voices spreading doubt and misinformation, which inevitably has led to a drop in vaccination rates in Western countries. One such case is Oprah Winfrey, who gave credence to the Anti-Vaccine movement on her talk show. Other reasons for the size of the movement could be due to personal reasons, such as political or religious views.

The spread of misinformation and distrust has only been expedited by the internet and its ease of access. This has had terrible repercussions across the affected areas, such as measles outbreaks throughout Europe and America, most notably the outbreak in 2014-2015, which was entirely preventable if the early patients had taken the vaccine. Today, the covid vaccine can block out most, if not all, the symptoms of the virus, as well as prevent you from catching it entirely. However, the need for face masks will persist if those who refuse to take the vaccine continue in their viewpoint. Those who cannot take the vaccine due to medical reasons or conditions, such as being immunocompromised, remain in danger from the virus. In a world as connected as the one we live in today, the lack of vaccinations poses a significant threat to the herd immunity that we had come so close to finally achieving.


The movement against vaccinations is nothing new — it goes back hundreds of years to the creation of vaccines themselves. The first example of using a practice like vaccines was in 1721, during the Boston smallpox epidemic, where a doctor named Zabdiel Boylston “inoculated” someone, meaning he infected them with a minor form of smallpox so that their body could build a resistance to the disease. Boylston’s practice ended up working incredibly well, and it is the basis for today’s vaccines. Eventually, some Christians, namely Edmund Massey, began to see these inoculations as “diabolical operations” and “works of the devils” during Christian sermons and in writings. The most notable example of this is Edmund Massey’s speech titled “A sermon against the dangerous and sinful practice of inoculation,” which stated that people did not have the right to “escape God’s judgment” or “avoid His test of your faith” and should instead “trust the Lord to keep [them] well.” Massey also argued that doctors did not have the right to assume the role of God by intentionally giving the disease to their patients, nor did they have the right to interrupt God’s plan for that person, whether it be death or life.


Access to medical information online has drastically changed the medical world and the dynamic of the industry. Knowledge that was once bound to books and journals held by professionals is now easily accessible by the public. However, this has also had the effect of making false information just as easy to find. A quick search on YouTube or Facebook can net you tens of thousands of results featuring clearly incorrect information with much better ratings than posts containing accurate information. Despite content moderators and policies within social media platforms attempting to purge and drive attention away from misinformation, it still manages to make its way through regardless. The posts that make their way through almost always paint vaccines in a negative light, saying that taking the vaccine can and will harm you and those around you, which is blatantly untrue.


Anti-vaccination authors use several tactics to further their agendas and get their point across to those who have not done proper research by themselves. These tactics include ignoring opposition, attacking critics, skewing or outright denying science, and more. A study conducted by Kortum P. Edwards investigating how effectively users assessed the accuracy of medical information about vaccines online concluded that 59% of people thought a sample of 40 medical sites were entirely accurate; however only 18 out of the 40 sites they were given were actually accurate, and more than half of the participants (53%) left with significant misconceptions about vaccination.


Religion is a very common reason for the refusal of vaccination. Namely, the MMR vaccine caused great controversy due to its ingredients, with some groups outright refusing to take it because of them. One of the most controversial parts of the MMR vaccine was that it was initially derived from aborted fetal tissue cells, meaning that those opposed to abortion due to religious reasons commonly refused to take it. Others believed that if a person were to get sick and die, it would go against God to change their fate through vaccines because they thought their death was their predestined fate.


The movement against vaccines has taken its toll on those who choose to participate in it, has caused numerous unnecessary deaths, and has led to entirely avoidable pain and stress. Many who refuse to get the vaccine against COVID-19 have taken measures to lie about their vaccination, forging vaccination cards so they can continue their lives without the vaccine. While there may be religious, political, or personal reasons behind people’s refusal to get the vaccine, the one thing that stands true throughout each group is that they are not only hurting themselves but those around them as well.