I have engaged with a few people who are anti-vaccination for a number of reasons. I believe that people who are against the use of vaccines believe that they have strong reasons for their beliefs and practices. I wish to engage with people–some of whom I know personally–on a thoughtful level that does not denigrate their sometimes deeply held beliefs. I do believe that those who line up in the anti-vaccination camp are mistaken on a number of topics, and I understand the anger that some have against those who refuse to vaccinate, but I wish to avoid that with this list that I’m putting together.
Here, I hope to gather a list of links to engage with arguments from the anti-vaccination side in a thoughtful way. I hope to avoid putting anything on here that will denigrate those who are anti-vaccination, but rather make it a resource list to engage with. The list will grow as I find more links to add. It is by no means complete, and will begin here with far fewer resources than I hope to have later. I’ve arranged it by either key words or topics, and added what I hope is a fair summary of the anti-vaccination argument under the topic before I link some evidence against the argument. In some cases I’ve type up a brief response to go along with the resource(s). I hope you find this useful, whatever your background. If you have some resources you believe belong on this list, please share them, though I make no guarantees I will add them. Please, if you wish to share resources, make sure they have adequate citations, are not memes, and do not belittle others.
Vaccine Injury Court
Anti-Vaccination Argument(s): The fact that we have a vaccine injury court suggests that vaccines are unsafe. After all, if they were safe, there’d be no need to have such a court. The court has paid out billions of dollars for vaccine injuries, which means that vaccines are not safe.
Brief Response: Simply having a vaccine injury court does not guarantee that vaccines are dangerous. Though it is true that $3.18 billion has been paid out for vaccine-related injuries by this court, a large percentage of these were settled without ever agreeing that the vaccine caused an injury. Moreover, if one divides the $3.18 billion by the number of vaccines administered in the United States (2.5 billion between 2006-2014 alone), you get an average of $1.27 per vaccine being awarded. That’s incredibly low and suggests that simply based on dollars spent on purported injuries, vaccines are, in fact, incredibly safe. Of course the 3.18 billion should be divided by all vaccines since 1988 when the fund was established, but that would make the number much lower.
Here’s How the Anti-Vaxxers’ Strongest Argument Falls Apart– the title is a bit provocative, but the information it contains is strong. It notes how the vaccine injury court is set up, how frequently it is less expensive to settle than to try to disprove a claim of vaccine injury, and demonstrates that the numbers do not hold up to saying vaccines are harmful.
Doctors Against Vaccines
Argument: Some doctors are also against use of vaccines, so the evidence can go either way.
Brief Response: Anecdotal evidence does not trump research and numerous studies that seem to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of vaccines. As in almost any area where there is a consensus position, there will be a limited number of people who dissent.
Vaccines Cause Autism
Argument: Some study(ies) demonstrated that vaccines are linked to autism. There is a correlation between the number of vaccines administered and the increase of cases of autism in the United States.
Brief response: Correlations are often spurious, as a rather entertaining website can help you explore. Correlation is not (always) evidence of causation, and correlations between all kinds of unrelated things can easily be drawn (again, check out the linked text in the sentence before this one). Not only that, but the studies that purport to demonstrate this link have been largely discredited.
Autism Science Foundation– This website, dedicated to looking at scientific evidence related to autism and research in that area, states clearly: “Vaccines save lives; they do not cause autism. Numerous studies have failed to show a causal link between vaccines and autism. Vaccine safety research should continue to be conducted by the public health system in order to ensure vaccine safety and maintain confidence in our national vaccine program, but further investment of limited autism research dollars is not warranted at this time.” The site also has its own list of resources related to studies that have shown that there is no causal link between vaccines and autism.
Doctor in MMR-Autism Scare Ruled Unethical– Dr. Andrew Wakefield is a big name in the anti-vaccination movement, and his studies are sometimes taken to be definitive justification for several of that movement’s positions. However, it is worth noting that Wakefield’s research has been ruled unethical–including paying children at a birthday party to give blood. Moreover, his research practice was deemed dishonest and irresponsible according to the medical panel’s ruling. It is difficult to see why he should continue to be trusted without a quite extraordinary conspiracy going on to discredit his research. It is the research itself that has been demonstrated to be wrong, and his methodology shown to be flawed and “dishonest.” In light of these findings, those who wish to continue to use Wakefield as a source must demonstrate the reliability of his research rather than simply pointing to it as a kind of dissent from consensus.