Links and Comments: About Vaccine Denial

» New York Times [and elsewhere, it’s syndicated], Frank Bruni, The Vaccine Lunacy:

We’re a curious species, and sometimes a sad one, chasing knowledge only to deny it, making progress only to turn away from its benefits.


We rightly govern what people can and can’t do with guns, seatbelts, drugs and so much more, all in the interest not just of their welfare but of everybody’s. Are we being dangerously remiss when it comes to making them wear the necessary armor against illnesses that belong in history books?

» NPR, Shankar Vedantam: The Psychology Behind Why Some Kids Go Unvaccinated

The more interesting articles recently aren’t about accusing “vaccination skeptics” of being lunatics, or of being irresponsible, but of trying to understand what their motivations are (some of whom are even high-income, supposedly well-educated folks in West Coast liberal enclaves, like Marin County).

Slate has this by Phil Plait: Disneyland, Measles, and Blame

I for one try not to castigate parents for this. What people forget is that most parents who don’t vaccinate aren’t dumb, and they don’t think they’re being selfish. They simply love their children, and don’t want them to be hurt. This belief is quite mistaken, of course, but it doesn’t change the fact that they believe it.

The NPR item is audio and I’m not going to try to transcribe, but it’s about how to and how not to persuade vaccination skeptics – reasoning and evidence don’t work. It’s about building relationships and trust. Otherwise it’s more important to them to conform to the narrative of their community/tribe [Vedantam actually uses the word tribe]. And (and I’m conflating this item with another report on BBC later today) the need among certain people, including those high-income liberals, to feel superior to those elitist scientist eggheads and medical professionals who must have something to hide. The need to be special; the need to remain pure. Oh, and of course suspicion that any government mandate is tantamount to socialism, ick! Some people are happy to let kids, even their own kids, get measles, because freedom!

On that note, this, also from Slate: Republicans put liberty ahead of life. Title says all.

And in Slate’s series about how news events like this would be covered by American media if they happened in other countries: Traditional Beliefs and Distrust of Authority Fueling Disease Outbreak:

Despite funding cuts that have impacted the country’s byzantine and often insufficient health care infrastructure, vaccines against measles and other diseases are widely available. But in most regions of the country, they are optional, and many parents—under the influence of celebrities, political ideologues, and radical clerics—choose not to have their children vaccinated, due to the mistaken belief that the vaccines are dangerous. As a result, this prosperous nation now has a lower vaccination rate than Zimbabwe

File all this under narrative is more important than reality. (This is how this subject fits into my narrative — see provisional conclusions — for which I’m having no trouble finding real world evidence.)

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