Reasons Behind Parental Refusal Of Vaccines

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Disease and illness have plagued the human race for as long as we have walked the earth. Similarly, to disease, the spread of misinformation also has dreadful effects. The anti-vaccination movement has become a health crisis and is fueled by the distortion of facts that have been passed down through the internet. You can think of the internet as a game of telephone, the more the information is circulated the more incorrect it becomes. As more parents buy into the fallacious reasoning of the group known as the “anti-vaxxers” (a group against vaccinations especially for children due to the fear that vaccines cause autism or other side effects) the more children are left without the protection of vaccines to shelter them from a horrible illness. The most prominent illness to flare up in recent years has been Measles. The anti-vaccination movement has led to many rejecting vaccinations for their children, the rise of serious and preventable illness seeping into schools, and even mortality of the innocent.

As a little bit of background, vaccinations have been around for centuries, the first implementation of vaccination was in the 1700s. As stated by, Dr. Stanley A. Plotkin, Emeritus Professor of the University of Pennsylvania, American physician and consultant to vaccine manufacturers, “As the development of vaccines continues in the twenty-first century, and as it is now over 215 years since vaccinology was launched by Edward Jenner’s observations of the powers of cowpox to prevent smallpox, it is useful to contemplate the past” Since their implementation, vaccines have only become safer and more effective as modern medicine has developed. In this “modern era” of vaccines the child mortality rate is as low as it has ever been, but with the enactment of the modern anti-vaccination movement, those rates have been put into jeopardy. Countless parents believe their children will be fine without being vaccinated, however, history tells a different story. Just think about a time before vaccinations, the Black Plague, for instance, millions of individuals perished. If there was a way to prevent the ailment, millions of lives could have been spared. It seems senseless in today’s day and age to reject protection from disease for a child in fear of trivial side effects.

Initially, the modern anti-vaccination movement arose through the spread of misinformation and it is still, to this day, fueled by it. In the age of social media many look to google for medical advice and diagnosis. After all, looking at Google is much easier than venturing out into the world to visit a physician. Naturally, searching the web is the first thing many will do when in need of advice. Markye S. Steffens is a Ph.D. candidate at the Centre for Health Informatics at Macquarie University’s Australian Institute of Health Innovation. Steffens has a background in science communication and the media. Steffens describes the term misinformation as follows, “The term misinformation refers to false information shared without the intention of har. Vaccination misinformation is any claim that has been investigated and rejected with reasonable confidence in the peer-reviewed literature”. To further her claim Steffens also states that, “Misinformation is associated with serious public health consequences, such as increased public fear and loss in vaccine confidence. Misinformation may lower vaccine acceptability and vaccination rates, and clusters of refusal are associated with disease outbreaks”. The majority of anti-vax parents refuse advice and recommendations of doctors and instead get their information from others within the group. They then take to sites like Google or Facebook to share their newfound data as to why vaccinations are wicked. This leads to more and more parents reading and buying into the unreliable resources provided online. These parents choose to either not vaccinate or at least hesitate to vaccinate due to the misinformation they have received. Hesitation opens a window for illness in children which can be just as detrimental as no vaccines at all. The spread of misinformation is very much a deadly cycle as the information spreads like a wildfire creating more opportunities for individuals to become persuaded to refuse the advice of physicians in favor of the latest Facebook research.

Nevertheless, it is undeniable that there is valuable information to be found on the internet even regarding medical help. There is an abundance of data to be found from many different sources online. Anna Kirkland, the Director of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender (IRWG), and Director of the Science, Technology, and Society Program at the University of Michigan states that “The most important current media sources (based on their validation in survey and interview research about where parents get vaccine-critical information, Internet prominence, and their prominence according to speakers at the NVIC conference) are Peggy O’Mara’s Mothering Magazine and Arianna Huffington’s Huffington Post blog.” There can be interesting data and stories provided in blog posts and magazines, the information can also be very persuasive at times. Though, the point to be made here is not that there is no interesting or reliable information to be found online. The problem is in the reliability of the sources the information is found in. As Dr. Steffens states, “While these online spaces are useful for promoting health, there are few safeguards preventing the promotion of misinformation. Misinformation can be popular, persuasive, and spread with relative ease”. The leading resources for anti-vax data prove to be unreliable. It can be difficult for people searching the web to sort between reliable and unreliable information furthering the misinformation. The facts found online may not come from credible sources and many people are unable to realize that they are reading statements that are not backed up by professionals. When in search of medical guidance, the most trustworthy source would be from physicians themselves or at least articles written or approved by educated professionals in the medical field.

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Consequently, anti-vax parents have much to say about vaccinations, especially regarding information being given regarding the side effects involved with vaccines, they believe we are not being told the entire truth. Ron Whitmont, MD is the president of the American Institute of Homeopathy, he delves into the fears of anti-vaxxers and supports such ideas. Dr. Whitmont states that “There is a tremendous amount of media coverage being devoted to the measles vaccination and extremely limited information regarding potential risks and side effects” The fear is that there are truths being hidden from the public eye. Among the anti-vaxx community, there is an anxiety of deception. This is a common fear that comes with anything that includes possible side effects. People often fear that there is something they are not being told. There have been cases of illness being linked to vaccinations, but we seldom hear about them in the media. This is a legitimate concern especially when it comes to the safety of a child. Media tends to cover the most impactful stories that come up. Rarely will the news or other media sources cover stories that impact small groups of people? The cases involving illness regarding vaccinations are affecting much less of the population than outbreaks of illness such as measles. News media may not be covering these stories since they are not “groundbreaking” enough, but there is a lot of information and research to be found incredible journals and writings from physicians themselves. Of course, there is some degree of illness related to vaccinations, not everyone reacts similarly to the ingredients. Components found within vaccinations will have adverse effects on certain people, the same as anything else. Some people can eat peanuts, and some are highly allergic. This is not deemed newsworthy as it is not a threat to all. Dr. Andrew W. Campbell is the medical director of the Medical Center for Immune and Toxic Disorders in Houston Texas. Dr. Campbell states “When it comes to adverse events from vaccines, keeping in mind that there is nothing that is 100% safe, since 1989, pharmaceutical companies have paid out only $2.3 billion for vaccine injuries” This may seem like a high number, but over the span of 30 years and with the sizeable amount of vaccinations being given every year this is not as many cases as one might think. Yes, there are cases regarding vaccination injury, but this does not mean all cases are life-threatening or lifelong. According to the Health Resources & Services Administration, “The United States has the safest, most effective vaccine supply in history. In the majority of cases, vaccines cause no side effects, however, they can occur, as with any medication—but most are mild. Very rarely, people experience more serious side effects, like allergic reactions.” Many cases of injury or illness linked to vaccinations are mild. Nothing is foolproof, there are risks with anything in life. The chance of mild effects should not be enough to deter people from vaccinating children. The risks of illnesses such as measles are more costly than the risks of possible adverse vaccination reactions.

Moreover, as a result of the fear and rejection of vaccinations, comes the gloomy matter of mortality. When children are not vaccinated, they are put at high risk for death. A child’s immune system is not as strong as an adult’s, they are much more likely to be infected and the effects can be much more detrimental to a child. Dr. Jeremy Goldhaber-Fiebert is an assistant professor of medicine at Stanford University. He has done extensive research on measles and other childhood infectious diseases. According to Dr. Fiebert, “Historically, measles infections have been a major cause of morbidity and mortality in children, even though effective measles-containing vaccines (MCV) were first developed more than 40 years ago.” Fiebert also states that “Thus far, substantial progress has been made. In 2008, there were an estimated 164,000 measles deaths, a 78% reduction compared to mortality in 2000”. Measles is a vicious disease that can only be prevented with vaccination. As the quality of vaccines improves, they become more effective at keeping the killer infectious disease at bay. When you remove the vaccine from the equation, children begin to lose their lives.

Although, there are always two sides to the coin. Many parents are willing to take the chance of their children contracting the disease. This seems to be the thinking of many anti-vaxx parents, that contracting the disease will create immunity. Such as children contracting chickenpox, if one is infected early on then it can be avoided later in life. This is also the thinking of Dr. Whitmont who was mentioned above. Dr. Whitmont claims that “with measles, by allowing children to contract this illness and develop permanent immunity, very few adults will get the disease, and the rate of more serious complications will be much lower since adults get more complications from this illness than children”. This is a major claim in the reasoning in many anti-vaxx parents’ logic. They believe that contracting the Measles virus will be beneficial later in life. Maybe contracting the illness will grant immunity, but by allowing a child to contract the illness there comes a chance that they will spread the disease. Yes, there may be a chance of survival. This is not true for all children, there have been many cases of children perishing from the virus. With vaccination, the chances of anyone dying from Measles can be reduced greatly, even to zero with eradication. Eradication of the illness seems like a much more logical route than risking infection and gambling with a child’s health.

Furthermore, one thing that needs to be more closely examined is the statement that Measles does not affect children as adversely as it does adults. This statement is not necessarily true, especially in children who have other health complications. Dr. Johan C. Bester is a bioethicist with much experience as an assistant professor in medical school education as well as clinical ethics practice at the University of Nevada. Dr. Bester wrote an article on the obligation parents has to vaccinate their children against Measles. In his article, Dr. Bester writes, “children with measles who are malnourished or have vitamin A deficiency may have death rates as high as 25%. Furthermore, children in highly vaccinated societies who remain unvaccinated and then get measles are estimated to be at 4.5 times higher risk for measles complications”. Children who are unvaccinated create a cycle; they contract the disease then spread it to other unvaccinated children. Therefore, measles has been able to spread rapidly in recent years. The no vaccination trend is deathlier than many anti-vaxx parents want to believe. The facts are there, measles has killed many children. Children who are sickly, to begin with, having a higher death rate. Also, unvaccinated children that are around children who are vaccinated are more likely to suffer complications with the disease. Which in many areas, the majority of children are vaccinated, this puts unvaccinated children at an even higher risk of death. Measles is not only life-threatening, but it also has lingering effects. Another statement from Dr. Bester’s article is, “Measles also leads to immune suppression that can linger for years after measles infection. Previously this immune suppression was thought to last only a few weeks or months after infection, but recent analysis has shown it to last much longer, up to 3 years.” So, after a child contracts measles, they are immune, great. Now the child must deal with a severely lowered immunity to other illnesses. They were not only at risk of dying from Measles but now they are also at risk of dying from numerous other illnesses as well. Again, the best way to keep a child safe from these awful consequences is to vaccinate them. There is an understanding that not all children can be vaccinated, there are complications that come up. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Because of age, health conditions, or other factors, some people should not get certain vaccines or should wait before getting them”. From CDC’s website, an example of something that restricts a person from getting the measles vaccine is: “Has had an allergic reaction after a previous dose of MMR or MMRV vaccine, or has any severe, life-threatening allergies.” This is out of a parent’s hands. When a child is allergic to a vaccine there is no choice but to not get that vaccine. This is a reason more kids should be vaccinated, for the sake of those that can’t get the vaccination. When denying vaccination for personal beliefs or the fear of side effects they are putting their own children and those that can’t receive vaccinations at risk. Parents of children who are unable to get vaccinated must be very careful about who their children come in contact with. Most of these parents would love to give their children protection, but that is not always an option. Even for the sake of others, vaccinations are security.

All things considered, vaccinations offer protection for children. A parent’s main goal should be to shield their child from illness and injury. Denying vaccines opens the door for illness to enter a child’s life. Children are innocent, they do not make choices for themselves. Children rely on the guidance of their parents. If a parent chooses the wrong path for their little ones, they risk tragedy. For all parents, it is crucial to understand the costs of denying a child vaccination. Weigh the risks, is it worth it? Think of the lives already lost to infectious diseases. Don’t let another child suffer the consequences of the decision to not vaccinate. These children are the future, they are the doctors, presidents, and scientists of the time to come. They are needed here on earth to make it a better place, they were not meant to just be another statistic of the dangers of anti-vaccination. Defend the children, they can’t do it on their own.

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Reasons Behind Parental Refusal Of Vaccines. (2021, September 07). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 20, 2024, from
“Reasons Behind Parental Refusal Of Vaccines.” Edubirdie, 07 Sept. 2021,
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