I would like to take a moment to thank anti-vaxxers. I know that sounds strange, coming from a medical professional who passionately defends the safety and necessity of vaccines for our nation’s children, but stay with me. There’s a reason I am thanking them..
For years, healthcare workers have watched the rates of unvaccinated children grow. We’ve been powerless to stop it. We have watched as the number of antivaccine or “vaccine hesitant” parents creep up, due in large part to the spread of misinformation on the internet. Again, we have been challenged as providers to find enough time to combat that misinformation and still dedicate our valuable minutes to serving our communities in the healthcare setting.
We have little time left over to march on the lawns of state houses or to lobby our leaders for the protection of our children. All we can do is show up to work and educate parents as much as possible, send an e-mail or two, and maybe find a stray minute to post a social media article in support of vaccines.-Perhaps a select few of us find a rare spare minute per day to tic out a pro science blog post. But, for the most part, we have been unable to do much more to show our state and federal leaders the dangers of anti-vaccine propaganda. This is where we are being helped out by the anti-vaxxers themselves.
That which we could not accomplish, the anti-vaxxers are doing for us- and this is where we owe them a debt of gratitude. The anti-vaxxers have demonstrated that they have plenty of time to make runs on the lawns of congressional buildings, hold rallies and protests, and most recently- stalk and harass elected officials (see video link). It’s become a popular means of attention within their organizations to post videos riddled with yelling, threats, accusations and aggressive behavior towards representatives at the state local levels who support vaccine legislature. It would seem, that the more bizarre and aggressive the behavior in the video is, the more kudos and accolades the individual receives from his or her fellow anti-vaccine lobbyists.
To the average person, and indeed lawmakers across all states, the message is being received loud and clear: Anti-Vaccine is synonymous with Extremist. This is the message that the medical community has tried but struggled to convey to law makers for years. Perhaps they had to see it for themselves to believe it. The anti-vaxxers have delivered that opportunity in stunning fashion! Yelling, screaming, hysteria, stalking, lying, chasing, interrupting, badgering, threatening……THANK YOU ANTI-VAXXERS! There would have been NO way for us to demonstrate the character of the anti-vaccine extremism without your absolute cooperation and willingness to showcase and support it.
Lawmakers once hesitant to engage on the issue have changed their stances to support pro-vaccine legislation in many states based on the personal harassment they have endured. Other law makers, once supportive or sympathetic to the anti-vaccine movement’s concerns, have made moves to distance themselves from the topic entirely. Elected officials who previously supported vaccination laws have dug their heels in deeper, with a greater resolve to draft legislation that ends the debate once and for all. These are the outcomes, that we as a pro-science community could not accomplish on our own.
Aside from lawmakers, viral videos of the aggressive and hysterical behavior toward elected officials have made it into the mainstream social media newsfeeds of the general public. Most reasonable people can spot unreasonable behavior that is disproportionate to the topic at hand. The general public has adopted the idea that Anti-vaxxism is synonymous with radical extremism as well. Even those who have concerns about vaccines carefully distance themselves with the movement by caveating statements with “I’m not anti-vaxx, but I have a concern….”- a sure fire way to determine that they view the group or idea negatively.
So thank you. Thank you anti-vaxxers for doing the one thing that we could not do- Show the world how crazy you really are.