Vaccine communication & anti-vaxxers

 

In the past 40 years, Danish research has shown that the story of vaccines is not quite as simple as the World Health Organization, national health authorities and others portray it.

– from Vaccines – an unresolved story, Science News DK

Why do we see a backlash against vaccines these days?

I wonder if it’s partly connected with the way governments and doctors have communicated vaccine information. They tend to strongly push it and focus on the very real benefits of vaccines, while ignoring or glossing over the equally real complexity and occasional downsides.

Why would officials and authorities push vaccines in a one-sided way? It may come from thinking they obviously are needed and should be used so they don’t see the need to include the other side of the argument. They may want to avoid muddling the water or give ammunition to anti-vaxxers. Another factor may be lobbying from the powerful pharmaceutical industry since they obviously benefit from mass-scale vaccination projects.

As anyone who has ever been a child or teenager knows, one-sided persuasive communication creates a backlash. We know reality is not that simple. We know they are leaving something out. If we are a bit informed, we know what they leave out. So there will obviously be a backlash.

With a more balanced and grounded communication, it’s likely that the response also would be more balanced and grounded. Yes, vaccines are amazing and often a very good way to go. And yet, there are complexities and possible downsides that need to be addressed. Both are part of the picture.

We are used to accept risk. Cars help us get around but they also kill people. Pesticides may allow for an easier larger yield, but these too kill people. Medicines helps people stay healthy and alive, and they have side-effects and kill people in the wrong dosage. Hospitals help people stay alive, and hospitals also kill people – through mistakes, antibiotic-resistant infections, and so on.

We know about these risks, and most of us accept them.

And so also with vaccines. Yes, they often have some risks. And yet, their benefits often outweigh these risks. Most people are willing to accept the risk of some vaccines, especially if they are informed about these risks and feel the authorities are honest and open about it. In other cases, vaccines may seem less needed or the risks may be too high.

Through a more informed discussion, we could collectively be more discerning about when, how, and for whom any one vaccine is helpful.

This is an example of how conspiracy theories often have some basis in reality, although usually not in a literal sense. Yes, the issue of vaccines is more complex than authorities tend to acknowledge. And no, there is most likely no vast conspiracy behind it apart from the usual pressure and influence from those who benefit from it financially.

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