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The Sins of the Anti-vaxxer Movement

Photo by: KathrinPie via Pixabay

One of the most infuriating biocultural phenomena to sweep across Western nations in recent years has been the challenge to the validity of vaccinations. The so-called anti-vaxxer movement espouses the idea that vaccines are actually bad for people or, at the very least, not worth whatever good they do. The rationale behind this as well as the assessment of what negative effects vaccines have are not consistently argued from one person to another among the movement as some will contend that vaccines for women deform or kill their babies due to latent effects occurring long before they become pregnant. As such, the movement is fraught with those who refuse to vaccinate their children now, which has yielded a measles outbreak in the western U.S.

A family recently lost their 7-month-old son. Jordan DeRosier posted on Facebook on July 3 that, Sloan Valor DeRosier, unexpectedly died, which she recounted in a heartfelt post: “Our sweet rainbow warrior, your short time on this earth blessed so many. You were a gift to all who knew you, and an inspiration to all who didn’t. Your death has impacted this world, it has left an emptiness felt by so many. Proof that you held with you so much light and grace. You were not able to live out our dreams for you, yet our dreams are where we will find you forever.”

 

In the wake of his death, anti-vaxxers blamed vaccinations for the death on social media almost immediately without knowing the cause at all. The movement took her son’s death and her pain and ran with it, and everything snowballed from there. Because of this, DeRosier shared the actual cause of death on Facebook the next day. It was never her intention to share that part of the news about the circumstances of her son’s death, but she shared it anyway in order to correct those who had falsely blamed vaccines. “To those who keep commenting and messaging trying to blame vaccines for our sons [sic] death—stop,” she wrote. “Initially I had not wanted to explain the detailed circumstances of his death because of my guilt and the fear of condemnation from others. But I will not allow anyone to try and place blame where it does not belong.

 

“He was last laid down to bed with his blanket made by his great-great grandmother, and one other blanket, a grey one he had been attached to since birth. They took the grey one he had been found with his head in. He had pulled it through the crib rails somehow and gotten himself stuck in it. You never think it will happen to you. You never think it will be your baby. Please do not put your babies to bed with a blanket. Please. He was 7 months old, I thought because he was crawling, standing on his own, and climbing, that he would be fine with a blanket.

“This is the face of immense, unfathomable grief, the face of longing, of heartbreak, of self inflicted GUILT. I will NEVER stop feeling responsible. I will relive this for the rest of my life knowing EXACTLY what I could have done differently. Please learn from my world shattering mistake.”

 

The rising sentiments of distrust toward science in general has fueled this willingness to challenge established facts and particularly the validity of vaccines. The resultant anti-vaxxer movement only brought greater pain to an already wounded mother who hated to have to divulge any additional details regarding the death of her infant son, and she only felt so compelled because dealing with the real cause of death was too painful to also be subjected to the careless misappropriation of her tragedy to serve the ends of a misguided movement.

 

Vaccines are quite safe, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and their primary risks are only temporary side effects from the process of actually getting a shot like swelling and redness around the injection site. It is also possible for people to have allergic reactions to the contents of a vaccine, depending on the patient and the substance in question, but even this is a rare occurrence, especially in light of medical records usually warning physicians in advance of any such allergies. For example, doctors will rarely make the mistake of administering penicillin to a patient who is allergic, so allergic reactions to penicillin are quite uncommon despite how common penicillin allergies actually are.

Vaccines are often said to cause autism according to anti-vaxxers, which is attributed to the falsified study published by Andrew Wakefield. Wakefield’s study falsely asserted that MMR vaccines were linked (suggesting a causal relationship) to autism in children, and his claims were later disproven. His study also accrued considerable attention for being a false document as well as the start of an anti-vaccine movement. Wakefield’s medical license was also revoked in the aftermath of his falsification becoming a public indiscretion.

 

The CDC reports that there is no such causal link between vaccines and autism of any kind, and public health officials argue to the contrary that “benefits of getting vaccines are much greater than the possible side effects for almost all children.” Beyond this, they estimate that having administered vaccines to babies and children for two consecutive decades will prevent “21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths” in the future.

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