Vaccine Debate Heavily Influenced by Media and Entertainment

Photo Courtesy of Novartis AG, Flickr Creative Commons

Popular culture has yet again played up the vaccine debate through comedy, presenting the issue for discussion in the forums of public opinion on the Internet and television. Recently, Jimmy Kimmel did a segment on the topic. He discussed vaccinations and why they make sense and then invited doctors to put a strict message out about why vaccines are necessary.

One of the doctors said, “Hey, remember that time you got polio? No, you don’t, because your parents got you (expletive) vaccinated!”

The show raised a firestorm. Kimmel did a follow up where he laughed at the hateful tweets sent to him and refused to give the apology they asked for. Similarly, CollegeHumor on YouTube used the TV show “The Magic School Bus” as a parody about educatingparents on vaccination. Some of these displays have angered fans to the point of signing petitions to have these videos removed or to have apologies given.

Jenny McCarthy is one of the first to advocate for parents’ choice, even though she claims she is not anti-vaccine. Either way, this movement has taken a beating from the public sphere, and the people supporting the movement have gone further and further into the resources they abide by to get their position across. In this case, popular culture is playing a large role in the formation of people’s opinions on the subject, both in support and against the vaccines. Science, however, is not so spilt.

The resounding majority of the scientific community, say that vaccines are safe and should be given to kids to protect them. The objections often come from people who claim vaccination causes autism, virus shedding, adverse side effects and the absorption of toxins. This is overwhelmingly false — none of the prior claims listed have any scientific merit. The article written by Andrew Wakefield in 1998 claiming autism was related to vaccines was retracted in 2010 and proven by almost every scientist since to have no merit and be ethically wrong to publish.

An article by Fiona Godlee, editor in chief, Jane Smith, deputy editor and Harvey Marcovitch, associate editor for the, discusses journalist Brian Deer’s research, claiming: “Deer shows how Wakefield altered numerous facts about the patients’ medical histories in order to support his claim to have identified a new syndrome; how his institution, the Royal Free Hospital and Medical School in London, supported him as he sought to exploit the ensuing MMR scare for financial gain; and how key players failed to investigate thoroughly in the public interest when Deer first raised his concerns.”

Other arguments against vaccines include the idea that medical professionals are paid to support claims that, according to the movement, are not true. 

The people we trust with our lives are saying to get vaccines, and I trust doctors more than Internet commenters, but maybe that is crazy. If so, sign me up, because I would rather be a follower than ignorant.