Despite all of the scientific evidence made available by medical professionals, there are still a lot of dedicated anti-vaccine parents out there. These people’s false vaccine beliefs are not only unfounded but also dangerous. Unfortunately, as one Facebook post by an anti-vax mother shows, people who are against vaccines sometimes live in an echo chamber.
The Facebook status posted by the anti-vax mother shows a parent lamenting their adult child’s decision to have herself vaccinated. While the status itself shows a stunning level of ignorance, where the problems really lie is in the comments of the status. The mother’s friends seem to support her and parrot her beliefs.
Anti-vaccine beliefs seemed to stem from Andrew Wakefield’s now discredited 1998 article published in the Lancet. The paper claimed that vaccines were linked to autism, however, in 2010 the Lancet discredited the study as the results could not be replicated. Wakefield was also stripped of his medical license the same year.
Despite the overwhelming evidence from the medical and scientific community, some people, such as this anti-vax mother, still seem to think that vaccines are dangerous.
Furthermore, people who believe strongly in something will often only seek out opinions that support their beliefs. This is known as confirmation bias, and the comments are a perfect example of this.
The comments continue to support the anti-vax mother’s false belief that she might know more about vaccines and medicine than an actual doctor. Luckily it appears the woman’s daughter knew better than what her mother might have tried to teach her.
The anti-vaccine movement has had real-world consequences. California passed one of the toughest inoculation laws in the United States in 2015 after a measles outbreak that originated at Disneyland.
According to the World Health Organization, reported cases of measles have also risen sharply in Italy, Romania, and Ukraine. Across Europe, cases of measles almost quadrupled last year (21,000 cases in 2017 compared to 5273 in 2016).
However, people who share the opinions of this anti-vax mother typically hold onto their beliefs so strongly, that no amount of actual scientific evidence will change their minds. In fact, it may have the opposite effect.
People whose opinions are challenged may hold more strongly to those beliefs. This phenomenon was deemed the “backfire effect” by journalist David McRaney. The backfire effect was observed in a 2006 study by researchers at the University of Michigan and Georgia State University, which showed that people’s political beliefs became stronger when presented with contradictory evidence.
While it’s nice to know that this mother cares enough about her daughter to worry about her health and well-being, she should at the very least respect her daughter’s decisions without openly criticizing them on Facebook.
By the end of the comment thread, things take a turn for the worse, with people beginning to hope that the daughter becomes ill or suffers a serious medical reaction. Even the woman’s mother hopes for her to get some kind of “wake up call.”
Online reaction to the Facebook status and its comments have been negative. People are angered at the anti-vax mother’s stance and apparent lack of knowledge.
Other commenters were impressed by the daughter’s insistence on getting vaccinated, despite what her mother was telling her for years.
Some people expressed not anger, but sadness at the fact that some people would choose to refuse medical care for either themselves or their children, and that doing so puts others at risk.
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