Anti-Vaxxers Are Jerks -A Look At The Proof

I really enjoyed writing this, because it was a position paper I was able to step outside the more academic writing and make it more personal. While writing this I imagined my readers as parents or potential parents. I wanted to reach out to that demographic to give them information to help protect their children. I did this by making it a readable piece that readers would enjoy. Unlike other papers about this issue which tend to be dry and written by doctors. The position paper is a great genre to work with especially because I was passionate about the issue I chose to address.


I appealed to the pathos in this paper a couple of ways, first off through the use of humor. I didn't simply rest on that aspect however, instead working to incorporate ethos by using quotes and information from very reputable sources. The logos was as strong in this paper as in my report as I worked incorporate a great deal of facts on both sides of this divisive issues. While writing this I wanted to erase or overrule any excuse a parent might find to withhold vaccination for their child.




Anti-Vaxxers Are Jerks -A Look At The Proof

By Liz Adams




I’ll never forget the first time my daughter was vaccinated, it’s one of those moments that sticks in a parent’s mind for years afterwards. My daughter, still tiny at only two weeks old we laid her out on a seemingly huge medical table and held her little leg still, all so a burly looking nurse could jam a long needle into her. The look on my baby’s face will forever haunt me, all confused and horrified and I wanted to punch that nurse right in the face. I didn’t, but I really really wanted to. Despite my baby’s suffering and my own passionate dislike for Nurse Needle (a woman who would jab my daughter with many more needles before her vaccinations were finally over), I continued to have my daughter vaccinated. Why? Because I am not a jerk.


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The first vaccine was created by a doctor named Andrew Jenner over 250 years ago. Jenner’s smallpox vaccine was the first of many. In the years since that first discovery, vaccines have been created for nearly every fatal childhood disease. This advance in medicine has all but wiped out the illness that once haunted the nightmares of many concerned parents in the developed world. Unfortunately in the last few decades, a group of people (mostly parents but also the occasional doctor) have begun to undo the progress our world has made toward eradicating childhood disease. This group is referred to often in media as ‘Anti-Vaxxers,’ and they have chosen for a variety of reasons not to vaccinate their children. They are jerks and I intend to prove it.

Anti-Vaxxers offer a variety of reasons to decline vaccinating their children. Procon.org lists a collection of precieved cons to vaccination.  Some reasons, such as a religious objection, may seem reasonable to those outside of the Anti-Vaxxer community. Another reason many parents choose not to vaccinate their children is the fear of side effects that stem from childhood vaccines. Still more parents abstain due to a mistaken belief that the diseases we vaccinate against are gone and therefore no longer a threat to their children. All of these seem like reasonable objections, but let’s examine them further.

The religious objection to vaccines is not uncommon. Many faiths have restrictions on what kind of medical treatment their parishioners may receive. While it’s true that my personal beliefs balk at the idea that God doesn’t want children vaccinated, it is a faith held by many people. Believing that God objects to vaccination does not make these parents jerks. It is the way they handle their belief. Many parents who choose to withhold vaccination for their children on religious grounds also feel their children should be entitled to the same right to public school as other children. By enrolling their unvaccinated children into public school, those parents make a conscious choice to risk the health of other children. As the American Academy of Pediatrics points out, not all children can be vaccinated. Indeed, to children with diseases like cancer or with immune disorders, Vaccines do pose a risk. Anyone who knowingly endangers the health of children already made vulnerable by disease is a jerk.



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Many of the most popular Anti-Vaccine websites such as Vran.org (Vaccination Risk Awareness Network) and Nvic.org (National Vaccine Information Center) tout the dangerous side effects as the reason to avoid vaccines. Their websites offer horror stories of vaccinations gone wrong and feature lists of terrifying side effects. It’s enough to make any concerned parent at least hesitate. Unfortunately these risks are greatly exaggerated or nonexistent. While it is true that some vaccines have a risk of dangerous complications, those risks are so nominal they are barely worth counting. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the most dangerous side effect the average child will face from vaccination is a bit of swelling and discomfort. They do allow that worse side effects can happen, but even these are treatable with immediate medical care. So why are these sorts of parents jerks? That’s easy, these parents choose not to vaccinate their children against diseases that have a high documented mortality rate over side effects that might present. How much jerkier can you get?


Now we come to Autism, one of the most common reasons parents give for not vaccinating their kids. Many parents believe that Autism is caused by childhood vaccines, specifically the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine. The reasons for this belief are complicated, in JP Baker’s paper Mercury, Vaccines, and Autism One Controversy, Three Histories,  Baker discusses how the broader definition of Autism created a much higher rate of diagnoses in the last few decades. Unfortunately, this sudden spike in Autism diagnoses gave rise to the belief that there was an Autism epidemic which sent parents and doctors looking for a cause.


One of these doctors was a man named Andrew Wakefield. Andrew Wakefield could be considered the King Jerk of the Anti-Vaxxer movement because of a paper he released way back in 1998. This paper claimed to have found a link between the development of Autism and the MMR vaccine. The announcement sent shockwaves through the medical community and set off a public health scare that can be considered the birth of the Anti-Vaxxer movement. Researchers around the globe scrambled to duplicate Wakefield’s experiment. Unfortunately, they couldn’t, because the paper was nonsense. As questions rose about the validity of Wakefield’s paper, parents rallied around him. Sadly,  the UK’s General Medical Council did not. In 2010 they ruled Wakefield’s study both dishonest and unethical. Research found that Wakefield had taken money from pharmaceutical companies trying to market a new, more expensive version of the MMR vaccine. Wakefield never bothered to disclose that information in his paper. They also found that of the children used in Wakefield’s study, some had autism prior to the vaccines and others were not in fact autistic at all.

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Despite being discredited by the entire medical community, Anti-Vaxxers have rallied around Wakefield, some even going so far as to argue he is the victim of a conspiracy to discredit his valid findings. This misplaced belief does not in and of itself make them jerks, it just means they are not very bright. Despite that, these parents constitute the biggest jerks of the Anti-Vaxxer movement. Why? Because at the base of their argument is a shameful attitude which I cannot look past. Diseases like Measles, Mumps and Rubella have a history of causing death in children. By choosing not to vaccinate a child because they might become autistic, they are choosing to risk their child’s life rather than risk them becoming disabled. I cannot think of a more shameful, selfish decision, which is why parents who choose not to vaccinate due to fears of Autism are not only stupid, but also jerks.


The final argument we often hear from the Anti-Vaxxer side of the aisle is that the diseases for which we vaccinate are no longer a threat, therefore vaccination is pointless. This is simply not true. Parents using this excuse are often relying on the concept of ‘herd immunity’ to protect their children. In other words, because the people around them are vaccinated, their kids don’t need to be. This belief has led to a variety of outbreaks of otherwise preventable diseases around the United States. Whooping Cough, for example, is entirely preventable but continues to have thousands of cases in the US due to lack of vaccinations. Even diseases like the Mumps and the Measles have seen outbreaks in recent years.

This is due to a few reasons, one is that parents who choose not to vaccinate often seek out like minded communities, meaning their unvaccinated children all spend time together making an outbreak possible. Another is that the immune compromised, like the elderly or children with serious illnesses, cannot be vaccinated. This leaves more room for dangerous diseases to take hold. Finally, there is the fact that vaccines are not 100% effective. Most average out at about 90-95% effectiveness, meaning that even vaccinated children are at risk of catching or passing the disease, though usually the disease is far less dangerous in vaccinated children. What that means is not only are these anti-vaxxers endangering their own children. They are endangering everyone’s children which makes them. . .JERKS!


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There are lots of reasons a parent may choose not to vaccinate their child but those reasons can never justify the choice they are making. By not vaccinating a child, you put not only their health at risk, but the health of all children who come into contact with them. Anti-vaxxers don’t first consult the parents of the children their kids may encounter before taking them to parks, to school, or to daycare. Instead, they knowingly endanger other children based on beliefs that cannot be proven in any sort of science or fact. While I do not condone punishing children because their parents are Jerks, neither can I condone knowingly endangering the health and safety of other children, especially considering the children at most danger from unvaccinated children are those who already suffer from painful medical conditions. For this reason we should raise a rally cry and let the world know what is already clear: Anti-Vaxxers are Jerks!


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