There is a fair chance that you’ve heard the rumours that vaccinations are bad.  In fact, around 69% of Americans have heard the theory that the government and doctors alike continue to push vaccinations on us, even though they know that vaccines cause autism and other diseases.  What’s scarier is that around 20% of Americans actually believe it[1] – and the so-called ‘Anti-Vaxx’ group want to increase that number five-fold.  The question is though, are they right?

 Scientific Evidence…

                  With such a vehemence of belief and a surprisingly large following, surely the anti-vaxx group base their campaign on strong scientific evidence.  Well, that’s partly true.  The group, endorsed by celebrities such as model and comedian Jenny McCarthy, fashion designer Kristin Cavallari, and radio host and attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr., argue their case based on one study published in the scientific Lancet journal in 1998.  The paper, authored by Andrew Wakefield, demonstrated that rates of autism were significantly higher in those who had been vaccinated with the MMR jab – the ‘all in on’ mumps, measles, and rubella vaccine. 

 …That’s Not So Scientific

                  Most people would agree that is a frightening find – it’s no wonder there was such outrage.  However, in 2010, Lancet fully retracted the paper after Wakefield was discovered to have falsified his evidence and was found guilty of professional misconduct by the UK General Medical Council.  He has since been struck from the national medical register.  So it turns out that the strong scientific evidence on which the anti-vaxx movement base their campaign is neither strong nor particularly scientific.  What’s more, there have been countless studies since that have found no link what-so-ever between vaccinations and autism[2].  In fact, there hasn’t been a single verifiable study supporting the claim.   However, is there any evidence to suggest that far from doing good, the anti-vaxx movement is actually causing harm?

Evidence to suggests that anti-vaxx is far from doing good, the anti-vaxx movement is actually causing harm.

 The Rise of Preventable Disease

                  The answer is yes, there most certainly is evidence that the anti-vaxx movement is doing more harm than good.  The fact that this group have such a wide following based on such unworthy evidence would almost be comical, if it weren’t for the fact that they are causing death and disease to run through America like wildfire.  And strangely enough, outbreaks are most severe in the cities that have the highest levels of vaccine refusal rate[3].  Take Michigan, for example, that has the third highest rate of vaccine refusal rates based on personal or religious reasons.  In recent years, they have suffered a series of outbreaks of preventable disease, including measles and pertussis or whooping cough.  There were 18 deaths from pertussis in Michigan in 2012 alone – and they were mostly infants under the age of three[4]

                  Marin County, California, has a vaccine refusal rate that is four times higher than the national average and yet, it has the second highest rate of whooping cough in the whole state[5].  Likewise, cases of measles in the US tripled in 2013[6].  In fact, in 2000, measles was considered an eliminated disease in the US but 2013 saw a record number of outbreaks[7].  Levels of pertussis have also reached their highest in fifty years[8].  Perhaps then, it is all an odd coincidence, or a government conspiracy – or perhaps there is a correlation there after all.  


                  One of the biggest questions left to answer, then, is that given the huge sway of argument against them, why are the anti-vaxx movement so immovable in their beliefs?  McCarthy has a son who suffers from autism, so perhaps a desperate need to blame someone for this unfortunate turn of events could have had an impact.  Others believe that the fact that these public ‘debates’ have had such an impact on these celebrities’ careers surely has something to do with it.  None of that, of course, explains why normal, non-famous people believe the scare-mongering.  Perhaps that’s it though – scare-mongering.  The anti-vaccination movement preys on the fears of ordinary citizens; a fear of the unknown, a fear of the side-effects suffered by a tiny percentage of vaccinated children, a fear of what might happen.  But what’s the alternative?  A country rife with preventable disease and preventable death.  The Anti-Vaccine Body Count website speaks wonders, as it compares the numbers of deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases since 2007 (currently at 1381) to the number of cases of autism that have been scientifically linked to vaccination (currently, and unsurprisingly, at zero)[9]

McCarthy and co may be certain of their own beliefs, but a massive wave of science and history are knocking them down and washing them away.  They may also believe that their campaign is not doing anyone else any harm – and that it is even doing good.  Evidence says that they are wrong.  Of course no vaccine is 100% safe, of course there can be side effects, but the dangers are minimal and it’s sure as anything better than the alternative. 

[1]{C} Celeste Mora, 2014, Medical Conspiracy Theories Believed By Half of America: Why Anti-Vaccine Celebrities Are Dangerous’, [online] Available at:, [accessed 04/16/2014]

[2]{C} Steve Shives, 2013, Five Stupid Things About the Anti-Vax Movement [online] Available at:, [accessed 04.16.2014]

[3]{C} Phil Plait, 2014, Jenny McCarthy Asks; The Internet Slam Dunks [online] Available at:, [accessed 04.16.2014]

[4]{C} Celeste Mora, op. cit.

[5]{C} Tasneem Raja and Chris Mooney, 2014, How Many People Aren’t Vaccinating Their Kids in Your State?, [online] Available at:, [accessed 04.16.2014]

[6]{C} Phil Plait, op. cit.

[7]{C} Russell Saunders, 2014, Thanks, Anti-Vaxxers.  You Just Brought Back Measles in NYC, [online] Available at: [accessed 04.16.2014]

[8]{C} Sue Thoms, 2012, After Losing Their Baby to Whooping Cough, Michigan Couple Channels Grief into Effort to Save Lives, [online] Available at:, [accessed 04.16.2014]

[9]{C} Anti-Vaccine Body Count, [online] Available at:, [accessed 04.16.2014]

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Why You Should Anti the Anti-Vaxx Movement by UrbanSculpt Staff Writer Victoria Froud MA is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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