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There have always been people who eschew modern medicine, and conspiracy theories surrounding vaccines are nothing new. In fact, vaccine backlash has existed from the very beginning, when doctors were injecting patients with puss from smallpox sores to keep them from getting seriously ill. There were anti-vaccine movements in the late 1800s over smallpox, causing thousands to die needlessly. Today conspiracy theories surrounding vaccines continue to thrive, and it seems like as soon as one conspiracy theory is put to rest, another one rises up in its place.

The curious logic of anti-vaxxers
The beliefs driving antagonism toward vaccines are often nonsensical and borderline on the absurd. One anti-vaccine advocate went on and on about how we live in a super toxic world while puffing on a cigarette-something loaded with hundreds of harmful toxins. (Wallace, 2009)

In her book Viral BS, Seema Yasmin reports an anecdote about a woman in ·rexas who went to her doctor to demand her daughter be given an Ebola vaccine based on the scary media reports she was hearing of an outbreak in Africa. When the pediatrician explained that there is no Ebola vaccine, and that her daughter faced a much more imminent threat from the flu (which we do have vaccines for and which kills hundreds of children every year), the mother replied: “Flu vaccine?! I don’t believe in those things,” as she stormed out of the office. (Yasl1lin, 2021)

While anti-vaccine activists like to claim that they are defending people and standing up against the exploitative forces of capitalism, the truth is that the conspiracy theorists themselves may be the ones truly exploiting others. Spewing vaccine conspiracy theories has been a great way for otherwise unimpressive people to gain fame and prominence on the internet. (Haelle, 2021 )

Convincing people of the benefit of vaccines
So how can you convince the fanatics that it’s worthwhile to vaccinate their kids? Studies have shown that, unsurprisingly, shaming and guilt-tripping doesn’t work to encourage responsible practices; across 3 different countries, sate practices fell as shame rose. Putting people on the defensive tends to make them dig in their feet and solidify their stance. Rather, it was found that personal stories were most effective for convincing people of the need to vaccinate-5-times as effective as that of the group reading material on autism, and 6-times that of the control group. (Time, 4-12-2021, p. 19)

Increasing shame in general, in fact, may be helping to fuel antisocial behaviors of all types, and so the anti-vaccination movements are likely interconnected with the increasing rates of general insecurity Americans feel. The more insecure and shameridden people are, the more they fall back on a defiant stance and seek to differentiate themselves from those spreading scorn.

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