perspectives from a long hearing on
Note: It's important to distinguish between parents who have sincere questions about vaccines and those who are anti-vaccine activists. The litmus test for distinguishing the two is that parents with sincere questions are willing to alter their views when their questions are answered and they are provided with fact-based information. When we talk about the outcry from some citizens to reasonable vaccine policy (including dire statements about forced injections and mandating microchips) and get people staying at our State Capitol until 4:00am (while bringing their young children, who are sleeping on the floors or not sleeping at all) then we are discussing anti-vaccine activists.
As we sit in the hearing for HB 19-1312 (Modernizing Immunization Requirements for School Entry to Improve Vaccination Rates) it can be tempting to wonder what it is about vaccine policy that makes people act in such over-the-top ways. It is worth considering if that is flipping the causal relationship on its head. Vaccines don’t make people act this way, but those who are hard-wired to various dispositions are attracted to the issue of vaccines.
Vaccines are unique in that they are a medical procedure that is not purely a personal decision, since one person’s decision can impact the health of others. This draws in people who prefer individualist/independent stances and reject the notion of community responsibility.
Vaccines are given to children, and anything related to children is always fraught. If a child turns out to be differently-abled in some way (what anti-vax parents often openly label as “damaged”) then it’s common for parents to search for a cause/culprit, because that gives them something to blame.
Vaccines are universally and routinely recommended. This alone can be a reason for their rejection by parents who view their children as particularly unique or who see themselves as “warriors” against norms and guidelines.
Many parents are attracting to natural parenting practices (also called "crunchy" parenting) -- things like unmedicated childbirth, breastfeeding, cloth diapers, etc. Refusing vaccines is frequently viewed as being part of the perceived "natural parenting" package and a way to be part of the tribe. For many of these parents, being a natural/crunchy parent is a core part of their self-identity. (Note: Contrary to prevailing stereotypes, there are lots of parents who champion the whole range of natural parenting practices and still vaccinate their children.)
Since vaccination status impacts public health, there is often some degree of data collection of vaccine records by public health agencies (although parents can opt out). This leads those who are inclined to wariness of “big government” or any kind of tracking to feel distrust.
Vaccines -- like literally every medicine in modern history -- are created by pharmaceutical companies. This can lead those who are suspicious of large corporations to question vaccines.
Vaccines are almost always administered using needles. This can lead those who are generally nervous about medical procedures to feel uncomfortable about vaccines.
Immunology science is complicated, and the lay public can be easily confused by the ingredients. In the same way that sodium chloride (table salt) and the chlorine bomb share a similar chemical, vaccine ingredients can look scary if misunderstood.
And last - but not least - vaccines are a foundational part of preventative medicine. Therefore, if an alternative medical practitioner or someone selling alternative health products wanted you to distrust your doctor, sowing fear and doubt about vaccines is a logical path. After all, if doctors are willfully or ignorantly poisoning children, you definitely shouldn’t trust them. Better buy my product or service instead.