Nothing, Not Even Hard Facts, Can Make Anti-Vaxxers Change Their Minds

Researchers found a backlash effect when presented with scientific evidence that vaccines don't cause autism

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REUTERS/Valentin Flauraud

Maybe there should be a vaccine for stubbornness, because it sure seems tough to cure. A new study shows that when presented with four different scientifically proven arguments that vaccinations are safe, some anti-vaccination parents seemed even less inclined to innoculate their kids against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) once they saw the evidence.

“We shouldn’t overestimate how effective facts and evidence are in convincing people to accept a claim and change their behavior,” said Brendan Nyhan, who authored the study published in Pediatrics, “but throwing facts and evidence at them isn’t likely to be the most effective approach.”

Nyhan and his colleagues surveyed almost 1,800 parents of young children after seeing one of four vaccination messages similar to those provided by the CDC. The first messages were focused on conveying the dangers of measles, mumps, and rubella: the “Disease Risk” message detailed the medical risk of contracting MMR, the “Danger Narrative” told the story of a woman whose son contracted the measles from another child and got a 106-degree fever, and the “Disease Images” showed disturbing pictures of infected children. A fourth message, “Autism Correction,” provided heavy scientific evidence that disproved the link between vaccinations and autism.

All that sounds convincing, but none of it really works. The researchers found that none of the four messages significantly increased rates of intended vaccination (they only measured whether parents intended to vaccinate, not whether they actually did) and some even provoked an anti-vaccination backlash. The least successful messages were “Disease Narrative” and “Disease Images,” which actually increased the misconception that vaccinations will have negative side effects by 6%, and looking at the photos of the sick kids increased the subjects’ perception that vaccines cause autism. Nyhan said that he thought this was because when people saw children in distress, they became preoccupied with other dangers their child could encounter.

“Disease Risks” and “Autism Correction” had slightly better results, but neither seemed to convince parents. And while “Autism Correction” proved to some parents that there’s no link between vaccines and autism, it produced a strong backlash in others that just reinforced their sense that vaccinations are a conspiracy theory. Only 45% of the already anti-vaccine parents said they would vaccinate after they saw the “Autism Correction” message, compared to 70% of the control group.

Nyhan thinks that these parents are suspicious of the scientists and that the pro-vaccine movement is trying to pull a fast one on them. “People think, ‘what are they trying to convince me?'” he explained. “The ‘don’t worry, don’t worry, everything is safe’ approach is not often effective, because they think ‘why are they trying so hard to reassure me that everything is safe?'”

The fact that none of these messages were particularly effective is a little disconcerting considering that vaccinations only work if a majority of the population is vaccinated. And Nyhan also pointed out that these diseases are more dangerous than ever, because MMR is so rare that we almost never encounter them. Regardless, it seems that the CDC has a serious PR problem, since none of their pro-vaccination messages seem to actually convince people.

“We need to test the messages we use in public health the way we test other kinds of inventions,” Nyhan said. “There isn’t a crisis now, but this is about making sure we don’t have one.”

To see which states are vaccinating their kids, check out this helpful map from Mother Jones. 

147 comments
DanWelch
DanWelch

Why is this surprising?  No cult reacts well to being told their central belief systems are wrong.

SDA
SDA

My husband, daughter and I all get our vaccines the second they are available. We have another daughter whom we no longer vaccinate (she still has immunity to measles, mumps, chicken pox, etc--we know this because we run titres to make sure). Want to know why? On October 26th 2007, this kid, ahead of the curve by every measure (sitting up, walking, running, talking, socializing ahead of her twin sister) got her fourth DTAP shot at 11 am. By 2 pm she had spiked a fever, she was sick for a week, and didn't talk again for THREE YEARS (she was formally diagnosed as autistic when she was three and a half). But because all the STUDIES SAY this is not possible, we should not believe what we saw with our own eyes? Here's your reason why so many are scared of vaccines--they know a family like ours. But don't you worry-- we're all measles immune, etc, so you can't scream at us for being ignorant anti-vaxxers--cause, obviously, we're not (you know, original vaccines, keeping the rest of us up to date like responsible citizens, our running titres to make sure she's not a public health threat, etc). Hey! We can even go to Disneyland and know with confidence that we are NOT at risk of infecting anyone with (or contracting) a childhood disease. This horror actually has happened to some of us. We're not crazy, we're not anti-science (far from it--my husband and I both have Ph.D's) but we can't stay silent about WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED TO OUR GODDAM FAMILY. But go ahead--tell me I'm in denial, looking for someone to blame, angry at the world, etc etc. If it hadn't happened to us personally, I'd probably think the same as you--because I pay attention to things like scientific studies, and I believe them. But now... I question everything. Because I know the truth of what happened to our kid. Go ahead now--fire away. Nothing could be worse than living with a vaccine-injured autistic kid anyway.


DrewCummings
DrewCummings

How terrible for you and your family. We have a very similar story, and now on top of our exorbitant insurance costs we have a $500./month bill to take care of our sons therapy. I know your pain.

Effect
Effect

@SDA The vaccine did not cause the autism, new evidence suggests that the beginning stages of  autism develops during gestation. Autism finally shows itself right around the same time that vaccines are usually given to children so it's a correlation that many parents make. But correlation =/= causation.

frances_naty_go
frances_naty_go

Anti-vaccination people, want proof or real evidence? Then become a doctor and research the vaccinations yourself which has been tested since 1796 http://www.upworthy.com/ever-wonder-why-people-100-years-ago-died-so-much-younger-its-these-14-reasons .


If those # of deaths before vaccines were invented doesn't scare you, then read this http://www.cdph.ca.gov/Pages/NR15-008.aspx,  What is a vaccine, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaccine ?


Understand logic http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fen.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FCorrelation_does_not_imply_causation&h=ZAQEZIbPH and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causes_of_autism , where if vaccines does cause autism, then that should mean 90% of the population who have received vaccines should be considered autistic while the other 10% who haven't been vaccinated are normal ... right?


The proof is everywhere around you. The doctors and CDC are already giving you the proof. Problem is you are not listening because you want to prove that you are right without real evidence. 


But then again, if all the anti-vaccines population do want to stay un-vaccinated , why not let them? That way they all get sick from measles, mumps and the other diseases. Which in turn their own child gets sick too and they become part of the past morbid death rates.  Do we really need illogical people in this world?


Go back in the past and exercise those rights, I dare you!!

SDA
SDA

@frances_naty_go Except for when your personal experience runs contrary to all that evidence. I used to feel the same way...until it happened to us.


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Swtmarie

I am trying to get information on both sides of the issue, and yet again, I am disappointed by the Pro-Vax advocates.  Why?? Because every Doctor or Scientist I have read articles from that is Anti-Vax has given educated or scientific hypothesis as to why they feel they are dangerous or have the potential to be dangerous long-term.....and all I want, is to hear a Pro-Vax authority counter those ideas, claims, etc.....but all I come across are Pro-Vax articles that say "the science shows vaccines are safe" and then they don't EXPLAIN why or even link the articles!!! Then they go on to bash Anti-vax usually by way of name-calling such as "uneducated", "ignorant", "stubborn".  This is how you get the reputation of fear-mongering and manipulative.  You call people uneducated or ignorant for putting their trust in someone supposedly without merit or proof; but essentially you want that same blind trust.  I don't think that Vaccines are the sole cause for Autism, but since this article discusses it, I will point out that if you don't know what CAUSES something...then you don't know what DOESN'T cause it!!  Simple as that. The strongest argument from Mainstream Medical Authority seems to be simply that-- that they are the "Mainstream Medical Authority".  In my opinion, something is not true just because the mass majority thinks so.  Where is the "heavy scientific evidence"?  

matthewweflen
matthewweflen

I came to be amused by the comments. I ended up just being sort of depressed by them.

You're slipping, anti-vaxxers...

Effect
Effect

@xonlinegambling In significantly less than 1% of cases (the unfortunate few people who we discover after the fact that they would have a negative reaction with vaccines). But the vast majority of people are perfectly safe.

MikeRainbow
MikeRainbow

Do they prefer to be called anti-vaccination or pro-smallpox?

LowellHubbs
LowellHubbs

The truth is that the independent science shows that vaccines not only cause autism, but the whole lot more than just that. Wake up to the misinformation and the lies you have been fed.


Vaccine aluminum adjuvant causation of neuroglial activation and neuroinflammation in the brain of patients with autism.

http://www.vacfacts.info/vaccine-aluminum-adjuvant-causation-of-neuroglial-activation-and-neuroinflammation-in-the-brain-of-patients-with-autism.html


The Mechanisms of Vaccine Injury and Via Cytokine Storm

http://www.vacfacts.info/the-mechanisms-of-vaccine-injury-and-via-cytokine-storm.html


Vaccination toxicity: The Zeta phase of MASS and “blood sludging”

http://www.vacfacts.info/vaccination-toxicity-the-zeta-phase-of-mass-and-ldquoblood-sludgingrdquo.html


Vaccine Production With - Human Diploid Cells (aborted fetal cell tissue)

http://www.vacfacts.info/vaccine-production-with---human-diploid-cells-aborted-fetal-cell---tissue.html

ChrisRobison
ChrisRobison

over 1000 studies from all around the world prove that vaccines have and do cause horrible adverse reactions-  please take a look at these two sites, if nothing else:  1. following vaccinations, 

2.  mednat  RACCOLTA di piu' di 1.000 studi sui DANNI dei VACCINI

andersog
andersog

I wonder why they aren't doing these articles when it comes to global climate change?  There is scientific evidence that is overwhelming that much of the current climate change is man made?  Where are all the articles calling people who deny climate change, or that it is man made, stubborn?  Not vaccinating only hurts those that don't.  If you want to vaccinate go ahead.  Yes, there are those that are too fragile to vaccinate but hey so are my autistic son and his siblings.

ChrisRobison
ChrisRobison

please do your own research!  you will see that critical information has been hidden from the public for generations...

Doctors and scientists on the staff of the National Institutes of Health during the 1950s were well aware that the Salk vaccine was causing polio. Some frankly stated that it was “worthless as a preventive and dangerous to take [26:142].” They refused to vaccinate their own children [26:142]. Health departments banned the inoculations [26:140]. The Idaho State Health Director angrily declared: “I hold the Salk vaccine and its manufacturers responsible” for a polio outbreak that killed several Idahoans and hospitalized dozens more [26:140]. Even Salk himself was quoted as saying: “When you inoculate children with a polio vaccine you don’t sleep well for two or three weeks [26:144;43].” But the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, and drug companies with large investments in the vaccine coerced the U.S. Public Health Service into falsely proclaiming the vaccine was safe  and  effective [26:142-5].

In 1976, Dr. Jonas Salk, creator of the killed-virus vaccine used in the 1950s, testified that the live-virus vaccine (used almost exclusively in the U.S. from the early 1960s to 2000) was the “principal if not sole cause” of all reported polio cases in the U.S. since 1961 [44]. (The virus remains in the throat for one to two weeks and in the feces for up to two months. Thus, vaccine recipients are at risk, and can potentially spread the disease, as long as fecal excretion of the virus continues [45].) In 1992, the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published an admission that the live-virus vaccine had become the dominant cause of polio in the United States [36]. In fact, according to CDC figures, every case of polio in the U.S. since 1979 was caused by the oral polio vaccine [36]. Authorities claim the vaccine was responsible for about eight cases of polio every year [46]. However, an independent study that analyzed the government’s own vaccine database during a recent period of less than five years uncovered 13,641 reports of adverse events following use of the oral polio vaccine. These reports included 6,364 emergency room visits and  540 deaths (Figure 3) [47,48]. Public outrage at these tragedies became the impetus for removing the oral polio vaccine from immunization schedules [

samellens
samellens

And polio cases have plummeted. Are the side effects worse than Polio?

ChrisRobison
ChrisRobison

Well...   the FACTS show that vaccines are the primary cause for the skyrocketing rates of autism, allergies, ADD, asthma, etc..    there ARE numerous studies linking autism to vaccines..     there HAVE been billions paid out, quietly, to vaccine injured people (including autistic),  there ARE thousands and thousands of patient testimonials of immediate regression into autism after vaccination, there HAVE been scientists and doctors for generations who have tried to alert the world to these FACTS...    do your own research, and do not blindly trust the multi-billion dollar industries that must keep their damage and fraud hidden from the public..   ask yourself why the CDC refused Congressman Posey's requests to study vaccinated vs. non-vaccinated and why that story was hidden..   ask yourself why the Vaccine Compensation program's payouts to autistic children have been hidden...   ask yourself why the fact that multiple studies do show non-vaccinated kids are much healthier than vaccinated has been hidden..   why did Jonas Salk admit that the polio vaccine CAUSED a polio outbreak, and why was this hidden?   honest and innocent people DO NOT suppress information and put out propaganda pieces like this from the pro-corporate time magazine..

LesterConcester
LesterConcester

"There are literally millions of studies from reputable peer reviewed journals.....but I won't link to any of them."

Skatergirlnyc
Skatergirlnyc

Our kids live in a world of pollutants, microwaves, wi-fi technology, radiation, non BPA plastics, antibiotics and growth hormones in food on the short list of environmentally common issues, but let's put the entire population at risk of deadly preventable diseases. 

Greisha
Greisha

Lot of comments here are the perfect illustration to the article.

DonnaL.Loveless
DonnaL.Loveless

It is ALL tied together..

"GMO its a contributor.. my child is vaccine injured, brain gut immune and metabolic injury sustained by vaccines she received as a child. 2.8 billion paid out in federal vaccine court to vaccine deaths and injury 83 cases to those vaccine induced autism. GMO contributes to the weakening of our genes, mutations and makes us more susceptible to injury, but its the toxins in vaccines that are injected and can and do immediately cause damage.. noone ate a gmo and woke up in seizures the next day. its all tied in yes. 49 doses of 14 vaccines by age of 6 for 2014 is INSANE! and TOXIC. ( 1980 total 8 vaccines by age 6 autism 1 in 10,000 ) 1 in 3 kids today are ILL or have some form of neurological or developmental disorder, we have the sickest generation ever! vaccines cause autism, from the horses mouth. your eyes will open and jaws drop but gov has KNOWN for DECADES vaccines cause autism and they know HOW and they COVERED it up! exposed now.. watch" .. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4CwROrKG8A

nrdavis
nrdavis

@DonnaL.Loveless  "It is ALL tied together."

Yes, indeed:: "Conspiracist ideation . . . predicts rejection of all three scientific propositions, albeit to greatly varying extents. Greater endorsement of a diverse set of conspiracy theories predicts opposition to GM foods, vaccinations, and climate science." 

Lewandowsky S et al. The role of conspiracist ideation and worldviews in predicting rejection of science. PLoS One. 2013 Oct 2;8(10):e75637

LowellHubbs
LowellHubbs

@nrdavis @DonnaL.Loveless  


You like Plosone, I see, nrdavis.


Self-Organized Criticality Theory of Autoimmunity


Abstract


Background

The cause of autoimmunity, which is unknown, is investigated from a different angle, i.e., the defect in immune ‘system’, to explain the cause of autoimmunity.


Methodology/Principal Findings


Repeated immunization with antigen causes systemic autoimmunity in mice otherwise not prone to spontaneous autoimmune diseases. Overstimulation of CD4+ T cells led to the development of autoantibody-inducing CD4+ T (aiCD4+ T) cell which had undergone T cell receptor (TCR) revision and was capable of inducing autoantibodies. The aiCD4+ T cell was induced by de novo TCR revision but not by cross-reaction, and subsequently overstimulated CD8+ T cells, driving them to become antigen-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL). These CTLs could be further matured by antigen cross-presentation, after which they caused autoimmune tissue injury akin to systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).


Conclusions/Significance


Systemic autoimmunity appears to be the inevitable consequence of over-stimulating the host's immune ‘system’ by repeated immunization with antigen, to the levels that surpass system's self-organized criticality.


http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0008382


lilady
lilady

@LowellHubbs A study using mice to induce lupus, an autoimmune disorder?  You must be kidding.  What pray tell, has inducing lupus bands in mouse tissue, have to do with childhood vaccines?



LesterConcester
LesterConcester

Thank you for your post. I didn't think the article was serious until there really are people like you.

brettcardella
brettcardella

My sister and brother in law are doubters of vaccination.  Personally, I can no longer talk to them.  They are nuts.  Home births (ending in the first birth at a hospital resulting in code blue emergency c-section), second birth at home.  Thank God all went well the second time around..  Breast feeding for years.  They do self lead weaning at 1 year...where they do not feed their children with a spoon.  They just throw hunks of food on their tray.They are extremists...absolutely no medical intervention.  I just found out that their children ages 2 and 5 are not vaccinated.  I was too scared to ask...This is pretty much the last straw.  If you want to endanger your family fine.  However, do not endanger your local community at the same time....This is not normal...it is immoral.

dd1972
dd1972

@brettcardella  They are nuts because they homebirth, practice extended breastfeeding (as children should be) and do babyled weaning? Are you for real dude? LMAO. They are better off with you not talking to them.

LiaColeman
LiaColeman

@brettcardella you are criticizing these people for things that are perfectly reasonable, either not shown by studies to be bad, or actually shown by studies to be good, *along with* criticizing them for not vaccinating.  you're not helping your argument.  and yes, i am pro-vax.