Anti-vaccination advocates think you’re stupid. That’s what’s implied each and every time they tell nervous parents to “do your own research” about vaccines. It’s a sloppy attempt to drive a wedge between your child and their pediatrician. “Forget what your kid’s doctor says, do your own research!” It sounds kind of good at face value. It almost empowers you to go out and decide for yourself what is, and isn’t, true about vaccines. What happens instead is parents, who might not have scientific/research backgrounds, are directed in to a quagmire of crap “research.” Anti-vaccination advocates funnel unsuspecting parents to anti-vaccine blogs where agenda-driven authors spin “scientific studies” in clever ways to fit their narrative. They create shiny YouTube videos highlighting quack studies, the quality of which is basically “rat brain cells die when soaked in aluminum!” What they don’t tell you, the parent, is that not all research is created equal. (Vaccines do contain aluminum and if you’d like to know more, feel free to browse this excellent Q&A by one of the leading pediatric institutions in the world.)
Savvy anti-vaccination authors cite papers published in fringe pay-to-play pseudo-academic journals. Want to know how easy it is to start a “scientific journal?” Give me a couple hundred bucks; we’ll start a website and publish whatever we want! We’ll call it “research” and make fat stacks of cash selling books to nervous parents! Meanwhile, pediatricians train for years for the privilege to take care of your child. Your kid’s doctor can share information with you that looks at real human children and not rat brain cells. You’d never know this, though, if that anti-vaccination parent on Facebook has convinced you to “do your own research” and to ignore your pediatrician.
By no means is this post meant to discourage you from looking at scientific articles yourself. It’s absolutely within your right to do your own research! But, be careful who’s providing you the “scientific” articles. Consider what agenda they might have. I’ll be the first pediatrician to admit that we have do an agenda: to help your kids be healthy, safe, and to grow up well. I took the Hippocratic Oath upon graduating medical school and firmly believe in the related phrase “first do no harm.” If actual evidence existed showing vaccines to be unsafe or ineffective, we wouldn’t use them. The anti-vaccination advocate’s agenda is right there in their name: they’re anti-vaccine. They ignore actual data like 85% of kids who die from flu didn’t receive the flu vaccine or that getting the flu shot decreases a healthy child’s risk of flu-related death by 65%. Instead, they want to sell you books, t-shirts, and “documentaries” by disgraced former-physicians.
The final decision to vaccinate your child is up to you. Pediatricians won’t force you to do anything you’re uncomfortable with. That’s because pediatricians approach the privilege of caring for your child as an equal partnership with you, the parent. On the other hand, anti-vaccination advocates use smoke and mirrors to prey on your love for your child. They treat you like you’re stupid. Show them why they’re wrong.