Search This Blog

Friday, September 27, 2019

Antivax Tactics and Psychology

In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing disease to spread

Brandy Zadrozny and Aliza Nadi at NBC:
Anti-vaccination activists have long targeted their message to parents of autistic kids. They have also, however, pursued another vulnerable population of parents searching for answers — mothers and fathers of babies who have died unexpectedly, especially when the deaths are linked to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS. At a time when the U.S. faces the largest outbreaks of vaccine-preventable illnesses in decades, a network of activists is finding new recruits to the anti-vaccination cause by raising questions about the sudden deaths of several dozen babies and young children.
That network includes discredited physician-turned-anti-vaccination celebrity Andrew Wakefield, whose retracted study popularized the false belief that vaccines are linked to autism; Del Bigtree, a former "Dr. Phil" producer who runs the country's most well-funded anti-vaccine nonprofit, Informed Consent Action Network; and social media activist Larry Cook, who hosts the largest and most active anti-vaccination community on Facebook.
Since 2018, Cook has published at least 20 different articles alleging a baby's death was the result of a vaccination — despite official, medically supported explanations that include SIDS, pneumonia and accidental asphyxiation. Clobes joined Cook's group after Evee died, and her story is among Cook's 20.
AT NYT, Jan Hoffman explains the psychology of vax hesitancy:
Many stumble on omission bias: “We would rather not do something and have something bad happen, than do something and have something bad happen,” explained Alison M. Buttenheim, an associate professor of nursing and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.

People are flummoxed by numerical risk. “We pay more attention to numerators, such as ‘16 adverse events,’ than we do to denominators, such as ‘per million vaccine doses,’ ” Dr. Buttenheim said.
A concept called “ambiguity aversion” is also involved, she added. “Parents would like to be told that vaccines are 100 percent safe,” she said. “But that’s not a standard we hold any medical treatment to.”
Relatively few people are absolutists about refusing all vaccines. “But if you’re uncertain about a decision, you’ll find those who confirm your bias and cement what you think,” said Rupali J. Limaye, a social scientist who studies vaccine behaviors at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.