Sunday, May 19, 2024


“You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.”

— William Wilberforce


Here’s How We Should Talk About Vaccines. Hint: No Name-Calling.

two women arguing

The more we force people to take sides, the harder it is to discuss vaccination, let alone build common cause and work together for the public good.

I’m a medical anthropologist, and I have studied1 vaccine selectivity—that is, when parents choose to give their children only a select subset of required vaccinations, most often skipping chicken pox and hepatitis B immunizations. I’ve also looked at cases of complete refusal. If we want to encourage vaccinations, we must listen to what selective parents have to say. We must also consider why they say it.

My findings support the growing body of research2 showing that the more we force people to take sides, the harder it is to discuss vaccination, let alone to build common cause and work together for the public good. Authoritarian acts such as just flinging facts at people or mandating vaccinations can cause vaccine-selective parents to dig their heels in further. What we need instead is civil discourse.

My findings confirm that the more embedded we are within a given community and the more we identify with that group, the less likely we are to disagree with their norms. Why? That’s easy: We can’t risk the loss of friends and relations.

Even full vaccinators conform for social purposes. In my research, most parents who gave any reason for choosing to vaccinate beyond “doctor’s orders” said they were following their parents’ and society’s lead: “it’s a cultural norm,” one mom told me. Very little vaccine-specific self-education was undertaken by fully-vaccinating parents, who knew less about immunization than selective vaccinators (those who choose some vaccinations but not others). Full vaccinators gave notably fewer correct answers regarding herd immunity, for instance.

It’s important to note that a third subset of participants, the total refusers, knew the least, though there were very few of them. Despite that fact, in the public’s imagination all who do not fully vaccinate are stereotyped as extremists and caricatured as tin-foil hat-types. That’s a big problem. Name-calling is one of the things that got us into this mess, making vaccination so hard to talk about. Often, it even pushes people to double down on their skepticism.

Instead, we should work to create conditions under which people holding differing positions can talk to each other. This leads to more open, respectful, bridge-building discussions of vaccination among parents charged with making immunization decisions. We need this kind of dialogue if we are to enable a more productive flow of information. As sociologist Jaron Harambam has noted, a democratic approach to science is much more likely to result in “truth” than one that relies only on the institutionally narrowed ideas of “experts.”

This article was reprinted with the author’s permission. It was originally published in the Tampa Bay Times. Elisa (EJ) Sobo is professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology at San Diego State University. Past president of the Society for Medical Anthropology), she has published numerous peer-reviewed journal articles and books, including a forthcoming second edition of “Dynamics of Human Biocultural Diversity: A Unified Approach” (2019).


1 Sobo E. Beyond the Vaccination Rift. Sapiens Feb. 25, 2016.
2 Kahan DM. A Risky Science Communication Environment for Vaccines. Science Oct. 4, 2013; 342: 53-54.

12 Responses

  1. I have one child that was fully vaccinated on time for the first 18 months even when he had been really sick. He is on the spectrum, has ADHD and an intellectual disability. Second child 14 years later just received his first dT two weeks ago at age 8. He is gifted with no medical issues. I read everything I could on vaccine safety, to include government studies. I concluded that I would take my chances on not vaccinating. The risk is too high for me considering I already have one brain damaged child.

    1. You picked the one vaccine that is completely worthless. Diphtheria a disease of poverty, poor sanitation and contaminated water supply. Unless you live in abject filth, a healthy child is immune to diphtheria.

      “Today your child has about as much chance of contracting diphtheria as he does of being bitten by a cobra.”–Dr Robert Mendelsohn MD

      Tetanus is a spore. Humanity lives with it 24-7. It’s everywhere.

      “Wounds that bleed will never result in tetanus because the tetanus bacillus is anaerobic. It is absolutely silly to vaccinate boys who cut their knees. The only reason behind that is money.”–Dr Buchwald MD

      2 things people need to know about tetanus in regards to the vaccine:
      1-there is no diagnostic test for tetanus. CDC. The symptoms are the same as any toxic poisoning.
      2-“How can the Tetanus vaccine induce immunity, when contracting the disease naturally does not give immunity?”–NVIC

      Pertussis: Whooping Cough: The study, titled: “Acellular Pertussis vaccines protect against disease but fail to prevent infection and transmission in a nonhuman primate model,” used infant baboons to test the hypothesis that “current acellular pertussis vaccines fail to prevent colonization and transmission” of B. Pertussis. (there is no vaccine for Bordetella Pertussis virus)

      Lead author Tod Merkel did comment to the New York Times that when exposed to B. Pertussis after recently getting vaccinated, you could be an asymptomatic carrier and infect others, saying:

      “When you’re newly vaccinated, you are an asymptomatic carrier, which is good for you, but not for the population.” According to Tod Merkel of the FDA, it has now become clear that the vaccine does almost nothing to prevent the spread of whooping cough. Although it does seem to prevent about 80 percent of people from showing symptoms of the disease, it does not prevent them from catching it or spreading it.

      The Pertussis vaccine stopped working (if it ever worked) decades ago and the CDC knows it but said they would continue to use it because there was nothing else. FDA NEWS RELEASE in 2013 in regard to the vaccine that they removed from their website:

      The failed Pertussis vaccine was also discussed here:
      Meeting of the Board of Scientific Counselors, Office of Infectious Diseases Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tom Harkins Global Communication Center Atlanta, Georgia
      December 11-12, 2013.
      Resurgence of Pertussis.

      The big takeaway from these 3 vaccines-they don’t give anyone immunity.

  2. Instead of studying peoples behavior towards each other you need to study the facts regarding what vaccines do to people and all the details on what they are composed of. First of all vaccines and all pharmaceutical drugs are classified as “experimental drugs”, and for good reason, that being that when they are given to any individual they have absolutely no idea if it will harm them or not. The NVIC keeps a database of all, reported, adverse effects that they get directly from the government every year. Up until 2014 someone was organizing the information in the database into graphs & statistical information, mainly of children from I believe 2 years to 18 years old. The statistics were of how many of these children were harmed or killed by vaccines. It was estimated that probably only about 10% of the adverse effects were reported. I was monitoring these reports for a number of years until they quit making the graphs. What was happening was “thousands of children were being killed by vaccines and many more were being hurt with permanent damage to their bodies every year, and the number was gradually increasing every year most likely with the increase in the number of vaccines being required. Properly prescribed prescription drugs kill well over 100,000 people a year. None of this gets on the corporate government run news. In my view it is criminal to mandate any kind of medication when you know somebody is going to be harmed by the medication. Drug pushers on the street get life in prison for using kids to sell their drugs. Corrupt politicians get kickbacks from billion dollar corporations to make laws that increase their profits, so the corporations get a pass. We live in a Constitutional Republic, we don’t have rulers, we have public servants hired by the people. Thomas Jefferson said, we never gave the government authority over matters of conscience. In the Bible in the book of Revelations the word “sorcery” is translated from the Greek to “pharmaceuticals”. When a doctor gives you a shot or a pill he is experimenting on you and or your children.

  3. “the total refusers, knew the least”

    Maybe I am not interpreting this article correctly because what I am getting is that those who do not vaccinate need to be less vocal because we don’t really know the pros and cons of vaccines. I am a grandmother who choses “NO VACCINATIONS” for myself and I totally support my children’s decision not to vaccinate my grandchildren. The “Right to Choose” group does not condemn those who choose to vaccinate their children, whether fully or selectively. The Pro Vaxxers condemn those who take a different stand and choose none or selective. I believe that those who would like to choose are more informed than those who want 100% a vaccinated human race. We know that there are toxic ingredients in vaccines as well as other ingredients that I do not want in my body, like human and monkey extracts. The writer of the article said we need to be able to have more effective discussions, which can only happen if we eliminate sides. We can’t eliminate sides because we don’t share opinions about the issue, and it is an issue. This isn’t a discussion about weather or whether we should eat carrots or green beans. It is way more serious. We don’t care if you prefer one vegetable over the other, or neither. But states have taken away the rights and freedoms of “one side”, when they mandated kids in public and private schools HAVE TO be vaccinated, and the federal government will eventually bring in the big guns. My tax dollars are being used to educate only vaccinated children, not my grandchildren. How can you not take sides? Those on the “other side” don’t seem to understand that Big pHARMA is the winner in all of this. The writer of the article is definitely not a realist. We who do not vaccinate, whether it is religious or personal philosophy, are villainized by the “Other Side.”

  4. Interesting that he classifies the total refusers as most ignorant. Could it be that he wanted the false, mainstream answers in his quiz? Stuff like “aluminum is harmless”? Without that informations I have no way to tell whether there’s any credibility here.

  5. >>a third subset of participants, the total refusers, knew the least<<

    Where on earth did Ms. Sobo find "total refusers" that knew LESS than full vaccinators? The refusers that I interact with, both in person and on social media, typically know far *more* than people in either of the other two categories the author describes. I've been in this category (total refusers) since the 1980s, so I think it's reasonable to assume that I've probably interacted with a great deal more refusers than were interviewed for this article. 🙂

    To be fair, I will note that my young adult children are less informed than I would like them to be. Currently, they are content to leave the in-depth knowledge to me– they know I have done and continue to do the research, and when I talk to them about vaccine info they nod and listen but don't really absorb it all! Frustrates me, but I know that will change once they get to the point in their lives when they need to know these things for themselves, in order to make decisions for their own babies.

    So did Ms. Sobo only talk to young adults like mine, I wonder? Or "newbies" to the refuser group, who haven't yet done all the research they should? All I can say is… I doubt her sample was truly representative of refusers, and I feel her assessment of our group is deeply in error.

  6. I was quite surprised to see that total refusers “knew the least”. How did she determine that? What I’ve found is that non-vaxxers have seen the most damage and have done the most research using sources other than the official byline. This writer needs to investigate research methods. I do agree, though, that conversation is essential. If we can’t talk to each other, how do we understand, and even educate each other?

  7. The reason that the draconian laws restricting vaccination exemption are condoned by the majority of the general public, is that it has been educated by the corporate mainstream media that the non-vaccinators are endangering the health and safety of the public. Until the general pubic is educated about the real science of what is truly dangerous, it will continue to welcome legislation which violates the Nuremberg code. No polite conversation will substitute for real science opening the eyes of the frightened public. The government which is imposing its will on its citizens does not have the real and independent science so it is desperately trying to substitute for the science with force.

  8. I am a total non vaxer, and I am far more educated about vaccines, what’s in them, and their side effects including death, than most pediatricians. I am a retired nurse, had all of the childhood viruses and am a healthy 72 year old and I am VERY informed. Doctors today become enraged and refuse to discuss vaccination when a parent wants to be informed. Doctors lose money if your child isn’t fully vaccinated.
    This generation of children are the sickest children EVER. More ASD, more autoimmune disease, and the highest death rate of newborn babies outside third world countries. This article incorrectly states that total non vaxers are the least informed, they actually are the MOST INFORMED.

  9. I agre more in most cases with those who refuse vaccines as I only had 1or2 vaccines in all my life until the dr. I used suggested the flu vaccine when I was 62 as I worked in a recreation centre with young children and adults. I got away scot-free from any bad reactions from the vaccines until the 10th one in 2009/10 when I became a quadriplegic after having the H1N1 flu vaccine and was informed it was the cause and affect of my GBS (Guillain Barre’) . Bastards got me and that’s what I feel now as a none vaxxer now. Bob Martin GBS Survivor and now a crusading warrior for all Vaccine injured in Canada a non Vaccine compensation Country of the G20 along with Russia the other one under the control of the vaccine Rats like GlaxoSmithKline.

  10. I am a nurse had all the vaccines believed what I was taught. However when questioned had no science behind my belief. Then I stared doing the research and discovered exactly what was in the vaccines. Then stared thinking for myself about when does baby have a fully developed immune system? Why are the vaccines same size for a newborn 7 lb baby as a full grown adult 200 lbs? Especially when no other pharmaceuticals are the same size because it’s to dangerous. At least that’s was what we were taught. Parents had the right to choose to vaccinated or not.
    Now I know vaccines are not forever they last only for a little while . Thus all the boosters. Never had boosters when I was a kid . So that tell me we can never have herd immunity. As the vaccines don’t last a lifetime. We are all different ages getting our vaccines at different times.
    For heard immunity we all have to be vaccinated at the same time get boosters at the same time continually. And each vaccine would have to be affective same amount of time. No logic to herd immunity .
    Also no research on having so many vaccines at once. The body usually doesn’t get exposed to all those at once it would overwhelm the immune system and no immunity for all things or possible death would occur.
    Finally in recent time a young dr from Mayo Clinic said in front of other drs and family. That in the 60s and 70s we use to think giving more chemo would kill the cancer and it did. However we were making the patients very toxic and killing them. As medicine evolves we learn there are limits to which the body can handle. I was so impressed with this young dr who could think and learn and speak the truth. There is hope we will learn .

  11. Flinging what are claimed to be facts won’t change anyone’s mind if they cannot be verified by other means and the people want to examine those observations. Vaccinations, like many topics in weather, climate, physics, government schemes such as socialism, are complex real world subject not easily verified if at all.

    Del Bigtree is doing a terrific job reporting on the vaccine issues on YouTube channel “The HighWire”.

    The forced vaccination mandates should make people question motives as should the vaccine package inserts. One state of California legislator mentioned the insert and the bad sounding things in it, only to quickly dismiss it comparing it to the package insert for an over-the-counter medicine. … I’ll chose freedom and make my own vaccination choices, which as an adult is none based on the reports of lack of testing and adversely reported conditions after vaccinations.

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