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The Psychology of Vaccine Fear

I was reading the other day about the rise in the percentage of parents who opt-out of having their kids vaccinated. This was in California, so it may not apply to the entire country. But there is a disturbing uptick of parents — especially those who enroll their children in private schools — who don’t get their kids vaccinated.

Three times as many private versus public schools don’t make the grade. More than 15 percent of the private schools in California failed to reach a 90 percent immunization rate, compared with 5 percent in public schools. Ninety percent is what public health officials believe is the minimal rate needed in order to keep many of these childhood diseases at bay.

This rate has doubled in schools in California over the past decade, fueled largely by rumor and lies about vaccinations, their value to a society, and bad science that was trumped up over decades worth of previous research by respected institutions and researchers.

Why are some parents making decisions for their children based upon fear and bad science? Let’s find out.

10 Comments to
The Psychology of Vaccine Fear

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  1. HELP!!!!! I just started taking a medication and am confused. Could you please try to explain to me in simple terms how to take the rx? The instructions are two take one 10 mg. tablet each morning… and then after doing that for some days, to take 2 10 mg. tablets each morning…. And after doing that for some days to take 3 10 mg tablets every morning until the next doctor’s visit. I remember the doctor mentioning that the half-life of this medication is 12 hours. The total prescribed dosage is 30mg, taken once a day in the morning.

    Why the gradual increase of the dosage instead of just starting at 30mg?

    I do not remember how many days the doctor ordered between the increases. Please try to help me figure out this out based on the half life and steady state, so I can try to re-create the doctor’s instructions. My dr. is on vacation and if you cannot help I will try on my own… Thank you

  2. ….or they could opt out because the evidence touting the benefits is not in fact irrefutable. For every pro statistic there is a con. I will not argue that either side is right or wrong but that when opposing research exists it leaves parents unable to form a conclusive opinion and so erring on the side of caution becomes quite tempting.

    • Scientists look at evidence not in a vacuum, but in context.

      In vaccine research, the evidence for the benefits over the risks is about 100 to 1. That’s a pretty large ratio, and not one that would concern most reasonable people.

      But then again, there are people who have a great deal of anxiety when they fly in an airplane, while experiencing no anxiety when they drive around in their car — despite the risk of death being about 2 to 3 times greater in their car.

      Hence the reason there’s some psychology associated with this decision. Because if it was one made just upon the clear research data, it would be a decision made in a minute.

  3. Another interpretation:

    “Vaccine rejectionism is about the parents and how they would like to see themselves, not about vaccines and not about children. In the socially constructed world of vaccine rejectionists, risks can never be quantified and are always “unknown”. Parents are divided into those (inferior) people who are passive and blindly trust authority figures and (superior) rejectionists who are “educated” and “empowered” by taking “personal responsibility”.

  4. This article is offensive – it is biased and insulting to parents who have spent a lot of time researching this difficult issue and chose to HAVE a CHOICE. This is NOT a rich/poor issue. This is not simply an issue of religion. There are risks in the use of vaccines and risks for not using vaccines.
    This is not an article about the psychology of vaccine fear. This is just another article insulting and, frankly, bullying those who have made a choice different than the author would have. Why don’t we think about the psychology of mass bullying as it applies to forcing people to use more and more pharmaceutical products?

    • Parents shouldn’t try and be expert on everything in their child’s life. That’s why researchers and policy experts have spent their entire careers in this field.

      If it were a 1:1 ratio of evidence, I might agree with you. But the pros completely outweigh the cons on every conceivable objective measure. So then it just comes down to psychology, sorry.

      • Or perhaps some parents who actually make this choice are smarter than even you think you are? Maybe? I mean how could someone make a balanced choice if they choose to doubt the pharmaceutical science community, the same sector that gave us such delights as thalydomide – a drug that proved less than WORTHLESS in helping pregnant women whom it targetted, but is withheld for the treatment of Cancer where it could atually help a little.

        A link between DTaP and Asthma administered too early has been all but proven. Although relation does not always, or often mean causation, it is not at all unreasonable as you assert, to suspect a link between vaccination and a myriad of strangely widespread ‘modern’ illnesses such as autoimmune disease and acute autism or learning disability.

        Also, there are no satisfying answers to the questions of why if vaccination is soooo effective, we are required to bombard ourselves with the same dose again and again and again. It would be something if immunity were guaranteed, but it is not. I have never received a tetanus shot, yet I can work in the victorian filth that pours out of the lathe and plaster as I renovate my house, ram my arm down the drainage pipes again and again and again, suffering no ill effects – nor am I afraid that I will. The armies of world war 1 were decimated as 5 people in the muck of the trenches died from tetanus out of the millions of soldiers – that is what you call an impressive ratio no doubt? Yet we are all coerced into taking a wholly unneeded tetanus shot for fear we may ‘die’ of tetanus, something that is pretty much as rare as dying from taking vitamin C.

        I was kept from most shots during childhood and I’m as healthy as anyone else, stronger than most and usually I am ill less frequently, or it takes far more exposure and longer for me to become so.

        So, when I look at all the statistics and realise my child is about as likely to get measles as they are to become an A-list celebrity, I tend to err on the side of caution and opt not to pump a bunch of uneeded toxins directly into my own or my childs bloodstream.

        I don’t care if the gun has 10,000 chambers and one bullet – I AIN’T gonna play roulette with it.

        Your article should be more balanced.

      • if mercury is so damn safe, why is it so damn banned? and why are they refusing to state why they banned it?

    • This a very biased article and an insult to the intelligence and common sense of many parents who choose to do their own research and not blindly follow the heard and succumb to the propaganda to vaccinate.There is no science that has been able to prove that vaccines are 100% safe & effective.Vaccines do not guarantee immunity and can cause serious injury or death.In my opinion, preventative health doesn’t involve injecting synthetic viruses, toxins and additives. Many doctors don’t even read the inserts on the vaccines they push and promote.Here is a document from the CDC with a list of additives. This document is unbiased… more parents or doctors read the ingredients (thimerasol, aluminum, monkey kidney cells, aborted human fetuses etc), they might think twice.I was a vaccinated child and a very sick one. I developed asthma, eczema, allergies, chronic bronchitis, which are common side effects to vaccines. My parents did not know this at the time and I did not realize this until I did my own research.It wasn’t until I stopped getting vaccinated as an adult, changed my diet and improved my lifestyle that I noticed a remarkable difference in my health. I haven’t taken any medication in 3 years (not even tylenol), even during birth, I have overcome all my allergies, no longer use an inhaler and feel better than ever.My toddler is unvaccinated, has never taken any pharmaceutical medication, been on over 40 flights all over Canada, US & Europe, been around many sick people, and has never carried any serious illness and does not have any health conditions that I once experienced as a child. The couple flu viruses she caught (ironically from her vaccinated friends) she has overcome naturally with the help of organic whole foods and herbs.Living a holistic lifestyle has proven to work for our family. In my opinion, vaccines are not necessary for optimal health. Our bodies (if allowed) are designed to fight off illness naturally.I respect everyone’s health choices and wish more people (including medical professionals) would respect parents (like myself) who make an educated decision.

  5. Thanks for writing this, Dr. Grohol. I have studied some of the data referred to in the article (California publishes the data in an Excel format that can be sorted various ways).Observation: Public school #1 can have a 95% uptake rate, while Public school #2, adjacent to #1, has a 70% uptake rate. There’s no perceivable demographic difference. What makes some parents refuse vaccination? This would make a great PhD dissertation.Observation: Private schools come in different “flavors” — truly independent; following a particular pedagogy (like Montessori); and religious (Roman Catholic parochial schools, Lutheran schools etc.) One particular type of private school, Waldorf school, leads the league tables in vaccine refusal. It’s no secret that the Waldorf pedagogy regards the common diseases of childhood (measles, mumps, rubella etc) as beneficial for a child’s spiritual development. Exemption rates in Waldorf schools are as high as 84% . That’s right. Only 16% are up to date on required vaccines for school entry.Observation: I’ve been disputing anti-vaccination misinformation for more than a decade. Vaccine rejectionists seem to believe only each other, and to react with anger to evidence that disproves their assertions.



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