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I’ve been reading/hearing a lot about parents who are opposed to vaccinating their children. Admittedly, I am not a scientist, or particularly knowledgeable about science, so I decided to do a little reading. I came across this article in Wired, which details why vaccinating is a good idea and why there really is no scientific evidence that it will cause autism. This article is incredibly persuasive, but what struck me the most is this quote:

But researchers, alas, can’t respond with the same forceful certainty that the doubters are able to deploy — not if they’re going to follow the rules of science. Those tenets allow them to claim only that there is no evidence of a link between autism and vaccines. But that phrasing — what sounds like equivocation — is just enough to allow doubts to not only remain but to fester.

I think it’s interesting to think about how important language and messaging is to a campaign. In this case, there is only so much scientists can say without breaking ethical codes of conduct, whereas those who are opposed to vaccines can be as hyperbolic and forceful as they want. They can make sweeping claims appealing to the emotions of others, without having to worry about violating anything. Of course, many people react more to passion than to science, and this fuels the movement.

Swine flu is enough right now, I really don’t want to face another polio or measles epidemic. I hope people will read the actual scientific literature on vaccines and make rational decisions, rather than listening to people like Jenny McCarthy.

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