Student Opinion: The Dangerous Rise of Anti-Vaxxers

By Liam Benedict 

Every time a new technology or advancement in medicine comes about, there are people who doubt its validity. Like any other independent thinker, I welcome and even encourage a little skepticism in our daily lives. But eventually, skepticism must give way to the evidence. 

Unfortunately, that is not always what happens. 

The rise of evangelicalism and radical distrust in nearly all scientific authority has led to what I would call a “scientifically illiterate” generation of adults and youth. The misinformation that runs their lives is fueled by conspiracy theories and echo chambers found all around the internet. 

This rising group of people does not believe in pressing matters like climate change, a stance that has been reinforced by the opinions of President Donald Trump. Some of their more radical members do not even believe that the earth is round, something we have scientifically confirmed time and time again since 2000 years ago. 

But while flat earthers are fairly harmless, the other group that these scientifically illiterate individuals tend to fall into is the anti-vaxxer community. If the anti-vaccination crowd continues to grow in the United States, it could lead to many more deaths, especially as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. 

The issue of anti-vaxxing is not a new phenomenon derived from the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, it has dated back to the beginning of vaccines themselves. It started in the 1800s with the introduction of the smallpox vaccine. The criticism it faced back then at least made partial sense; after all, the concept was being introduced on a massive scale in the United States for the first time. 

But hundreds of years later, vaccines have proven their effectiveness time and time again, and yet they are still doubted. Why? 

Well, there are a few main reasons for this. Religious fundamentalists have protested against them since the beginning, claiming that they are unnatural and even unholy. Although I am not much of a religious man, I cannot help but doubt that God would support the suffering of the 2.3 million children who die every year around the world from vaccine-preventable diseases. 

Thankfully, there are many Christians who do not let themselves fall into scientific illiteracy. Still, the overlap between the two communities is growing larger as time goes on. These harmful thoughts must be dealt with inside local religious communities if we are to have any progress. 

Conspiracy theories and rampant misinformation form the backbone of the modern-day anti-vax ideology. The first major conspiracy regarding vaccinations was the supposed link between Autism and the MMR vaccine, which is used to prevent measles, mumps and rubella. 

When the MMR vaccine came out in the 1990s, a British research team did a study on the vaccine. One of these researchers was gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield, MD, who according to The History of Vaccines.Org, “went on to further study a possible link between the vaccine and bowel disease by speculating that persistent infection with vaccine virus caused disruption of the intestinal tissue that in turn led to bowel disease and neuropsychiatric disease [specifically, autism].” 

As soon as that study came about, hysteria broke out, and some people latched onto it, despite the many studies that followed, proving this not to be true. While Autism can sometimes be very severe, most people who have it live perfectly normal lives. To treat it as some kind of terminal illness is greatly offensive to many people. 

But more importantly, it simply isn’t true. 

The harm of these doubting thoughts has become obvious. Measles was declared eradicated in the United States in 2002. But in 2014, there were over 600 reported cases. This disease can be deadly to small children and is a threat we shouldn’t have to deal with. 

The science shows that many countries, which have had a lower vaccination rate in recent years, have also faced stark rises in Measles outbreaks. The estimated number of deaths from measles in 2019 was 207,500, nearly a 50 percent increase from 2016.

However, the new star conspiracy theory has come about from COVID-19. Several key figures with large audiences have spread the idea that the COVID-19 vaccine will include Bill Gates manufactured microchips, which will do any number of things, depending on which crackpot you ask. This is despite the fact that we have no microchip technology close to this level, as well as the fact that he is unconnected to the current vaccine front-runner. 

David Icke, an infamous conspiracy theorist (and one of the key believers of the reptilian conspiracy), claimed that a Big Pharma whistle-blower had told him that “97 percent of corona vaccine recipients will become infertile.” 

Meanwhile, BBC reported that the head of the Russian Communist party this week said that so-called “globalists” supported “a covert mass chip implantation which they may in time resort to under the pretext of a mandatory vaccination against coronavirus.”

As crazy as these words sound, they have a very serious impact. Polls show that only 51 percent of Americans would be willing to take a COVID-19 vaccine, and the number has been dropping as time goes on. Ultimately, Americans must begin to place their faith, not in any radical religion or nonsensical internet conspiracies, but on science. It may be America’s only hope.

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  1. John Hobbs

    “Ultimately, Americans must begin to place their faith, not in any radical religion or nonsensical internet conspiracies, but on science. ”

    For too many of the religious, dogma will always trump reason. Religion has no place in the public forum, it is antithetical to reason and the cause of social conflict.

    Anti-vaxxers are child abusing terrorists and should be dealt with as such.

    Lock ’em up and take away the kids.

  2. Keith Olsen

    Ultimately, Americans must begin to place their faith, not in any radical religion or nonsensical internet conspiracies, but on science. It may be America’s only hope.

    Tell that to Gov. Newsom and Gov. Cuomo.

    Of course, we can’t just take Pfizer’s word for it. The data the company produces will be put through the ringer by the FDA, whose job is to make sure that the vaccine really is safe and effective. Even though Pfizer is seeking emergency use authorization, that is not a pathway to putting a dangerous or ineffective product on the market. The FDA will make certain of that.
    But Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gavin Newsom of California know better than the scientists at the FDA. Both governors, who have made a very big deal about “following the science,” have decided that political posturing is now important than following the science from Pfizer and the FDA.
    NY Governor Cuomo’s commentary on the COVID vaccine is jaw-droppingly stupid. After saying that it was “bad news” that the vaccine is coming out while the Trump Administration is still in office, he said that he would work with other governors to fix or stop a vaccine distribution plan “before it does damage.”
    Let’s pause for a moment to analyze what he just said. In Cuomo’s mind, it is better to allow more Americans to become infected with and die from coronavirus than to allow an imperfect vaccine distribution plan to move forward. (All distribution plans are imperfect. There is simply no magic formula for determining who should get the vaccine and when.) However, his decision is at least consistent in light of the fact that Cuomo insisted on jamming COVID patients into nursing homes, killing thousands of his own citizens.
    …and Dumber
    Not to be outdone, a coalition of western states, led by California Governor Newsom, will examine vaccine data for themselves to determine if the FDA’s decision is correct. That’s like saying that we don’t trust Einstein’s calculations on general relativity, so we’re going to so we’re going to ask a bunch of undergraduate physics students to verify his results.


    1. Eric Gelber

      And Dumbest:

      When asked by Fox News’ Chris Wallace whether he would consider instituting a mandate, Trump responded, “No, I want people to have a certain freedom, and I don’t believe in that, no.”
      As part of a hour-long sit-down interview, Trump also said that he disagrees with the assessment by Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who said at a news conference this week that “if all of us would put on a face covering now for the next four weeks, six weeks, we could drive this epidemic to the ground.”

        1. Eric Gelber

          Tell that to the families and friends of the quarter million people who have died in this per-vaccine period. How many of these deaths could have been avoided by taking known preventive measures?

        2. Eric Gelber

          Your comment is off topic, this article is about the vaccine and anti-vaxxers.

          Not off-topic. From the article: “Ultimately, Americans must begin to place their faith, not in any radical religion or nonsensical internet conspiracies, but on science. It may be America’s only hope.” This applies to anti-maskers as well as anti-vaxxers.

        3. Keith Olsen

          I’m not going down this off topic rabbit hole with you because my comments get deleted  if they’re even slightly off topic.  Maybe you get more slack than me.

        4. Robert Canning

          Face masks, social distancing, avoidance of close contact with groups are all measures that have been found to reduce transmission. The vaccines will time to roll out and in the interim we continue to need these non-vaccine measures to limit spread. Masks are just a tool and should be used in conjunction with other measures.

        5. Tia Will


          Please check on the statistics from Japan, a mask-wearing society that has largely contained the virus without the use of a vaccine. Containment is clearly possible, but not without the cooperation of those who care more about politics than dealing with the virus effectively.

  3. Tia Will

    There are basically 4 ways an epidemic stops ( or some combination of the four)

    1. The virus is so deadly it rapidly kills off its victims before spread occurs.

    2. The virus is spread in such a manner ( such as blood-born only) that not many are affected in a given population.

    3. Herd immunity is established. For a relatively benign virus, this might be a tenable solution, but not for one which is lethal.

    4. Immunization is all three of the following: widely available, benign, and acceptable to a large majority of the population.

    So we are left with mitigating steps such as self-isolating, social distancing, masking, & consistent cleansing until a vaccine is available which meets all of the above criteria. Unfortunately due to rising anti-vax sentiment, I do not have high hopes the necessary number of Americans will accept a vaccine. I see the caution and desire of independent confirmation of safety and efficacy to be entirely reasonable. I do not believe the governors believe they personally know better than the FDA. What I believe is that they want corroborating evidence, a key part of scientific advancement is the reproducibility of findings. This should be a given, not a cause for partisan criticism.



  4. Tia Will


    Anyone who refuses to take the vaccine once it’s widely available is on their own.”

    The problem Keith, is that they are not “on their own”. Their actions affect others who for reasons of which we may not yet be fully aware, are unable to take the vaccine or for whom the vaccine is less effective.

    Also, another point with regard to masks. Masking will reduce the transmission, not only of this virus, but of every other virus spread through droplet transmission. If we were to take the simple steps of social distancing, staying home when symptomatic, and masking, we would reduce the number of deaths from flu every year.


    1. Bill Marshall

      The converse also is happening… some of those (minority, hopefully) who want mandates (legally enforceable) want to impose that on everyone other than themselves… same as to the anti-vaxxers… they are way cool making sure everyone else gets the vaccines, while not dealing with any risks (real, or paranoid driven) of their own…

      I have had my current flu and pneumonia shots… knowing they are likely to protect me and others… knowing there is a possibility of risk to me… ‘social contract’… some want the ‘social contract’ to be one-way… “you have to do “X” to protect me, but I’m not going to do “X”, because there might, conceivably, perhaps, be some risk to me“.

      I follow the Covid guidelines, willingly, primarily to protect/assure/model for others… but please don’t tell me I HAVE TO… when I’ve expressed that opinion before I’ve been trashed as being an immature, spoiled brat, etc.  And I fully expect that when I post this… but those who do, should think long and hard about how they REALLY feel about what they are ‘mandated‘ to do, or not do, when they are already pre-disposed to do, and are doing… that would be honest…

      Life, inherently, has risks…

      1. Don Shor

        I follow the Covid guidelines, willingly, primarily to protect/assure/model for others… but please don’t tell me I HAVE TO…

        When you come into my store, you HAVE TO wear a mask. It isn’t actually my choice, but I HAVE TO enforce it. And I agree with that policy because some people cannot be trusted to make reasonable decisions that protect all of us. I used to think libertarianism was an interesting but basically harmless philosophy. I now think it is insidiously dangerous.

  5. Robert Canning

    Dear Keith,

    Masks are one piece of how to prevent transmission. We don’t know yet how long people who get the vaccine are immune. We also don’t know if it prevents symptoms, or in those who are infected but asymptomatic, can prevent transmission early in their infection. And both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two shots to build up immunity. What do you do while you are waiting for the second shot? You social distance, wear a mask, avoid crowds, etc., etc. And we also don’t know if individuals will need a booster as we have with some vaccines.  There are still questions to be answered. But the issue isn’t only having a vaccine – it’s getting people vaccinated. You might be willing to take it but others might not. That’s dangerous – look at what has happened with measles in the last couple of years.

    The vaccine may very well reduce the pandemic in the next year, but wearing masks, social distancing, avoiding indoor crowds – all non-pharmacological solutions are still very important to bridge us. So what’s the big deal about wearing a mask, and doing the other stuff?

    1. Keith Olsen

      Dear Robert,

      Please tell me where did I say not to wear masks?   Face masks, social distancing, etc. all help but is not going to get us out of the pandemic, the vaccine will.  What we’re doing now just prolongs it.

      1. Eric Gelber

        Face masks and social distancing alone may not be sufficient to eradicate the pandemic, but the widespread non-use of these measures certainly has exacerbated the spread. And, unfortunately, the current president has not demonstrated or encouraged these best practices, e.g., at rallies and White House events.

      1. Alan Miller

        Yeah, that’s what I meant.  Thanks for clarifying for the Vanguard audience.  “Alan Miller wants everyone to die of Covid-19” says Alan Miller.  Kinda.

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