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Why Is It So Hard To Get Reliable Information About Vaccines?

in Vaccine Education, Vaccine Preventable Diseases, Vaccine Safety & Science, Vaccines

When I first created Dr. Green Mom years ago, providing reliable information to empower parents to make informed choices about vaccination was my initial goal. At that time, the biggest issue that parents faced was finding and understanding good vaccine-related information. The Vaccine Strategy Guide was created with that in mind and has helped, and continues to help, thousands of parents make informed medical choices with confidence.

Fast forward to 2022: Vaccination has become a polarizing issue with disinformation, conflicts of interest, politics, vitriol, and emotion obscuring the simple scientific data that parents need to make informed decisions.  

Vaccination Is An Emotional Topic 

It is understandable that emotion is tied up with the issue of vaccines. Seeing a child injured or killed by a vaccine is absolutely heart-wrenching. Watching someone become disabled or die from a vaccine-preventable illness can be infuriating. Emotions have everything to do with the topic of vaccines. Parents on all sides of the pro-vaxx to anti-vaxx spectrum are doing their best to make good decisions for their children’s health. I do my best to respectfully provide neutral and unbiased information because I believe in my heart that we are all parents trying our best for our kids and that medical decisions should be individualized.

Vaccination Is Political Why Is It So Hard To Get Reliable Information About Vaccines? Dr. Green Mom

I don’t think that healthcare should be political, but it is. Access to treatments, freedom of choice, conflicts of interest, discrimination, and more are all real political problems within the American healthcare system in general and in the area of vaccination in particular.

Vaccines are big business, generating billions of dollars every year for pharmaceutical companies. Unfortunately the pharmaceutical industry has deep links to government, media, and research. These ties create conflicts of interest that erode public trust. It’s well known that pharmaceutical funding creates biased research. We also have to contend with the risk of bias due to the enormous amount of funding that the CDC  and FDA get from pharmaceutical companies. The problematic financial relationship between the Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization further complicates efforts to understand global or international data. These political and financial links make it increasingly difficult to find trustworthy medical information at any level. 

Vaccine Communication Has Become Weaponized

Vaccine communication has recently become tied to identity politics and has been weaponized by people invested in spreading disinformation. Increasingly bizarre theories are being generated and spread online. 

The government response to vaccine disinformation has been to instruct social media fact-checkers to censor any voices that are critical of any aspect of vaccination, including mine on occasion, and much more alarmingly, the British Medical Journal when they reported on issues with the Pfizer vaccine

I believe that open discussion rather than censorship is the best way to combat misinformation online, and at Dr. Green Mom, that is our aim when it comes to the work we do with the Vaccine Strategy guide and our vaccine-related articles.  

Anti-Vaxx, Pro-Vaxx, and Vaccine Neutral 

My position as a vaccine neutral physician is that vaccines, like every medical procedure, carry both risks and benefits. In some cases the benefits outweigh the risks and visa versa. By sharing the most trustworthy information I can find, I hope to aid parents in making informed decisions in partnership with their own family doctor or pediatrician. 

Sometimes people assume that being vaccine-neutral is code for anti-vaxx and are disappointed when I recommend that people consider vaccination for certain conditions or in certain cases. The reality is that sometimes, even though vaccines have side effects, they are the best choice.

Sometimes people assume that being vaccine-neutral is code for anti-vaxx and are disappointed when I recommend that people consider vaccination for certain conditions or in certain cases. The reality is that sometimes, even though vaccines have side effects, they are the best choice. It is also worth noting that the recommendation that people “consider” a vaccine isn’t advice to get a vaccine, it is advice to look into the risks and benefits and decide, along with your doctor, about your best course of action.  

Conclusion

It is my mission to use my experience and expertise to navigate the emotions, politics, and conflicts of interest to provide the best information available to my community so that they can make informed healthcare decisions. 

I won’t always get it right, and sometimes I might change my mind when new information comes to light. As this article demonstrates, there are real challenges in identifying what is and isn’t true whether you have a medical degree or not. However, you can trust that I will always be seeking out the most current and reliable information and doing my best to present it in an unbiased way so that you can make empowered decisions. 

References:

Ikilezi, G., Bachmeier, S. D., Cogswell, I. E., Maddison, E. R., Stutzman, H. N., Tsakalos, G., Brenzel, L., Dieleman, J. L., & Micah, A. E. (2021). Tracking government spending on immunization: The joint reporting forms, national health accounts, comprehensive multi-year plans and co-financing data. Vaccine, 39(25), 3410–3418. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.vaccine.2021.04.047

Broniatowski, D. A., Quinn, S. C., Dredze, M., & Jamison, A. M. (2020). Vaccine Communication as Weaponized Identity Politics. American journal of public health, 110(5), 617–618. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2020.305616

Jefferson, T. (2020). Sponsorship bias in clinical trials: growing menace or dawning realisation? Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 113(4), 148–157. https://doi.org/10.1177/0141076820914242

Lexchin J. (2012). Sponsorship bias in clinical research. The International journal of risk & safety in medicine, 24(4), 233–242. https://doi.org/10.3233/JRS-2012-0574

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: protecting the private good? | The BMJ

The Biopharmaceutical Industry Provides 75% Of The FDA’s Drug Review Budget. Is This A Problem?

Coombes R, Davies M. Facebook versus the BMJ: when fact checking goes wrong BMJ 2022; 376 :o95 doi:10.1136/bmj.o95

Havinga W. (2021). Has the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had a negative impact on global health?. Indian journal of medical ethics, (-), 1–2. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.20529/IJME.2021.058

When Lifesaving Vaccines Become Profit Machines for Drugmakers – Bloomberg

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