|Photo taken by Flickr user captaincinema|
|Anti-vaccine booth at the 2008 Netroots Nation convention in Austin, TX. Photo credit: Lindsay Beyerstein|
The mass freakout on the right over Gardasil made me reevaluate that impression, though.
It's true, Gardasil is a special case because it's a vaccine for adolescents --- and, initially, adolescent girls, although it's now recommended for all young people --- meant to protect against the cancer-causing strains of human papillomavirus, which spreads through genital contact. That puts it squarely in the middle of the Religious Right's Freakout Zone, which encompasses anything involving young women and sex.
I would've been perfectly content to accept just that explanation for the anti-Gardasil backlash, but then Michele Bachmann came out with her howler about Gardasil causing developmental disabilities. That sounded so much like what I had been hearing from Jenny McCarthy et al. that I started wondering whether anti-vaccine crankery was actually bipartisan.
There have been a lot of polls about people's attitudes toward vaccination, but I can't find very many that also include respondents' political affiliation.
Chris Mooney wrote about two polls suggesting that anti-vaccine sentiments are spread evenly across the political spectrum: a USA Today/Gallup poll from 2009 that asked people to identify themselves as liberal, conservative or moderate and then asked them whether they had heard of Jenny McCarthy and whether they agreed with her or not; and a Pew poll, also from 2009, that asked, among lots of other things, whether children should be required to be vaccinated or whether that choice should be left to their parents.
|With above photo, anti-vaccine protest signs at a Tea Party Express rally held on April 8, 2010 in St. Paul, MN. Photo credit: Fibonacci Blue|
|Larger version of printout attached to sign in lower half of the above pair of photos|
Another poll, this one conducted just a couple months ago by You Gov, found that greater percentages of Republicans than Democrats said they were "not so confident" or "not confident at all" that the current vaccine schedule recommended by the Department of Health and Human Services is safe. Democrats were more likely than Republicans to say they were "very confident" or "somewhat confident," although strong majorities of both parties fall into those two groups.
That poll also asked people which conditions they think vaccines can cause, and Republicans were slightly more likely than Democrats to say vaccines cause autism.
|I don't know what the New World Order is, but this graphic is a great example of attributing nefarious motivation to vaccine makers|
You can see appeals to all of these different fears in anti-vaccine rhetoric: most obvious (to me, at least) is the Scary Chemicals rhetoric that emphasizes what kinds of scary-sounding things are in vaccines (or, in the case of thimerosal, used to be in vaccines), but there's also the tactic of discrediting anything a medical professional says about vaccines by saying they're being paid off by the pharmaceutical companies.
One type of anti-vaccine rhetoric I hadn't noticed before I started writing this post is the kind that objects to mandatory vaccines. Even when there's a very good reason for it, like requiring health-care workers to be fully vaccinated because they're in contact with lots and lots of 1) sick people and 2) people whose immunity is compromised.
|People protesting a proposal to make swine flu vaccination mandatory for health care workers in New York state in 2009. Both photos taken by Louise McCoy for The Epoch Times|
This old article in the Seattle Weekly about the antivaccination movement in Washington state makes note of the movement's bipartisan appeal:
A closer look at [Washington state Department of Health] data reveals the potent mix of demographics that makes vaccine resistance such a sturdy presence in the state. Some of the highest [vaccine] exemption rates are in eastern Washington, where any kind of government mandate --- whether immunization or taxation --- is viewed with hostility.
At the opposite end of the political spectrum are the liberal enclaves of western Washington, which are also resistant to vaccines. At Vashon Island's public elementary school, 25 percent of students have skipped at least one vaccine. At the Seattle Waldorf School, ... the number is a whopping 47 percent.
These schools are part of well-educated and affluent communities that one might think would be most likely to follow the recommendations of scientists and doctors. But in fact, as journalist Seth Mnookin points out in his new book The Panic Virus, they perfectly reflect the base of today's anti-vaccine movement. Its constituents are part of what you might call the suburban counterculture --- parenthood and affluence mixed with creative aspirations, a crunchy-chewy lifestyle, and an inclination to question authority.Finally, let's look at laws making it easier for people to opt out of vaccination.
Here is a list of states whose laws allow parents to refuse to vaccinate their children for "philosophical" reasons:
- North Dakota