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SCHNEIDEREIT: Society must inoculate itself against anti-vaxxers


Studies have shown more than a quarter of the population harbours some doubts about vaccine safety, thanks to anti-vaxxers touting fraudulent “studies” that, for example, lied about a link between the MMR shot and autism. - 123RF
Studies have shown more than a quarter of the population harbours some doubts about vaccine safety, thanks to anti-vaxxers touting fraudulent “studies” that, for example, lied about a link between the MMR shot and autism. - 123RF

As you may have heard, Dena Churchill’s no longer a Halifax-based chiropractor spouting anti-vaccination nonsense.

After admitting to professional incompetence “arising out of mental incapacity,” Churchill surrendered her licence to the Nova Scotia College of Chiropractors in January.

So she’s now an ex-Halifax-based chiropractor — but still peddling the same anti-vaxxer crap on multiple Facebook accounts.

Below: Dena Churchill has admitted to professional incompetence due to "mental incapacity", but is still calling herself a doctor online:

All 30 cases of whooping cough were in the va%ccinated peoples! This va%ccine can't give you the disease (through viral...

Posted by Dr. Dena Churchill - Innovator in Women's Health & Wellness on Sunday, March 3, 2019

At least she can no longer use the veneer of being a professional to confuse people — many honestly looking for answers — with her misguided, and frankly dangerous, advice about vaccinations.

Facebook, however — like so many social media platforms have done — continues to give her and other anti-vax charlatans a platform to keep spreading a pro-disease doctrine.

That may be changing.

Social media companies like Google (and Google-owned YouTube), Pinterest and even Facebook are all taking steps to limit the out-of-proportion presence of pro-disease groups.

I like to think of it as them inoculating their platforms to try to prevent virulent outbreaks of irrationality that carry grim real-world consequences, i.e., people dying from preventable diseases.

Late last month, YouTube announced, among other steps, that it would stop serving ads to anti-vaccination channels and prevent such videos from appearing on recommended lists.

Today (March 7), Facebook announced the following steps to combat anti vax misinformation:

In 2016, Pinterest banned the promotion of false cures and anti-vaccination advice.

Pushing back on social media is important, not because it will convince committed anti-vaxxers they’re wrong — as anyone who’s tried to use facts and common sense with them knows, it’s a waste of time — but to shield vaccine-hesitant individuals from being bombarded with misinformation by anti-vaxxers.

Studies have shown more than a quarter of the population harbours some doubts about vaccine safety, thanks to anti-vaxxers touting fraudulent “studies” that, for example, lied about a link between the MMR shot and autism.

Public health experts are realizing that simply reassuring people the science is sound and citing dry data isn’t good enough, not when anti-vaxxers are using emotional stories claiming terrible harm due to vaccines to appeal to parents’ natural fears and desires to protect their kids.

The grim irony is that by not vaccinating, parents are putting their children in much greater peril.

At least there’s evidence anti-vax delusions aren’t hereditary.

Ohio teen Ethan Lindenberger, brought up by anti-vaxxers who had refused to vaccinate him or his younger siblings, testified before the U.S. Congress on Tuesday. Ethan, who against his parents’ wishes got his shots after he turned 18, blamed social media for spreading the misinformation that fooled his parents.

Some vaccination defenders advocate using emotion to fight back, by showing the ravages of measles, polio and other preventable diseases that vaccines had all but eliminated in developed countries before the anti-vax cult went to work.

Why not? In a clickbait world, you need to get people’s attention.

And it’s getting serious. The World Health Organization calls anti-vaccination views one of the top 10 global threats to health in 2019. Preventable disease cases, and deaths, are spiking around the world due to lack of vaccinations.

Meanwhile, a new Danish study this week again confirmed, in the largest such review ever done, that no link exists between the MMR shot and autism.

In fact, the analysis showed unvaccinated kids were actually 17 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with autism.

Not that anti-vaxxers care.

RELATED: Controversial Halifax chiropractor admits professional incompetence 

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