Why the Autism "Community" Can’t Get Along

The idea of a “community” in autism activism is a farce. This is because many who are deemed to be part of this community have opposing goals. From my experience, three completely different groups exist. Though there is crossover between some of the groups, the ends are polarized and cannot unite. Below is my perception of the groups, though more groups might exist that are less well-known.

Vaccine-injury Conspiracists

This group believes that autism is a preventable injury. Though no science supports this theory, they hold on to bogus research claims and snake oil. The bulk of this group believes that the pharmaceutical industry has created dangerous vaccines as a way to make more profit (by using cheaper but harmful additives and ingredients or creating unnecessary vaccinations). Others take the theory a little further and believe that the industry is purposefully poisoning the people. Regardless of how extreme, this group tends to believe in pseudoscience and promotes sometimes dangerous “snake-oil” treatments in attempt to cure autism. Groups such as Talk About Curing Autism and Age of Autism are examples of this group’s mentality.

Eugenicists

This group consists of those who seek to eradicate the possibility of new autism births. They seek to find a prenatal test that can identify the likelihood of having a child on the autism spectrum so that families may be given the opportunity to terminate an at-risk pregnancy. They also seek to find ways to keep the so-called disorder from happening – presuming autism is a preventable defect (think Fetal Alcohol Syndrome). They hope to find a “cure” for those they believe are “suffering with autism.” They throw millions of dollars into “awareness campaigns” that stigmatize those who are on the spectrum. They also fund research that might further their goals. A good example of this group is Autism Speaks.

Neurodiverse

This is where the self-advocates, often identifying as autistic, tend to flourish. This group believes that disability is natural and that autism is a neurological difference and a variant of human diversity. This group vehemently opposes that autism should be prevented or cured. Led by disability activists, this marginalized group has been compared to the civil rights movements of the past. Their motto is “Nothing about us, without us!” This group promotes “acceptance” rather than awareness. Most of this group consists of those identifying as autistic. In the recent past, however, many non-autistic (aka allistic) allies have joined in support of the neurodiverse message. This group has been notoriously labeled by other groups as “too angry.” Others have attempted to discredit the movement by insinuating the members are not truly disabled and are NLMC (not like my child). A couple examples of this movement are the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and the Autism Women’s Network.

You may already be able to discern why these groups cannot converge. Here are a few ways they do and do not.

Convergence

Eugenicists and Conspiracists
These two groups agree that autism is potentially preventable and treatable. Both tend to infantilize autism as believing it only affects children (somehow magically disappearing in adulthood).

Neurodiverse and Eugenicists
There is very little agreement between these two groups. Both groups do support scientific research about autism but the support for research focus is very different.

Conspiracists and Neurodiverse
I am at a loss to find any common ground with these two groups.

Divergence

Eugenicists vs. Conspiracists
The eugenicists represent legitimate (albeit ethically questionable) science. The conspiracists do not.

Eugenicists vs. Neurodiverse
The neurodiverse are strongly against cures and prevention for autism and consider autism a natural human variant. The eugenicists are strongly for cures and prevention and consider autism a disease or affliction. Eugenicists seek social awareness while the neurodiverse seek social acceptance.

Neurodiverse vs. Conspiracists
Conspiracists believe that all cases of autism are preventable injury and fight to stop this so-called injury. They promote treatments that are often harmful and dangerous. Neurodiverse do not support questionable treatments for autism nor do they support the idea that autism is caused by a preventable injury.

It is probably not so hard to see why there is little community behavior between these groups. It is unrealistic to believe that they will ever converge because they simply do not share the same goals. Community generally refers to common ground. It is not only unrealistic to infer we should all “just get along,” it is offensive. What most really mean by that statement is that the marginalized group should be silenced.
I won’t deny that there are people who do not fit neatly into any of the three groups. Often we hear those who say they support the neurodiverse message but still seek a cure for some. These statements are in disharmony and make little sense. Realistically, these people are supporters of the eugenics or conspiracists groups but do not want to identify as such. You simply cannot be for finding a cure for autism and at the same time believe autism is a natural part of human diversity.
For those who read my blog, it is probably easy to see that I am an ally to the neurodiversity movement. My belief is that those who are labeled – are living with a disability, should be calling the shots. I believe that people on the spectrum should have a voice no matter whether their voice is through augmentative communication or their vocal chords. I cannot possibly imagine that I, an onlooker, should have more say than this marginalized group of people. I don’t get to determine how they should think and feel anymore then they do for me. This is their battle and I proudly stand beside them in support. As a parent, I stand beside my autistic son and let him be my guide.

It’s Your Fault and My Fault – We All Share Responsibility

The recent influx in gun violence is our fault. We are the true problems – a culture so lost, so self absorbed we cannot see the trees through the forest. It’s not just the guns. It’s not just the mental health system. It’s not just bad luck. It’s us.

Science has known for years that guns are the leading cause of death among children and youth. Having a gun in a home increases the likelihood that someone will unintentionally die by that gun. Science has also know for years that violence in the media, including video games, increases the likelihood that someone will become violent. Exposure to pretend and real violence desensitizes us.

But science is lost on our culture. We have regressed into a nation that prefers to watch toddlers prance around in evening gowns and tiaras instead of learning. Then, we blame school systems for educational failures. We believe each of us is the center of our own universe. We falsely claim immunity to nature.We have regressed to a time when society blamed bad luck on witchcraft and where demonic possession is what caused people to behave poorly.

Today, when something awful does happen, it must be someone or something else’s fault. We wield our religious values as a shield of immunity. We scapegoat in order to relieve us of our individual responsibility. We find answers that absolve us and incriminate others. And this, is indeed, the reason things do not change in our society. Our culture has been soiled by extreme egoism.

If we truly want to end the senseless violence like that in Newtown, Connecticut, we must look within ourselves. We must question our belief systems. We must accept that humans are part of a natural order and not exempt. We must understand that no one is an island and our individual behaviors affect many others on this planet. We must understand that our religious beliefs are values to live by – not shields of exemption.

Finally, we must be willing to make self-sacrifice for the greater good. We must be willing to alter our thirst for violence in our entertainment, concede our unlimited access to to weapons of war, and we must demand better health care options from those who control access.

Until we are willing to make self-sacrifices, this sad history will continue to repeat.

Using Tragedy for Personal Gain

What a few days of utter hell! Advocates all over the country have been attempting to extinguish fires set by the media. It seems the media’s mission has been to out-sensationalize tabloid journalism. Highly emotional, the public is outraged and rightly so – too many innocent people are dying by the hands of gun owners with deadly assault weapons (people kill people, right?). The media knows that the public wants immediate answers and solutions that point the blame away from gun restrictions. And so they deliver.

While there was some talk about gun control, the new focus has become mental health. The headlines began to read the “Killer may have had [insert mental health diagnosis].” Thanks to this media hype, the dismayed public is now asking, why aren’t these “dangerous” people with mental health issues being helped? Adding more mental health stigma to an already terrible situation, enter the opportunistic vultures.

Over the weekend, a blogger (whom I refuse to name in effort to prevent feeding her more media attention) created a blog post under her real name (no pseudonyms for this one). This blog openly discussed her child’s dangerous mental health issues. Most disturbingly, the headline compared her thirteen-year-old child to a murderer. The blog post went viral. People all over applauded her bravery for sharing her story – a story that led the public to believe she was in danger and that her son might be the next mass murderer -a Michael Myers meets Jason of Friday the 13th waiting to happen. She used fear and panic to add more stigma about people with mental health disabilities. And the public was buying it.

One only had to dive deeper into this woman’s blog to see that there was indeed a very troubling history. Her child was allegedly sexually abused by her x-husband – a story in which she tells of a court hearing where alleged-molester-daddy-dearest gives the boy the cold shoulder causing the kiddo to break down. Later we read Daddy has joint custody. But that’s not all, no. Daddy has supposedly had this same 13-year-old child “incarcerated” four times!!!  Is it any wonder this child might have mental health issues? Mom also claims her boy threatened suicide to police and was hospitalized in a mental health facility on at least one occasion (we presume during jail time).These grandiose stories were starting to be over the top.

Did I mention Mom is a writer? She’s been interviewed by several local media outlets in the past – never discussing this crazed life she lives.  She has, however, given interviews on a local radio station about using Facebook as a tool to build an audience as a writer. She also worked for a time as a magazine editor. She even tells us on her personal blog about using Facebook to create a persona – someone she “wanted to become.” Hmmmmmm.

There are some very troubling parents who think they are helping their children by posting personal information. I won’t deny that I have seen it. But typically, these parents are “green” when it comes to social media. They don’t realize what they post on Facebook today ends up in Google’s search engine tomorrow. This mother, however, is not green. She’s a college art instructor who writes professional articles and erotica novels in her spare time. She expertly blogs, tweets, and Facebooks til the cows come home and advises others on utilizing these tools for self promotion.This mother did not inadvertently give out personal information that could harm her child without knowing she did so. No, this was contrived. Which leads me to my main point.

I don’t believe her story. Her child may indeed exist – she has his and the family photos on the blog for all to see. He may even have an un-diagnosed mental health disorder. But I am unconvinced that this educated and savvy writer would willingly expose her child risking adolescent bullies and public retaliation. After all, she did not hide her identity (though supposedly changing the child’s first name). No rational parent throws their kid under the bus like that. Mom has seemed to find a lot of time to blog, write books, and tweet. I would think she’d be able to find time to get her child some appropriate help, should he really need it. Our mental health system is far from perfect. But there is help for those who have means. One would think a college instructor has the means. Are we to believe that rather than privately seeking help for him, she blogged about it?

No, I don’t believe that this woman has a child who is dangerous and has driven her to the brink as she’d have you believe. She is someone who saw an opportunity to get her name known. Perhaps this was her chance to get a real publisher to look at her work. Whatever the motive, I firmly believe that this was all about her and never about a social mental health crisis. Because all this woman did was make it worse. She helped link people with mental health issues to violent murderous behavior. I anxiously await the publication of her autobiography.

My Broken Back

After a week of illness I informally deemed “the new black plague” and end of semester finals, I thought Friday’s tragedy was the straw that would break this camel’s back. You see, I loathe guns. I will not have them in my home, regardless of their purpose. I’m not exactly sure when I formed this strong opinion, but know it began at least by my adolescence as I remember having this debate in civics class. Ironically, I grew up in a home with handguns and hunting rifles. I have no traumatic stories to tell that explain my great dislike of guns. Yet I do, very strongly, dislike weapons and see no sign of changing this perspective.
So when I finally came out of my cave of academic study and heard the news, I thought I would crumble. More senseless death, of children no less, in the name of someone’s barbarous argument that it is their “Constitutional Right” to carry and stockpile these killing machines. I have grown weary from the argument. Little did I know, however, that this story would become personal and downright paralyzing.
The media, in effort to sell the story, figured it had better give us the big answer: Why? Why would this young man have done such an unspeakable thing? In reality, because the shooter is also dead we will never know. But let the speculation begin. The media was going to give us that BIG answer, though completely unfounded.
ABC was the first news network to start the rumor. An anonymous relative supposedly said the killer was autistic and had a personality disorder. Within moments, that misinformation went viral. ABC had “dirt” it so desperately needed to stand out from its competing networks. Soon after, ABC removed that information from their website – presumably it was misinformation. But it was way too late. Other news media, bloggers, commentators, you-name-it stumbled on that misinformation and had begun to spread it like wildfire. There would be counters to this misinformation, but it would fall on deaf ears. You see, saying “we don’t know why” doesn’t sell papers or increase sponsorship. People want answers. And they are ready to accept those answers regardless of who gets hurt in the process. They are especially ready to point blame at something other than “the gun.”
Today, I continue to read the horror stories. Not the shooting details. I simply refuse to patronize the sensationalist news media with their nonstop speculative commentary. The families deserve much better. No, I am reading about the “witch hunt” demonizing autistics – the ongoing pleas to stop autistics from hurting others – to limit autistic rights – the nonsense connections from someone who knows someone who knows someone with an autistic family member who was “just like” the shooter. The well-meaning bloggers who plead for better “mental health” for people “suffering from autism.”
Autism, though still in the DSM, is considered a neurobiological disorder by the specialists and researchers who are forefront. It is a different wiring system in the brain that causes the individual to process differently than what is typical. Symptoms of autism do not include premeditated violent behavior.
Autistics and individuals with other disabilities are no more likely to commit violent crime than non-disabled people. In fact, people with disabilities of all kinds, including autism, are much more likely to be the victims of violent crime. Attributing autism as a motive to this heinous crime is no more valid than attributing Adam Lanza’s maleness, human-ess, or the fact that he lived in Connecticut. Though all of these things are true, they do not motivate one to murder.
Today I live in fear because of a rhetorical interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. I fear that I cannot safely go Christmas shopping without the possibility that a “legal” gun owner might go on a killing spree. Leaving our home increases the likely-hood my family will die by gunfire. I fear my family may end up collateral damage so that gun enthusiasts can continue to stockpile assault weapons.
But I mostly live in fear for my autistic child. A victim of abuse by the hands of “typical” people, my child, who values life above all, is now the target of a media frenzy.
Today my back is broken and it is difficult to have hope.

ASAN Statement on Media Reports Regarding Newtown, CT Shooting

Media outlets were quick to disseminate misinformation in regards to today’s tragic shootings. ABC originally reported speculation that the gunman was “autistic, or has Asperger syndrome and a personality disorder.” but has since removed that story. Sadly, other media outlets picked it up and within minutes, this potential misinformation went viral.

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network released this statement.

In response to recent media reports that the perpetrator of today’s shooting in Newton, Connecticut may have been diagnosed on the autism spectrum or with a psychiatric disability, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) issued the following statement today:
“Our hearts go out to the victims of today’s shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut and their families. Recent media reports have suggested that the perpetrator of this violence, Adam Lanza, may have been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, or with another psychiatric disability. In either event, it is imperative that as we mourn the victims of this horrific tragedy that commentators and the media avoid drawing inappropriate and unfounded links between autism or other disabilities and violence. Autistic Americans and individuals with other disabilities are no more likely to commit violent crime than non-disabled people. In fact, people with disabilities of all kinds, including autism, are vastly more likely to be the victims of violent crime than the perpetrators. Should the shooter in today’s shooting prove to in fact be diagnosed on the autism spectrum or with another disability, the millions of Americans with disabilities should be no more implicated in his actions than the non-disabled population is responsible for those of non-disabled shooters.
Today’s violence was the act of an individual. We urge media, government and community leaders to speak out against any effort to spuriously link the Autistic or broader disability community with violent crime. Autistic Americans and other groups of people with disabilities persist in facing discrimination and segregation in school, the workplace and the general community. In this terrible time, our society should not further stigmatize our community. As our great nation has so many times in the past, let us come together to both mourn those killed by acts of heinous murder and defend all parts of our country from the scourge of stigma and prejudice.”
Media inquiries regarding this shooting may be directed to ASAN at info@autisticadvocacy.org.

http://autisticadvocacy.org/2012/12/asan-statement-on-media-reports-regarding-newton-ct-shooting/

How to Profit from Your Enemies – by Autism$peaks

NOTE: 4-8-2011 Update Follows at End of Article- Cafe Press’ Response


During my morning Facebook check in routine, I stumbled on a post by a fellow advocate, Paula C. Durbin-Westby. The post stated simply,

If you have a Cafe Press site and have the word “autism” in your product name or line of products, 10% of the final sales purchase will be donated to Autism Speaks. If you don’t like your site being used in that way you can contact Cafe Press.

For those unfamiliar, Cafe Press is reseller of personal logo-wear and accessories. Every day “joe’s” can upload their logo and have their own store front. Cafe Press keeps the profits, but stores are encouraged to mark up prices as to make a small profit on everything they sell.  As a member of non-profit who hosts a logo shop at Cafe Press, I was a bit curious as to how this Autism Speaks campaign could possibly work. I went to their blog where they give the details http://blog.cafepress.com/2011/04/05/a-voice-for-autism

Here you find the details of the promotion.

* An amount equal to 10% of the final purchase price for all products tagged with “autism” and sold through CafePress.com Marketplace during April 1, 2011 through April 30, 2011 will be donated to Autism Speaks

Key in the promotional guideline is this – for all products tagged with “autism.” Store owners use tags to help market their products. For instance, if you search for autism at the site, Cafe Press will return results with this tag. I probably do not need to tell you that anyone can use any tag whether its to help or hurt a cause.

Perhaps Cafe Press is unaware of the millions of dollars Autism Speaks rapes from the people in the name of helping those with Autism. Thing is, they are a grassroots organization in name only. They do not “give back” to the communities who fund them. They profit and divvy that profit up among their high paid executives. In 2009, Autism Speaks paid out more to their internal employees than all that they spent on research and advocacy. Their IRS 990 form is here. I’m no mathematician but thankfully others are better. Here’s a nice breakdown of how Autism Speaks spent their money from a fellow blogger:

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, really considering they have now surpassed popularity of other Autism organizations who preceded them. I can only imagine what 2010’s 990 will look like.

But lets look at a bigger problem. Autism Speaks does NOT support self advocacy. Autism Speaks has gone as far as to sue a 14 year old Autistic teen over a blog that denounced them. That story can be found here:

The gist is that a teen made a parody site called NT Speaks that denounced intolerance. And though she did not use Autism Speaks logos, she designed the site to be similar in look and feel. And though this is not considered a copyright infringement according to law (parody sites are exempt), their high-powered attorney used intimidation and threats and made her destroy the source code for the web site.

There’s more. Over the years, Autistics have been trying to sit on Autism Speaks board of directors. They will NOT allow someone with Autism to infiltrate the organization. That says it all to me. Autism Speaks who has been notoriously vocal against the very people it supposedly supports, has found a way to profit from them.

So, if you shop at a store that promotes Neurodiversity you are inadvertently donating to Autism Speaks. If as a store owner you have tagged any of your items with “autism,” they are getting 10% of the sale. 

I posted a rather to the point comment on their blog that has been awaiting moderation for roughly four hours and counting. I’m not the only one. Others have posted comments that are either being ignored or sat on until the smoke clears. [update: Cafe Press did not approve my comment as of 4-7-2011, it’s no longer pending or there. No one else’s comments exist either].

Perhaps Cafe Press is now scrambling to undo the mess. Or perhaps they have a vested interest in Autism Speaks. But I for one, am considering cutting business ties with them. No matter how or why they chose this campaign, it was in bad form to presume that their clients would happily contribute to an organization.


4-8-2011 Update
I received this response from Cafe Press regarding the issue:


Thank you for your blog comment; we appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts on our Autism Awareness program. Over the past 24 hours we’ve received many other messages expressing concern for our decision to donate a percent of proceeds to Autism Speaks.

The response we’ve received takes us a bit by surprise, as this is our third year partnering with Autism Speaks and the first year we’ve heard concerns voiced about specific organizations or their approaches. That said, as a community-based business we feel it is important to listen and respond to our users’ concerns. You helped us to understand an adjustment to this program is needed. We have learned a lot about Autism in the process and feel privileged to be a part of the national conversation about supports for individuals and families facing the challenge of Autism.

For this year we’ve already made a commitment to Autism Speaks, and we do not want to go back on our promise to them, but we do want to add another charitable organization to split the money donated and balance our support to other Autism related good works. We’re asking our community to choose the specific Autism support charity that will receive ½ of the money raised through sales of Autism related goods.

If you’re interested in voting on this additional charitable initiative, or want to suggest one not on our list, please visit http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/X8QNK3N.

While we know this may not answer or solve all of your concerns, we hope it helps to show our commitment to the community and to a dialogue about Autism support. Please know that we have nothing but the best intentions with our Autism Awareness donation plan and we hope you find our changes to the program palatable.

Best,
CafePress

>Overcoming the Stigma of Vaccination

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Public health organizations are doing a poor job of advocating for vaccination. Conversely, anti-vaccination groups are successfully spreading misinformation and discouraging vaccination. In Michael Willrich’s New York Times editorial, Why Parents Fear the Needle, he argues that health organizations are doing little to counter misinformation and reassure the public about safety.1 It is possible that his argument is valid. Though a 2009 study showed immunization of U.S. infants remained at about ninety percent2, in 2010, forty percent of U.S. families postponed or declined vaccines for their children.3 Fear is usually the driving force behind refusal to vaccinate and is mostly caused by ignorance. Lack of clear and accessible information about the real risks of vaccines increases suspicion and makes the public susceptible to deceitful practices. The absence of good information appears to cause families to depend on more readily available nonsense.


As Willrich points out, vaccines have always been a subject of public scrutiny. The smallpox vaccine, developed in the late 1800s, began a surge of fearful and angry anti-vaccination groups. The concept of injecting a living disease into a healthy person seemed a foolish way to fend off illness. Anger was largely due to government health organizations forcing vaccination on the public without assuring public safety.4 These organizations did not tell the public about benefits and risks, yet forced them to submit to vaccination. Adding to public fear, a handful of citizens contracted tetanus after receiving the diphtheria vaccine in 1901. This caused a nationwide panic and a halt to vaccination for some time. Later, it was found the infections were due to an exposure to tetanus at the injection wound site.5 Though found unrelated to the actual vaccine ingredients, the outbreak added to the public’s already damaged perception of vaccines.

Willrich fails to mention two important issues affecting today’s vaccination rates. Complacency and boundless exposure to media opinion have contributed to the anti-vaccination movement. Most citizens no longer fear contracting deadly epidemics such as polio. Numerous serious diseases have ceased to exist thanks to vaccination. Immunity, however, has caused the public to become over-confident and forget.6 Complacency and media exposure create a perfect mix for conspiracy theorists. Many believe there is a conspiracy to poison citizens in the name of profit. Despite this seemingly new trend, however, celebrities and media have long been a source of anti-vaccination rhetoric. In the 1900s, George Bernard Shaw publicly declared vaccines a “filthy piece of witchcraft.” 7 After the premier of the smallpox vaccine, political satirist, James Gillray, published a cartoon depicting vaccinated people morphing into cow-like creatures.8 In more recent times, actress and former Playboy model, Jenny McCarthy faulted childhood vaccinations as the cause of her child’s Autism. McCarthy co-authored a book on the matter, entitled Healing and Preventing Autism.9 Though not completely new, misinformed celebrities and complacency have endorsed the anti-vaccination mentality.

Another aspect, Willrich seems to omit, is the power of the anti-vaccination groups. Such groups continue to perpetuate fear using arguments very similar to those of the 19th century’s groups.10 Today, however, these groups are highly visible thanks to the Internet. The multitude of deception on the Internet has increased public suspicion. Deceivingly harmless advocacy organizations, such as Age of Autism and the National Autism Society, have an expansive presence on the World Wide Web. These anti-vaccination groups thrive on misinformation and label scientific study, that does not support their mission, as tainted. Groups sometimes accuse families who vaccinate of being part of a large conspiracy. Groups such as these appear to prey on desperation, confusion and ignorance. In some cases, groups use deceit and fear for profit. Corrupt groups often promote alternative and sometimes dangerous treatments with hefty price tags. In most cases, treatments are not medically approved and hence, not covered by health insurance. Families frequently shell out thousands of dollars in a month to receive questionable treatments, unproven herbal drugs, and other alternative medicine. These families are led to believe they are healing vaccine injury.11

Misinformed and corrupted science also adds to current fears. Fueling the fire for the anti-vaccination movement, in 1998 British researcher, Andrew Wakefield claimed to have found a clear link to the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine and Autism. Though countless scientific studies around the globe could find no correlation, Wakefield declared to have proof. Since no other researcher could duplicate his results, Wakefield’s study was highly scrutinized. It was this intense examination that uncovered a falsified report. Soon after, Mr. Wakefield’s motives became apparent. He had been working on developing his own variety of the MMR vaccine. Add to this, he hand-picked his test subjects using anti-vaccination groups who not only financed the study, but had planned grandiose litigation once the study was complete.12 Despite the very public exposure of Wakefield’s crime, one in five parents still believes that vaccines cause Autism.13 His crime left a legacy of misinformation and helped increase the public’s fear of vaccines.

It is clear that a good deal of information exists to help us understand the reason for public fear of vaccines. On the other hand, as Willrich notes, reputable and clear scientific information on vaccination risks and benefits is not as available. In the recent past, the heath organizations have mostly remained silent and relied on health care providers, such as pediatricians, to persuade their patients and families to vaccinate. While on the surface this appears a reasonable approach, a recent survey showed that though eighty-seven percent of doctors said they talked about vaccination with all their patients, forty-seven percent of patients claimed their doctor never mentioned vaccines.14 This leads us to wonder how confident even the doctors are in recommending vaccination to their patients. It is obvious, the health organizations need to take a firm step toward better education for all the public, including health care providers.

The health organizations need to use an accessible approach to teach the public about vaccine safety. Willrich affirms that they must use the power of the Internet. And though the health organizations may argue that they do, the current information on the World Wide Web is mostly incomprehensible to the average citizen. At the Center for Disease Control and World Health Organization websites, documentation reads much like a sophisticated medical journal. In order to foster a better understanding, the health organizations must use language that clearly and effectively gives citizens a chance to comprehend the benefits and risks of vaccination. These organizations must find ways to make information accessible for all walks of life. Until the health organizations prepare and widely distribute information that is accessible, the conspiracy theorists and anti-vaccination groups will continue to grow.

Health organizations have begun fighting misinformation with more rhetoric as another ineffective way to promote vaccination. Willrich says it very clearly. “Why waste another breath vilifying the anti-vaccination minority when steps can be taken to expand the pro-vaccine majority?”15 Indeed it appears, that rather than ignoring the misguided messages of the anti-vaccination movement, the health organizations seem bent on fighting fire with fire. Opinion pieces do little to make the public feel safer. Better the health organizations should promote scientifically proven risks and benefits of vaccination. Another problem with this method is, by acknowledging the misinformation, they are also lending some validity to the argument. As Shakespeare’s Queen said, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”16

Michael Willrich sums up the argument, nicely. “Until officials realize that, and learn how to counter such deep-seated concerns, the paranoia – and the public-health risk it poses – will remain.”17 Lack of accessible information, complacency due to eradication of many deadly diseases and public suspicion will continue to keep some from vaccinating. Until the world health organizations change their methods to an educational approach, ignorance and misinformation will continue to reign.




1Michael Willrich, “Why Parents Fear the Needle,” New York Times, January 21, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/21/opinion/21willrich.html.

2“CDC Survey Finds Childhood Immunization Rates Remain High,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, September 16, 2010, http://www.cdc.gov/media/pressrel/2010/r100916.htm.

3Michael Willrich, “Why Parents Fear the Needle,” New York Times, January 21, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/21/opinion/21willrich.html.

4“Smallpox: Resistance to Vaccination,” U.S. National Library of Medicine, October 2002, www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/smallpox/sp_resistance.html.

5Joseph Mcfarland, M.D., “Tetanus and Vaccination.1- An Analytical Study of Ninety-Five Cases of this Rare Complication,” J Med Res. 7(4), (1902): 474–493.

6Senier, L. , “Risk Balanced by Trust: Parental Perception of Vaccine Risks”, 2005-08-12, http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p22083_index.html.

7“Smallpox: Resistance to Vaccination,” U.S. National Library of Medicine, October 2002, www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/smallpox/sp_resistance.html.

8Ibid.
9Jeffrey Kluger , “Jenny McCarthy on Autism and Vaccines,” Time Magazine, Apr. 01, 2009, http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1888718,00.html.

10Robert M Wolfe, “Anti-vaccinationists past and present,” BMJ., 325(7361), (2002): 430–432.

11Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, “On shaky ground with alternative treatments to autism,” http://www.bcbs.com/news/wellness/on-shaky-ground-with-alternative-treatments-to-autism.html.

12Brian Deer, “How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed,” BMJ , (2011): 342:c5347.

13Michael Willrich, “Why Parents Fear the Needle,” New York Times, January 21, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/21/opinion/21willrich.html.

14Steven Reinberg, “CDC Report Finds Adult Vaccination Rates Still Lagging,” HealthDay , November 17, 2010, http://health.msn.com/health-topics/articlepage.aspx?cp-documentid=100266932.

15Michael Willrich, “Why Parents Fear the Needle,” New York Times, January 21, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/21/opinion/21willrich.html
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16Macrone, Michael. “The lady doth protest too much.” Brush Up Your Shakespeare. Cader Company, 1990. eNotes.com. 2007. 12 Feb, 2011 http://www.enotes.com/shakespeare-quotes/lady-doth-protest-too-much-methinks.
17Michael Willrich, “Why Parents Fear the Needle,” New York Times, January 21, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/21/opinion/21willrich.html.