The Media and the Debate: To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate
by stel0851 on March 31, 2015 - 5:53pm
The media has a powerful and unmatchable influence on our society, and it influences both the impressionable and seemingly non-impressionable ages. The media frames its information in a way to be most convincing and seemingly true in order to make its intended message effective. However, many times the information is not consistent with the truth or seems to be more harmful that it actually is. Many debates occur in the media surrounding medical and scientific research or issues such as the debate against euthanasia, the pro life or pro choice debate and the debate of whether to vaccinate yourself and your children. The vaccination controversy is becoming more and more prominent in our society with arguments for or against vaccinations. Those who are against vaccines can questions how effective and safe they are as well as the risks they could have towards the patience overall mental and physical health. Those who are pro vaccine argue that the reward is much greater than the risk and to not vaccinate yourself or your children can cause an outbreak of much deadlier diseases than the risk that there might be when getting a vaccine (“Vaccine Controversies”). It is a tricky situation, because the debates against vaccines have been sometimes shown to have false evidence, which have influenced people to reduce vaccination rates and increase fatal illnesses among children, in particular.
Andrew J. Wakefield is a former surgeon and medical researcher who published a research paper claiming that there is a link between certain vaccinations (measles, mumps and rubella) and the rates of autism in children (Ziv). After the paper was published, other researchers were not able to find the same conclusions Wakefield found. The journal that published this article has since retracted it, when the truth that Wakefield’s evidence was not true came to light. He has since been stripped of his medical license for ethical violations (Ziv). Since his report was released, Measles was at its highest count since it had become a disease that had previously been deemed eradicated and vaccination rates had decreased (Ziv). Additionally in the media we have seen Jenny McCarthy who is a model, television host and has joined the fight against vaccines after is her 11 year old son was diagnosed with autism in 2005 (Chai). In her book, she argues that since the rise of vaccine between 1983 and 2008 there is a corresponding rate of autism (Kluger). In both of these situations, media is portraying the arguments of two seemingly educated people and influencing the opinions of many people.
As the common saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility and the media has the greatest responsibility to give the greatest good to the greatest number. In this case, I would argue that the greatest good is knowledge. However, the knowledge that is being portrayed must be screened and proven; in order to give the mass communication that the media is to everyone in the most beneficial way. In this case, the health of children is at stake, and the consequence can be mass fatal outbreaks of disease. This is something that must be taken more seriously, it is not ethical for the media to glorify someone like Jenny McCarthy, who is clearly not educated or knowledgable in this field and give her such power to spread a message that isn’t proven. The media tends to go towards celebrities and the most controversial story in order to attract people, but it must move away from that and stop thinking about what will bring the most revenue, and bring what will bring the best health for mankind.
In the case of Jenny McCarthy, she is a mother searching for an answer to a disease that was developed during childhood and is affecting her family so much. She is a distressed mother searching for answers, not an educated doctor giving conclusive evidence. She says, “If you ask a parent of an autistic child if they want the measles or autism, we will stand in line for the fucking measles” (Kluger, 2009). The media publishing this quote is playing on the emotions of the readers, making them feel bad for the mom that wishes her son was healthier, or a curable disease. Although it is very sad that there is no cure for her son, this is not a fair way of spreading the message. It is not ethical to influence decisions of people that should be taken with education by emotions of pity. It is human nature to believe anything we hear when it is regarding our health or the health of the ones we love, that is why it is completely in the responsibility to not create misconceptions regarding this.
To conclude, the portrayal of the consequences of vaccines in the media is historically in conclusive. Although I have argued that the portrayal of facts regarding vaccinations are unethical, I do not want to make it seem like this whole situation doesn’t have a silver lining. I believe there is something to be said for the increase of awareness towards vaccines and research to be done for both vaccines and autism. However, the two cases I have discussed have the media glorifying and bringing popularity to two sources that can’t be trusted. The media is portraying these situations unethically, and they have the complete responsibility to regulate and govern their attention towards proven and true facts that will benefit the most people.
Chai, Carmen. “Jenny McCarthy backtracking on anti-vaccination, but is it too late?”. Global News. Global News, 16 April 2014. Web. 31 March 2015.
Kluger, Jeffrey. “Jenny McCarthy on Autism and Vaccines”. Time. Time, 1 April 2009. Web. 31 March 2015.
“Vaccine Controversies”. Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 26 March 2015. Web. 31 March 2015.
Ziv, Stav. “Andrew Wakefield, Father of Anti-Vaccine Movement, Responds to the Current Measles Outbreak for the First Time”. Newsweek. Newsweek, 10 Feb. 2015. Web. 31 March 2015.