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Conspiracy Theories and the Ethics of Vaccines

Conspiracy Theories and the Ethics of Vaccines 

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Conspiracy Theories and the Ethics of Vaccines

We have heard stories of parents refusing to vaccinate their children, dubbed "antivaxxers" over time. "Antivaxxers" have apprehensions about vaccinations; "this apprehension leads some to consider immunizations as enormous, and often immoral, experiments in which they have no desire to participate, much more so if their children are engaged." This has long been a source of contention in the United States and other nations where individuals are misled by conspiracies and web publications. This paper will go into great length to examine the different reasons why Antivaxxers are making such a big statement, conspiracies theories and vaccine ethics such as vaccinations being hazardous, and how two philosophers may have some insight into this present worldwide crisis

 Many parents still refuse to vaccinate their children, despite the overwhelming amount of factual data that is readily accessible to everyone. According to a recent research, a 2009 vaccination schedule for children would avoid an estimated 42,000 premature deaths. Contrary to what this research claims, 13% of parents of children aged 6 months to 6 years reported using an alternate vaccination schedule in a 2010 national survey. Although this study claims that immunizations have incredible benefits. According to Sheehan (Whelan 2016). The spread of "vaccine-preventable" illnesses is aided by these non-traditional vaccination regimens. Many states have seen outbreaks of vaccine-preventable illnesses, and the number of cases is growing steadily because antivaxxers aren't aware of the dangers they pose. 

Furthermore, it's unfair to place the whole burden on parents who refuse to vaccinate their children since state laws make it so simple for them to do so. Antivaxxers may believe that state legislatures would put a stop to them, but this isn't always how they act in response to vaccine resistance. State legislation requiring vaccinations for students and caregivers in public schools and daycares serve to increase vaccination rates. When it comes to religious exemptions, however, some are so wide that the requirement is effectively rendered useless and ineffectual (Whelan, 2016). A child should always have parental agreement for vaccines regardless of whether or not they are necessary for enrollment at daycare or school.

It's unsurprising that epidemics arise when parents in the United States and even globally fail to vaccinate their children. In 1998, English physician Andrew Wakefield released a research in The Lancet claiming that the measles, rubella, and mumps (MMR) vaccination might cause autism. However, it was established in 2004 that Wakefield had a conflict of interest since he had filed for a patent for his own measles vaccine and had received money from a lawyer suing the manufacturers of rubella, measles, and mumps vaccines." As a result, Wakefield fueled anti-vaccination organizations and parents discovering inaccurate and misleading information online and on social media sources. Facebook is one of the social media platforms that is mostly responsible for the development of phony medical sites. In recent years, Facebook has enabled for the creation of bogus pages to prey on trusting parents who are really worried about their children's well-being. Unfortunately, this enables these phony sites to seduce parents with a misleading narrative, prompting them to rapidly share the pages with other parents, alerting them to the same erroneous assertion about vaccinations being hazardous. Until lately, there have been reports of Facebook doing a major clean of these sites that are not recognized sources and are spreading misleading information like wildfire.

Many have seen an excessive number of these sites purporting to be reputable sources. Occasionally, these sites assert that vaccinations are only a method for the government to monitor and gradually eliminate individuals. For the same reason, people who disseminate these materials are likewise accountable for their followers' hasty adoption of this trend. Thus, if a cherished family member posts an item that others may view, this causes others to trust it as well, since they assume their family member knows the information is from a reputable source. Unfortunately, this is not the case, since outbreaks are on the increase.

"Measles is one of the most infectious viruses known (90 percent) [and] before to the vaccination, there were 100 million cases and over 2 million fatalities per year worldwide. With the introduction of the vaccine in 1963, morbidity and mortality rates were considerably lowered. Numerous symptoms are morbid, and this condition may potentially result in permanent disability, including the loss of all five senses. While some may believe that after reading these terrible statistics, they would immediately begin vaccinations for themselves and their children, this has not been the case in recent years. Although measles was proclaimed eliminated from the nation in 2000, "...it remains one of the major causes of mortality among young infants..." Indeed, 89,780 fatalities were estimated for this reason, the majority of which occurred in children under the age of five." (Patricia et al., 2019), data that was publicly accessible and acquired from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to identify children ages 2-11 who had the MMR vaccine (Lo & Hotez, 2017). 

However, "a 5% drop in MMR vaccination coverage in the United States would result in an estimated threefold rise in measles cases for children aged 2-11 years nationwide each year; these figures would be much greater if unvaccinated newborns, adolescents, and adults were included." Because there is debate about whether postponing immunizations is safer for children, parents are often concerned about financial coverage for vaccines. Experts cannot emphasize enough that a kid's immune system must cope with thousands of foreign antigens each day, while immunization exposes the infant to about 200 antigens during the first two years of life (Patricia et al., 2019). Indeed, many antivaxxers feel that if everyone else gets vaccinated, their children will be protected from contracting additional diseases. This is completely incorrect and will simply make children who are vaccinated more susceptible to diseases caused by unvaccinated youngsters.

Educating parents on the hazards that measles, as well as other diseases, might pose to their children may help to clear up any misunderstanding regarding vaccines and their impact on the human body. Today, studies such as those published in Vaccine and the Journal of the American Medical Association reveal no difference in autism rates between thousands of vaccinated and unvaccinated children." (Patricia et al., 2019).This is particularly critical given the scarcity of reputable information being disseminated on the internet in an attempt to increase support for the antivaxxer movement. According to Connolly et al (2019), researchers face several obstacles in order to further dispel misunderstanding and promote educational pieces outlining the advantages of vaccines and the negative consequences of not vaccinating children. Additionally, two tests were done in which participants were provided anti-conspiracy arguments in a random sequence. For instance, before to or during an assessment of reasons in support of popular conspiracy theories about vaccines. "Strengthening" the persuasiveness of an anti-conspiracy argument may be "provided prior to the presentation of conspiracy theory information. When content is delivered initially that is particularly controversial, fascinating, and recognizable to the audience, a primacy effect tends to occur (Moran et al., 2016).

 This is particularly relevant for an audience reading since it may raise the issue of why so many parents believe vaccinations are hazardous. Similarly, substantially persuading an audience to oppose vaccines against previously eliminated illnesses is significant and sometimes difficult to comprehend why it occurs. Moran et al. (2016) identifies the primary reason why this is such a significant concern for the nation. This is particularly important since the primary barrier to vaccination for children and adolescents is their parents. Thus, "learning how anti vaccine campaigners effectively convince parents not to vaccinate their children might provide light on communication strategies that could be integrated into vaccine promotion initiatives. Having "interventions" or instructive conversations with parents who are unsure about the need of vaccinations or why they should vaccinate their children are also vital questions to address in order to reduce hesitancy among new parents. While this strategy may benefit parents concerned about safety and the hazards connected with non-vaccination, it does not always result in parents understanding the need of vaccination. Unfortunately, parents who are entrenched in their ways of thinking and processing knowledge gathered by respectable experts and studies will always have reservations.

According to Immanuel Kant, categorical imperatives are unconditional orders. In other words, cheating on one's taxes is not acceptable under any circumstances, even if one wishes to do it in order to earn more money (Peyton, 2021). This directive specifies that individuals are not permitted to do something for themselves that would not be permitted for everyone else. For instance, if you expect others to fulfill their commitments, you are responsible for keeping your own. In this scenario, we see that many individuals who propagate incorrect information face prison time as a result of their own self-interest. Again, we see this in Wakefield's case, where he had received money from a lawyer attempting to sue the corporations that manufactured the MMR vaccinations. Additionally, Kant defined categorical imperatives as principles that must be followed regardless of one's wishes (Louch & Pry, 2020) As a result of this difficulty, we see Antivaxxers attempting to convince everyone that vaccinations are hazardous, despite several valid studies conducted by numerous researchers, just because they feel they are based on fake stories published online. Additionally, if antivaxxers disregard reliable sources and post fraudulent information, by adopting Kant's categorical imperative, anybody may publish misleading articles in order to prevent individuals from appropriately medicating themselves.

According to St. Thomas, natural ‘understanding' may be brought to an acquiescence either by its object or by the will. However, the object of faith transcends natural knowledge.' Thus, ‘something imperceptible to the intellect dictates and convinces the mind since the will has accepted it as something to which consent will be granted (Conwell, 2021). Additionally, Aquinas "observed that conscience operates across cultures and is unrelated to a person's religious faith." (Robinson, 2021) In this dilemma, we see many parents convinced by various articles claiming to have the answer to why their children may or may not have autism as a result of vaccines. Indeed, if St. Thomas were living today, he would enlighten closed-minded antivaxxers and make them aware of their immoral behavior toward their children and their choices.

Generally, implementing Kant's categorical imperative is simply because many researchers are doing an excellent job of alerting individuals about the inherent safety of vaccinations. Researchers and anybody who understands the advantages of immunizations are taking measures to avoid additional uncertainty among new parents. This involves interventions, the dissemination of reliable material, and the removal from Facebook of any items that continue to support Wakefield's self-serving assertion about vaccinations producing autism (Motta & Stecula, 2021). While we live in a free nation, it does not give Antivaxxers the authority to jeopardize the lives of other vaccinated individuals. Once that step is made in accordance with Kant's imperative, everyone should be permitted to endanger other lives for the sake of doing so, which is truly immoral. For the same reason, this student feels that when someone is exclusively concerned with their personal well-being, everything else falls apart.

Conclusion

It is really distressing for this student to learn that recent incidences of breakouts of previously eliminated illnesses have been steadily increasing due to "antivaxxers." There have been an unusually high number of cases reported around the nation, and people have become more aware of the risks they face if they are not vaccinated or just come into contact with someone who has acquired measles. Their justification for forbidding their children from self-vaccination or for feeding them incorrect information rather than proven facts is immoral. The answer to this continuous conundrum would be to simply prohibit misleading publications on the internet claiming vaccinations cause damage to children, as well as to prosecute anyone who write such information. This is shown by Wakefield's role in claiming that the MMR vaccination caused autism. He has been threatened with prison time and his license has been canceled. Another approach would be to educate many parents before to having children about the solid facts and hard data demonstrating that immunizations are not immoral and do safeguard future generations. Finally, repealing any laws exempting parents from vaccination, including religious exemptions, would help avoid the resurgence of vaccine-preventable illnesses that were previously eliminated.


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References

Connolly, J. M., Uscinski, J. E., Klofstad, C. A., & West, J. P. (2019). Communicating to the public in the era of conspiracy theory. Public Integrity21(5), 469-476.

Cornwell, W. (2020). Virtue Ethics, Technology, and Sustainability. In Sustainable Development and Social Responsibility—Volume 2 (pp. 399-404). Springer, Cham.

Lo, N. C., & Hotez, P. J. (2017). Public health and economic consequences of vaccine hesitancy for measles in the United States. JAMA pediatrics171(9), 887-892.

Louch, M. E., & Pry, M. (2020). Ethics and Data Manipulation. Information Systems Education Journal18(2), 4-13.

Moran, M. B., Lucas, M., Everhart, K., Morgan, A., & Prickett, E. (2016). What makes anti-vaccine websites persuasive? A content analysis of techniques used by anti-vaccine websites to engender anti-vaccine sentiment. Journal of Communication in Healthcare9(3), 151-163.

Motta, M., & Stecula, D. (2021). Quantifying the effect of Wakefield et al.(1998) on skepticism about MMR vaccine safety in the US. Plos one16(8), e0256395.

Patricia, C. R. N., Zulay, J. P. Y., Carlos, R. L. J., Alejandra, C. M., Cristina, J. S. R., & Josefina, R. V. (2019). The influence of antivaccination movements on the re-emergence of measles. J Pure Appl Microbiol13, 127-32.

Peyton, W. (2021). Conspiracy Theories in the Scientistic Scheme. In Chinese and Western Literary Influence in Liu Cixin’s Three Body Trilogy (pp. 21-36). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Robinson, S. M. (2021). Clinical nurse educators’ beliefs of the values and ethical principles of the profession of nursing and the implications for clinical education (Doctoral dissertation, The University of Alabama).

Whelan, A. M. (2016). Lowering the age of consent: pushing back against the anti-vaccine movement. Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics44(3), 462-473.