How to Fight Fake News on Vaccines | NYT Opinion

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You all know about
how fake news is threatening your democracy. But there’s another type
of misinformation that’s threatening our very health. And this time,
people are dying. I’m talking about
medical misinformation. Roughly 49 percent of
Americans believe in at least one medical
conspiracy theory. When people are diagnosed, with
cancer and they go online, they’re often hit with
absolute falsehoods. These scare patients. And they either delay their
conventional treatment or they sometimes reject it. My name is Dr.
David Robert Grimes. I’m a cancer researcher. And when a vaccination
confidence crisis came to Ireland, my home country, I found myself on
the front line. Let me tell you about the
human papilloma virus or H.P.V. Every year about 270,000
women die of cervical cancer caused by H.P.V. infection. But for the first
time in our history, we now have a vaccine
that prevents against it. It’s difficult to overstate
how effective this vaccine has been. In America, H.P.V. infection in young
girls has dropped about 88 percent. But then things changed.
In Japan in 2013, sustained anti-vaccine activism led to a panic, which saw
vaccination rates for H.P.V. dropped from 70 percent to less
than 1 percent within a year or two. In 2014, a similar
outbreak of panic came to Denmark. In the
U.S.A., H.P.V. vaccination rates in adolescence
remain critically low, hovering at around 16 percent.
“The uptake rate for the H.P.V. vaccine has dropped.” In 2015, panic about the H.P.V.
vaccine came to Ireland. “For some girls
and young women, the side effects of Gardasil
go well beyond a few months.” I couldn’t believe
that I was hearing, such dangerous falsehoods
about a vaccine that prevents 5 percent of all cancers. “We only ever wanted what
was best for our girls.” Within a year or so,
Irish vaccination rates had gone from highs
of 87 percent to about 50 percent. It starts with
this: As rational as we like to think we are, and as logical, the truth is that we emote
first and we reason later. “And I watched my baby go
boom and hit the ground.” You’ll often see
a scare story that says — particularly
a teenage girl — has had an adverse effect
to this vaccination. “I believe with all my heart
that the Gardasil vaccination did this to her.” And
it’ll be delivered in a very frightening way
that captures your attention. “I was such an intelligent
girl and now I’ve just got this fog over my mind.” It doesn’t matter that the
stories lack any veracity. What matters is they
scare us and in scaring us we remember them. And in remembering them, we afford them more
weight than they deserve. And so starts a vicious cycle. This explains why lies
about the H.P.V. vaccine were able to do so much
damage in so many countries. But in Ireland, what really changed
the situation was a woman called Laura Brennan. When Laura was 24, she was diagnosed
with cervical cancer, and by the time she was 25, that
was metastatic noncurable. Laura was alarmed that
people weren‘t getting this vaccine that
could prevent women from being in the situation
that she found herself in. Her campaigning
started with a series of advertisements where she
talked to parents directly to them. “Protect our future.” She was on talk shows. She was interviewed
in magazines. “If anything good
comes out of this, I would hope parents would
get their daughters vaccinated. The vaccine saves lives. It could have saved mine.” She said, I am the reality of
an unvaccinated girl. “So it just shows you how fast
and aggressive my cancer is. But yeah, that’s life.” It’s no good just
throwing facts of people until you can show them
why those facts matter. In Ireland, thanks in large part to
her campaigning, rates climbed back up over 70 percent,
and are continuing to climb. It shows that you can
reverse some of this damage. “When I found out
that my cancer was terminal, I wanted to
use my voice for good, and for the last 12 months, I haven’t shut up.” Laura exemplified
something really, really important:
That you never change minds without
changing hearts as well. All the journal articles in
the world, all the physicians and scientists in the
world, saying something is for nothing if you
can’t reach people on a visceral emotional
level and show them why something matters. I was incredibly honored
and privileged to be close to Laura Brennan. She passed away on the 20th
of March 2019, aged only 26. But she leaves
behind a legacy that will extend far beyond
most of our lifetimes. And she will save more lives
than a library of journal articles and scientific
experts in isolation could ever hope to achieve. And that’s some legacy
to leave behind.

50 comments

  1. My kids are vaccinated, my family wrote many of the leading medical manuals. But when I took My one year old in to the pediatrician, the clipboard for the intake forms was from the RITLAN company. Until the medical profession stops pushing false diagnosis for non existent psudo scientific maladies like Attention Deficit Disorder and forcing up to 15% of boys to take amphetamines so they will sit still in class, until most hospitals stop giving out formula packages to new moms, you will never gain the trust of the majority of new parents. this is your fault.

  2. This is what Evolution is about – if you refuse to adapt to everchanging world, you fail to exist…

  3. We're looking at the white supremacist lies about health that built this current Medical system in America. Doctors are just robots. Do your own research. Every body is different.

  4. ??? Like many sheep I gave my newborn child every shot available. She got the HPV shot before leaving the hospital. At the time I was unaware that she was given a shot for a sexually transmitted disease. I am 100% in favor of shots. I’m AGAINST the TIMING of the shots. With my next 2, I was much more aware & they got their shots over time. I do NOT care that it was inconvenient for the medical staff.

  5. U do not believe scientists when it comes to vaccines but believe them when they tell you the car is road worthy or plane is air worthy. Einstein – when human interaction is limited by technology, the world will have a generation of idiots. We are witnessing it.

  6. I believe in Gardasil and as a woman in my 20s and I am working to get it. Its hard to get it in my country, its a long process (we dont import a lot of it, and its always out of stock). But I find it unethical of a medical professional to dismiss all the side effects of Gardasil as lies or misinformation. A lot of them are real, and very scary. Its a choice you make when you take the vaccine. You protect yourself of many cancers, in exchange of having a small possibility of being the unlucky ones who get the side effects. Most girls dont get any, you'll likely not them either. But you should be aware that it could happen and inform yourself of what the side effects could be. Cancer runs in my family, so for me I saw the vaccine as more important and decided to take the risk.

  7. This is powerful, and I want to share it right now….. but I know the anti vaxx folks will not be moved by it. One reason of course is they are up to their necks in the co spiracy misinformation. The other though is that the stories of vaccine injury were not explained, debunked or put to rest. You showed video and newspaper clippings of the hysteria, but didn’t refute or contextualize why it was wrong. So the uninformed are left feeling like your e saying these supposedly terrible side effects are just a worthwhile risk to save other people’s.ives. Do a follow up video in which this doctor explains why the misinformation is false.

  8. People do not use the internet research anything! Plenty of false reporting on the internet, especially around money. So read a lot! And why take some vaccines when the manufacturer or the medical community say they are very weakly effective.

  9. Why is it that we are ALWAYS marginalized and stupid for wanting to have a different approach to this topic?! There's ALWAYS BEEN people in the US & across the world who opted out for a myriad of reasons… and it was always at least considered acceptable. Now, it's practically a terrorist action for having a dissenting opinion. Or choosing NOT to be the test subjects & results for a particular vaccine?! Particularly Gardasil which absolutely no one (including the pharmaceutical company that makes it) knows either it's efficacy and/or it's possible long term effects.

  10. The people who believe these sorts of things lack common sense, the type of common sense that’s common in those who actually Pursue higher levels of education and aren’t complete dumbasses. I bet people don’t even know how vaccines work.

  11. Go and get a vaccines drug insert. Get the one from the manufacturer not the short ones the doctors and pharmacist gives you. You read it real carefully. It is these videos that lies to you. We do not know the history of this young lady, or what lead to her cancer. Because of this one story, you discount all the thousands of stories of other women's and men's that were injured or killed by HPV and other vaccines.

  12. Facts is that vaccines do have some negatives however the negatives affect barely 1% of people. Would u rather your child die painfully or have them live to past age 10

  13. I am an attorney, parent of a special needs child, and passionate advocate FOR vaccination. Your piece mirrors anti-vax hysteria in that you cite no primary source material, including no published, peer-reviewed medical research even though we both know there is reams of it to support your assertions. Lead by example. Back up your arguments.

  14. There's nothing wrong with being anti-vaccine and opposing vaccines. Big Pharma and the state think they own your body and have shown that they are not to be trusted because they will work surreptitiously to undermine your right to 'opt-out.' For all of you who believe in pharmaceutical industry propaganda, go ahead and get your shots. You shouldn't fear the un-vaccinated if the vaccine you received gives you immunity from the disease.

  15. Also Laura didn't die from HPV, she died from the chemo that she was given to fight off the cancer doctors told her she had. I'm remain unmoved by this propaganda piece!

  16. Anti vaxxers are just like the flat earthers, a bunch of middle age people that take internet jokes written by 16 year olds seriously.
    I'm 16 btw.

  17. 0:16 Ok wait a second, how is "big pharma" a conspiracy, it's well known that in the USA the pharmaceutical companies exploit the government's inability to negotiate with them at the expense of the average citizen.

  18. So when this guy and all the other Doctors go to medical school I bet that they're given the big pharma script. Most folks have no clue about what the reality is because the CDC doesn't want you to know. Congress has past a law stating that vaccination carries no liability for the pharmaceutical companies. Can't be sued! My question is does anyone know how many vaccines babies get now? Google that and then think about how these tiny bodies are being corrupted for the rest of their lives!

  19. Do 700 people a day die from avoidable med errors in US hospital$ ? (Yes, but out of HOW MANY HOSPITALIZED PATIENTS? ) 700/500,000

  20. Being an Antivaxer is dangerous and it’s horrible that people choose to not get their children vaccinated over false information. What I don’t appreciate is the hypocritical way he presented his case by saying anti vaxxers appeal to emotion to spread information and then he proceeds to appeal to emotion by the tragic case of the woman in the video. Oh well it’s NYT Opinion so hypocrisy is rampant

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