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The Vaccine War

TheVaccine War


ThePBS’s documentary titled “Vaccine War” examines the two sidesof the United States’ vaccination drive. On one end, the US healthofficials are encouraging parents to vaccinate their children byassuring them that vaccines are safe. On the other side, there aregroups of individuals (especially parents) who greatly oppose anyattempts by the government to vaccinate their children. Some of theseparents hold the view that certain vaccines are toxic to theirchildren. Concerns about the toxicity of the vaccines stem from theirbelief that the ingredients that pharmaceutical companies use toensure that the vaccine contents do not react or expire are toxic.

Moreover,there are those parents who feel that all vaccines are dangerous andthat children should be allowed to develop their immunity. Sucharguments are supported by the assumption that if other parentsvaccinate their children, then the anti-vaccine parents do not needto inoculate their children. In such a situation, the parents arerelying on herd immunity to keep their children safe withoutvaccines. Those parents who do not believe in herd immunity hold theview that the amount of vaccines given to their children is toxic.They draw comparisons between the number of vaccines that they weregiven as children to the number of vaccines that their children arebeing given.

However,what is probably the biggest concern for the anti-vaccinationcampaigners is the belief that vaccines cause autism. Many parentshave come out to state that their children developed autism afterreceiving vaccinations. Even celebrities such Jenny McCarthy havewaded into the issue to attest to the dangers of vaccinating childrensince she claims that her son developed autism after receivingvaccine shots. Anti-vaccination campaigners cite the existence ofchemicals such as thimerosal and mercury in vaccines as one of thecausal agents of autism. They even go as far as stating thatvaccination drives are meant to enrich pharmaceutical companies.

Varioushealth officials in the US cite complacency as being the reasonbehind the recent upsurge in the number of anti-vaccinationmovements. According to the health authorities, most of the currentday parents have not seen the devastating effects of vaccinablediseases such as polio and measles. Further, they cite variousstudies done by different nations such as Denmark, the United States,and Japan that contain empirical data meant to allay any assumptionthat vaccines cause autism. Furthermore, even the CDC was forced toremove thimerosal and mercury from vaccines. However, their moveinadvertently led the anti-vaccination proponents to believe therewas, in fact, a problem. Another concern by health officials is thatall the “vaccines cause autism” debate is diverting attentionfrom important research on autism. Additionally, health officialsfind it difficult to implement tests to determine whether vaccinescause autism because that would mean that some children would bedenied vaccines (control group).


TheVaccine War is not just about informing its viewers. The show alsotries to stir up a rational debate within the watchers. The showrecognizes the importance of the vaccination issue within Americansociety. It even highlights some of the threats posed by a lack ofsubstantive debate on immunization. For instance, the film highlightsthe 2014 Disneyland measles outbreak as a danger to the wellbeing ofsociety. Further, the documentary hopes at developing a platformwhere both sides of the divide can air their opinions without theinfluence of the other party. As such, it tries to provide the viewerwith the parties of the debate to allow the watcher to make anindependent decision.


ThePBS program employs various techniques to give itself the authorityto report on the vaccine debate. One, it makes use of first-handinformation. On the anti-vaccination side, the program’s creatorsinterviewed parents and other concerned parties who opposedvaccination. Moreover, the documentary avoids giving the respondentsleading or restricted questions. What the viewer sees is therespondent’s uncoerced opinion. When it comes to the pro-vaccinesside, the documentary interviews highly qualified health officialsfrom the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the NationalInstitute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases as well as otherqualified persons. It also incorporates the views of pro-vaccinesparents.

Furthermore,the Vaccine War show takes a seemingly objective stance on thevaccination issue to allow its viewers to develop their conclusion.The lack of a particular position prevents the show from alienatingpeople who have would have otherwise had opinions that differ fromthe documentary’s beliefs. Also, it makes use of real lifeincidences and empirical data. For example, it brings up the 2014Disneyland measles outbreak to emphasize that a debate on vaccines isnecessary. Data is collected from various sources around the globe.The PBS program even goes to Denmark in search of what otherresearchers term as a treasure trove of data. However, despite theseemingly objective stance of the documentary, one cannot help butnotice that it leans towards the pro-vaccination side. Perhaps, thisis because of the extensive scientific data that challenges almostall of the anti-vaccination group’s claims.


TheVaccine War proves to be a very informative source of secondaryinformation for anyone interested in understanding the vaccinedebate. One, it informs the viewer of the various perspectives thatexist concerning the vaccine issue. The film goes further than justsaying that there are two sides to the debate. It illustrates that itis much more complicated. Even people who are against vaccines havevaried reasons. Some oppose vaccines partially while others opposeare against any form of vaccination. Others, just have a problem withthe ingredients. Additionally, the viewer realizes that even withmost of the data showing that vaccines are highly beneficial, thereis room for concern because some of the vaccine recipients experienceadverse reactions.

Moreover,the show provides satisfactory responses to the concerns given by theanti-vaccination campaigners by citing scientific researches done onthe topic. Even though the show will probably change the minds of theundecided and the open minded it will do very little to convincethose who have taken a hard stance on the issue and the parents whoclaim that vaccines made their children ill. The question of whethervaccines cause autism will remain unanswered because of thedifficulty in conducting such a study. Denying children vaccines(control group) in the name of scientific research will be unethicaland will inevitably create a public outcry.

Additionally, fails to provide an in-depth analysis of the variousstudies that it says offer support to the pro-vaccination campaign.By cramming so much information in a show that slightly under onehour long, the producers limited the amount of content that theycould fit into the show. However, the length could be intentional toprevent the viewers from losing interest. As such, the program’sproducers should have provided additional links to the variousscholarly works which support the pro-vaccination drive.Alternatively, they can make a separate and detailed version of thesame show to allay fears of misinformation.