“Mother knows best” is an expression born from our high ranking position in society. As head of the family, we are nurturers and educators who serve for the wellbeing of our children and communities. We are mother nature, mother earth and the mother ship. We know everything.
Well, not everything. Motherhood does not confer expertise in areas like epidemiology, virology, immunology, vaccineology and medicine in general. Maternal vigilance cannot control infectious disease. Our tools to manage risk and mitigate disease in our young is not superior to those of a doctor, and yet there is an increase in vaccine resistance amongst women- notably mothers.
According to the Centre of Disease control, the percentage of children in the US who are unvaccinated has quadrupled since 2001, with a further 25percent of parents delaying or cherrypicking vaccines. In 2019, the WHO called reluctance or refusal to have children vaccinated one of the top 10 global health threats. NUI Galway research found that 31 percent of women under 30 said they wouldn’t take the Covid-19 vaccine or weren’t sure.
Research from Pew in the US found that 66percent of women planned to get the vaccine compared to 72percent of men. Even before Covid-19, globally, incidences of measles, mumps and pertussis were on the up and anti immunisation activism was regularly to blame. Since Edward Jenner first used cowpox to protect against smallpox in 1798, there’s been a vaccine pushback, with the seed firmly planted after Andrew Wakefield linked autism with the MMR vaccine in 1998, despite being subsequently debunked in 18 academic papers. Suspected side effects from the HPV vaccine against cervical cancer containing Gardasil and reluctance perpetuated by a super fast ‘experimental’ Covid-19 vaccines followed.
A UK study “Addressing Vaccine Hesitancy in the Context of COVID-19” by the University of Nottingham found a combination of mistrust in health authorities, fear of insufficient testing and long term complications caused hesitancy. That’s fair enough, but somewhere along the way, justified vaccine hesitancy morphed into evangelism, propelled by dubious anti vaxx websites and dark overlords like Larry Cooke, who profited from crowdfunding and clicks by sharing dangerous ‘truths’. If you think there’s malevolence on the side of the vaccine experts, ask yourselves, why would anyone be so altruistic without personal gain?
In her book, Jennifer Reich, author of ‘Calling the Shots: Why Parents Reject Vaccines says vaccine resistance is the domain of the ‘white privileged mothers’ who gain validation from online peers and social network groups acting as echo chambers, rather than medical reports or academic papers. I spoke to a doctor, who said that anti-vaxx mothers in particular in children’s hospitals are evangelical and unflappable in their stance so they won’t just change their mind, but ‘you let it go. “It’s important they know that no one is forcing them to give their children a vaccine or take one themselves.
They focus on a, but not b,c, d and e”, she says. Throw in fourth wave feminism, which has perpetuated body autonomy and lent us terms like ‘my body my choice’ a term robbed by anti-vaxx ideology, and you get emboldened women and mothers who want the best for themselves and their families. A 2018 report by the University of Queensland called The Psychological Roots of Anti-Vaccination Attitudes, which found that beliefs emerged from a ‘conspiracist world view’ where people with ‘malevolent intentions execute mass hoaxes’ on the public in near perfect secrecy, observed that interventions focusing on evidence and ‘debunking’ the vaccine to be non productive or even counterproductive.
So calling the movement and its proponents stupid is futile, but have we reached a potential tipping point? Vaccine uptake in Ireland is high thus far, so Covid-19 immunity can occur regardless of anti-vaxxers. But the coming weeks are crucial in so many ways. If we fend off variants, and society opens up, unfounded theories and vast sweeping statements about ‘Big Pharma’, government, scientists and medical professionals, who have their finger in the trillion dollar malevolent pie may lose potency.
Profits from vaccines are small fry compared to antidepressants and painkillers, so research the economics. This year, Pfizer shares only went up by 1.8percent on last year. The Astra Zeneca jab was created as a not for protists health tool, costing $3 so that low income countries can afford it.
Anyone will attest there’s not much money in the small pox vaccines.
Those who have been following the rate of infections may see that numbers are down, so if vaccines are bad, what else is responsible for that?
People are sick of the virus and its restrictions, and we have short memories, so once we can roam freely we may not invest in epic mistrust and the anti-vaxx moment could be in trouble. Time will tell. In the meantime, it would nice if those choosing not to get the jab would be thankful to those who are, after all, we’re the ones getting everyone out of this mess.
One can’t but hope.