Is “anti-vaccine” a pejorative?

Anti-vaxers hate being called anti-vaccine. Apparently, even categorizing vicious vaccine-opponents as a group, e.g. the “anti-vaccine movement” is insulting.

The term "anti-vaccine" is a pejorative


From “Sara’s” first sentence (“When I was expecting my first child, I was introduced to the anti-vaccine movement,”) the tone is insulting at best. The term “anti-vaccine movement” is a pejorative; it’s meant to polarize and denigrate people who question or criticize vaccine safety. If you criticize Toyota for the fact they they didn’t admit problems with stuck accelerator, and even tried to cover up the issue, that doesn’t make you anti-car. Calling critics “anti-vaccine” is a deliberate attempt to demean and polarize.

Far more troublesome is the number of generalizations that gloss over or even ignore facts that refute her position.

I don’t care.

I don’t care that these people’s feelings get hurt when there are doctors,  scientists, legal scholars and other advocates who do great, lifesaving work and have to dodge insults and death threats for speaking out against this dangerous anti-vaccine trend. For example, Dr. Paul Offit, a very public vaccine advocate and Chair of Pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, has had to have his mail screened for explosives, and be accompanied by personal security after receiving threats following his testimony at an autism hearing. Since then he has been on the radar of the anti-vaccine cult and is a frequent target of vague and specific threats.

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Other advocates with less public personas, including parent advocates with whom I have had regular contact, also receive similarly disturbing threats and invasions of privacy. The insults I have seen flung towards very respectful, passionate people go far, far beyond mere categorization based on their political stance.

By the way, there’s no doubt about it. This is a political issue. It’s not a scientific controversy.

Let me explain, though, what I mean when I say anti-vaccine. These are the people I don’t include when I use the term:

  • Vaccine hesitant parents or parents who have simply chosen not to vaccinate because of fears about vaccine safety, but otherwise do not try to advance vaccine fearmongering. If they want to be called “non-vaxing,” “delayed/selective” or any other label, then fine, whatever. I just hope that they’re making these decisions while their kids are involved with real medical doctors or medical caregivers.
  • Vaccine safety advocates, in general, who are engaged in efforts to actually make vaccines safer. This happens to include many academic vaccine researchers, and professionals within the CDC, FDA, NIH and other oft-maligned organizations or agencies.
  • Persons or caregivers of persons with health conditions who are seeking answers about the condition, and may be privately or publicly asking questions about the role of vaccines or other drugs.

People that I do consider “anti-vaccine” or part of the “anti-vaccine movement” are those who promote fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) about individual vaccines and/or the recommended vaccine schedule or the vaccine program as a whole, including:

  • People who lie, distort and manipulate information in order to make parents afraid of vaccines, or to promote various “vaccine choice” causes that are based on lies.
  • People who insist, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that vaccines caused permanent unwanted health conditions or death.
  • People who promote conspiracies about vaccines without any evidence.
  • People who resist information about vaccine safety, deny that vaccine safety is properly understood, or imply malfeasance in vaccine research despite a lack of evidence and have a pattern of doing this even when their errors are pointed out.
  • People who say vaccines are loaded with toxins, poisons, etc, and use other frightening, emotive words to describe vaccine ingredients or procedures.
  • Doctors and researchers who make fraudulent claims, conduct fraudulent or misleading research, and especially those who profit from promoting fears about vaccines.
  • Various other quacks and businessmen who profits from vaccine fear.
  • Anyone who considers themselves anti-vaccine.

I think it’s pretty simple. Leave a comment if you think my attempts to categorize people is whack, but if you just want to whine about how it makes you feel marginalized, you’ll get no sympathy from me.

Also, check out You Might Be Anti-Vaccine If…. by MomsWhoVax


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