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Vaccination and Paranoia?

By on February 22, 2015
Picture courtesy of Baitong333 and freedigitalphotos.net

As a coach I generally view psychology on an individual level. After all, each individual is just that, an individual with their own unique set of beliefs, values, memories and experiences. When I spend time with an individual I get to understand their ‘inner organization’, their Tree of Life.

But sometimes issues suddenly present themselves on a societal level. They may have been around under the surface, but something causes them to be revealed, to be suddenly very visible.

One of these issues is that of vaccination. Some research and much discussion centered around the possibility that certain vaccines could cause autism in children. While the research has been rejected by the medical establishment, parents are naturally anxious to protect their children from risk, even if there is little or no scientific support for that risk.

And of course that’s fine as long as there is no downside of avoiding the risk. So if vaccines could cause autism, then not giving the vaccine to a child is fine as long as there is no risk from not being vaccinated. And for a period of time that seemed to be the case, diseases such as measles had been all but eliminated and there seemed little risk in not vaccinating a child.

But as more and more children were not vaccinated, fertile ground was created for the viruses, resulting in the recent outbreak.

Anyway, back to psychology. What are the psychological factors that go into the decision to vaccinate or not vaccinate your child? Obviously a part of this is the role of emotion in the way the to sides of the argument have been presented. Anti-vaccine supporters have in the past been lead by TV personalities such as Jenny McCarthy, and presented as personal stories of parents whose children developed autism after being vaccinated. In contrast the vaccination supporters have typically used dry facts and figures and scientific research in support of their position; it may pack more intellectual punch but perhaps lacked the emotional edge to convince parents.

Whatever the ultimate outcome, whether the government uses legislative power to force vaccinations, or uses softer leverage such as preventing unvaccinated children from attending school, or some other outcome, we ignore the psychological aspects of the arguments at our peril.

We can never be absolutely sure we’re right about anything, and we’ll never know with 100% probability whether we’re doing the right thing in every conceivable situation. In the absence of assuredness, though, we’re left with trust. I’m not advocating blind faith in the government or “Big Pharma” or lemming-like adherence to societal mores, God forbid. But we need to look around and live in the world as we find it. Paranoia is self-defeating. But you can change your mind about vaccinations | Comment is free

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