So how can we resolve the vaccine controversy. Habermas states that resolution in ethical controversy is typically achieved through mutual tolerance. But is this really achievable?
Anti- vaccination groups have used controversies such as the MMR/autism link as vehicles to expand their rhetoric, through pseudo-scientific claims, conspiracy theories and propaganda, even though research has now shown there is no link so the controversy continues. On the pro-vaccination side of the debate, rather than mutual tolerance, I believe these individuals have, until recently, opted for ignorance of the situation in the hope hat it will disappear.
Can we afford to just ignore these groups? There is a danger associated with taking this approach. If more and more individuals decide to opt out of vaccination, due to increased exposure of anti-vaccination rhetoric, which fits their own ethical beliefs, herd immunity will be compromised. This has the potential to increased risk of disease for individuals as well as the entire community
There is already evidence of this occurring with the recent whopping cough outbreak in the California where 10 babies have recently died. Health officials are urging the population to get vaccinated and receive booster shots.
Booth Alicia http://www.newsnet5.com/dpp/news/health/whooping-cough-cases-increase-in-the-united-states. October 26th 2010
So how can the benefits of pro-vacination groups be heard over the anti-vaccination diatribe. I think we still need to use our scientific experts and I have spoken a lot about experts and public trust. Therefor we must be careful to choose our communicators to provide greater openness, objective and address concerns of the advocacy groups. There is also a need to gain a greater appreciation of the how the anti-vaccination messages are being broadcast in order to act in support of individuals beliefs.
Kata, A. (2010). “A postmodern Pandora’s box: Anti-vaccination misinformation on the Internet.” Vaccine 28(7): 1709-1716.
Or do we get much more tough with our messaging and act in a similar manner to the anti-vaccination groups with their sensationalist stories and emotive images. Perhaps then the media will start to give the science some attention.
As a side note: I will be writing an essay analysing the vaccination debate as part of my assessment for the Controversial Science subject I am currently studying at UQ. I will post it once it is marked.