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Delayed Vaccination Discussion with Laymen

  1. Apr 5, 2016 #1


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    Discussing scientific matters with people who've no background in science presents many challenges and have been discussed on this forum many times throughout the past. Helpful resources do exist. For example, @Ryan_m_b posted a great link a few years ago that gives some general guidelines on how one should approach a research paper:


    This method will not be effective for everyone, but I think it serves as a great starting point for the general public.

    I was recently involved in a discussion about delayed vaccination schedules with some family members. I've often found these situations difficult, because when I ask where they are getting their information, most of the time the sources they provide are not up to my standards. I think it's very important to establish why they believe what they believe, and asking how they came to their conclusion(s) is a key factor.

    It is worth noting that an important assumption must be made: The person values science. If this condition is not met, then conversations usually involve conspiracy theories and/or quackery. I typically do not entertain willful ignorance or intellectual laziness. However, I feel a personal conviction to do my best in helping someone who has an honest interest in critical thinking arrive at a more rational conclusion.

    A couple of the family members in the discussion do not value scientific evidence, unfortunately, due to bad experiences in their past. As much as I'd like to help them, if they do not trust scientists, then a discussion with them is not likely to be productive. If their counter-argument is always, "Well I just don't trust the science," then giving them scientific evidence is pointless, and becomes an off-topic discussion of science vs. personal feelings and anecdotes. One of the family members, however, has asked for my sources and has expressed an honest willingness to hear the current scientific consensus on the issue.

    Here's my problem: I typically read primary research articles. For someone without a background in science, these can be a bit overwhelming and contain concepts or methods that are difficult for them to scrutinize.

    Review articles are usually more approachable but are not always available for a given topic, or they're too old.

    My hopes for the thread: I would like some input and resources from the PF community who've experienced a similar situation (it does not have to involve delayed vaccination schedules, but it's the reason I've started the thread). I would like to get some advice on where to go (resources that are reputable and approachable by the general population), as well as what you did in the situation that seemed to help.

    Given the sensitive nature of the subject (parenting decisions), please try to keep value judgments civil. It might be difficult to do with this subject since it involves public health and its importance for the population as a whole. However, it's important to focus on the argument, not the person. Being critical is fine, but I don't want people ascribing malice to a certain viewpoint. This usually sends the discussion to the point of no return, the destination of which is the locked thread bucket. :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 5, 2016 #2
    Awesome! I have always been familiar with reading the abstract, introduction and then conclusion parts first. I would only go into details of the methods employed in the experiments as reported when the paper is of my interest or producing something I find either useful or applicable to my current research. There are just too many of them (variations of variations I have to say) to review and learn.
    Therefore, white papers or the like I think seem more beneficial to general public in terms of general concepts and knowledge about a specific area whereas most researchers or high-level scientists may prefer more technical details of the experiments under development.
  4. Apr 6, 2016 #3


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    For some reason I didn't even consider white papers. I'll do some hunting. Thank you, @Pepper Mint!
  5. Apr 7, 2016 #4

    Fervent Freyja

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    With child vaccination schedules, all one must do is call the pediatricians office and request detailed information. Each pediatrician does have access to more than "handouts". With my 4-year old daughter, I have usually requested information about the upcoming vaccines (brand/batch/method/etc.) and studies to support that vaccine, brochures and printouts are given without asking.

    American Academy of Pediatrics Journal: A few studies that may help.
    Case studies on immunizations from AAP

    To be honest here, I doubt any "white paper" would help change their perspective- they simply may not have enough knowledge about the history of vaccines, the history of what viruses can do to the world (and still do), child development, biology, immunity, that immunization, population outcomes, and such. Are they concerned about their childs health and actively informing themselves about child development? Simply following the new anti-vaccine hype, just because other people read some "studies"?

    Also, I have found that some children that aren't vaccinated on schedule are at-risk children with parents that simply don't care about their health. My little sister does not even take them to a pediatrician, but a walk-in clinic only when they are sick, as the prior ones were being suspicious about many neglectful signs. I have taken my nephew to all his dental appointments. Some just don't care. I'm not saying that those who refuse to immunize are neglectful or ignorant parents, but it is indeed a sign (among many) that healthcare providers do watch out for in order to catch child abuse and neglect- and I'm glad they do because if the time comes and I need custody of them, then it will be a little more evidence that I've been collecting. Oh, and because of that, my nephew caught whooping cough at 3 years old, which then his 3 month old sister was hospitalized for- it can kill infants and is serious.

    However, I do not have my family get flu shots and am weary of antibiotics- that is a last resort in my opinion. Antibiotics often destroy much other than a targeted type, and that takes months of lowered immunity to rebuild in heavily populated areas of the body. Months without defense of good bacteria or lowered immunity have to be detrimental to a childs development and place them far off the very delicate, time-sensitive path of normal child development.
  6. Apr 7, 2016 #5


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    Isn't that the whole question?
    Who gets to decide what is best for society, or for the individual.
    Putting aside any quackery arguments, which (usually) run up against the scientific evidence,
    I would think there are cultural, religious, political, and monetary ( and probably more ) aspects to consider during the presentation.
    The audience has to be made to feel, or should be made to feel, that they are just as much a part of, and can participate in, the solution to a problem.
  7. Apr 7, 2016 #6


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    Thank you for the links, @Fervent Freyja !
    Yes, it would be nice if everyone felt included, but that is not always realistic. Vaccination decisions are not something that only affects an individual, they are a public health concern. Ultimately, health officials should be responsible for public health issues. If there really is something wrong with the CDC's current schedule, then providing adequate support for an alternative is completely acceptable. Making public health issues a lifestyle choice is not what I would consider an appropriate alternative.

    There are many parents who choose exemption (in certain states that allow it) from vaccinating their children based on religious reasons. I do not believe it's appropriate to allow people to put others at risk based on their religious beliefs. Where do we draw the line? Religious beliefs should not always be protected, since they can easily be used to harm others, whether intentional or not.
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