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Apr 28 2013

How to Scaremonger

AAAAH!!! AAAAAH! AAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

The difference between anti-vax and vax is just which side we are scared off. 

The screaming child being vaccinated over a background of skulls that look like a vaccination session at the Sedlec Ossuary at Kutna Hora clearly petrifies the anti-vax and also says something about how doctors and reporters should report on vaccines.

The people on the right “literally” think vaccines cause “Genocide” except for the fact that every vaccine in use has helped reduce mortality rates to the point that many countries have problems with population explosions.

There is a practice in India that I am deeply irritated by. Parents utilise the fear of vaccines as a method of getting children to behave. The bogeyman is fake, the doctor is much more real. If you don’t behave then the doctor will stick you with the needle. The vaccine is associated with pain, not with fighting disease and that is down to how we portray ourselves. This is just a high tech version of that.

And for that let us look at the Blood, Marrow and Organ Donation Schemes.

If one looks at the footage of vaccination, there is an inordinate amount of emphasis on children crying. It’s like catnip to crazy people who assume that anything that makes children cry is automatically bad for them. Well Broccoli and No Ice Cream make children cry too yet I don’t see a poster about Big Healthy Food killing our children. Because we don’t plaster our media with pictures of children weeping in chairs as they are made to finish their vegetables.

When you look at blood donors they are invariably smiling. I know most “do not” smile when you prick them with the needle. It’s because it hurts. Yet we put up photos of packets of blood laid out as if it were gourmet dinner for a vampire. If we show a person donating blood they are invariably smiling cheerily and waving at the camera. The entire image being portrayed here is one of a painless procedure that saves lives.

Marrow donation? Often piggy backs on blood donorship in the UK and there is nowt wrong with that. It’s just that it is a long procedure. Again the image is not one of the needle and staying in a hospital for 4-5 hours but one of smiling people being “heroes”. The donors are treated as people who do something good.

Organ donors form the third group of people. Let’s get this clear. Most organ donors are “organ donors on death”. And here the language we write about it is just as important as the imagery. We don’t portray the event as the death of a patient and the descent of vultures to take his organs. We don’t even portray it as doctors “effectively” killing the brain dead. Because while that’s what it is it’s also doctors saving lives and the brain dead person and their family doing one last amazing thing and giving someone else the gift of life by passing it on. And that is how we sell organ donation. We show it as sacrifice, and love and emotions that appeal to people to encourage it.

So why on earth do we portray people getting vaccinated in a way that just shows misery?

I feel it’s because a crying child automatically causes a response and that photographers may take photos and push for those pictures because of that response.

When I vaccinate a newborn, the child stops crying in seconds. I have vaccinated the newborn and watched them cry for less than 30 seconds then go back to sleep. The pain is minor, the fear is the biggest issue.

And fear is what we see here.

So I ask photographers in medicine. When you take images of children being vaccinated, try and take it in a positive light. You inadvertently play into the hands of the anti-vax brigade.

But Avi! What about the Truth! To which I reply that the Truth about vaccination is that it works and has been one of the major causes in the reduction of airborne diseases that would otherwise kill hundreds if not thousands of children in our countries. That is an equal truth to “Vaccine Make Babies Cry” and a deeper one in meaning. And it is that depth that we need to portray too.

You are boiling down vaccines in the public eye to “Crying Child + Needle” rather than “avoidance of disease” and unfortunately that is what people are picking up on.

At this point, Measles is ravaging the UK. Indian doctors are shocked and amazed that the UNITED KINGDOM, a First World Nation with the full power of money and resources has higher incidences of Measles. They simply cannot believe that people there are so uneducated about vaccines that they would listen to Andrew Wakefield and sloppy reporting. The fact of the matter is that the inability of medicine to grasp proper depiction of procedure to the public harmed us when the vulture that is Anti-Vax came knocking and the price we are paying is children falling sick in greater quantities than in third world nations.

If I am to see a case of Measles, I would be better off in the UK than in Tamil Nadu despite their similar populations. We have reached that stage of incidence and people like Wakefield are unwilling to take responsibility for their actions. We must respond with better sense and portray our vaccines for what they are. Things that save lives and leave children healthier and smiling in long run.

3 comments

  1. 1
    E.W. Modemac

    I strongly recommend looking at a Facebook group called “Refutations to Anti-Vaccine Memes” at https://www.facebook.com/RtAVM — this is *exactly* what you’re asking for here. In a few short months, the group has become a hot bed for “meme” pics that are both educational and entertaining, and they’ve rapidly piled on over 5,000 likes and growing. The pictures there are giving headaches to the anti-vaccine crowd, and they encourage you to spread these “meme” pics far and wide.

  2. 2
    stever

    It isn’t that people in the UK are uneducated about vaccines. The problem is that so many are miseducated by the antivax crowd. I think the great majority of antivaxxers mean well. They just need to be shown, in horribly graphic terms, where the Road Paved With Good Intentions goes.

  3. 3
    jimroberts

    Right, it’s such a struggle to log on to comment to this blog that I’ve forgotten what I wanted to say – I’ve managed to log on with WordPress, but I was already logged on with WordPress, though maybe not on any of the FtB blogs.

    Think, think, think: yes, got it! When I was a child, vaccination for measles, mumps, pertussis etc. was not available and it was just assumed that children would go through this shit. We mostly survived, but let me tell you, these diseases are no fun, they are very unpleasant.

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