In an article from USA Today titled “It’s Irresponsible to Spread Fear of Vaccine,” the author notes that due the recent outcry of anti-vaxxers claiming vaccinations create more problems than they solve, reported cases of people obtaining measles and other heinous diseases have spiked. The anti-vaccination argument contains shallow threats full of scare tactics without any observational evidence to back up their claims and a hypocritical ineptness that fails to construct a logical narrative.
The USA Today article expresses that Representative Michele Bachmann believes it’s wrong to make “innocent little 12 year old girls” obligated to get a “government injection.” Well, Michele Bachmann, they are not ignorant, naïve little babies anymore, but instead capable of more complex thought2. Bachmann is subverting the image of 12 year old girls in a trivial light. 12 years old is an age of many developmental aspects, including puberty, the usage of drugs and alcohol, and social changes. And sure, our children might be our little babies our whole life, but Bachmann is painting a picture of forced vaccinations without the foreground of the fact that there are 45 states that allow religious exemptions from vaccines and 15 that allow philosophical exemptions3. Her biased thinking is reflective of an appeal to emotion, choosing to use “innocent little 12 year old girls” against the grain of vaccinations for a ridiculous portrayal that is nothing short of absolute fearmongering to the public. She furthers her statements against vaccines, indicating that someone’s daughter had become “mentally retarded after receiving the HPV vaccine.” Again, this is nothing other than a foolish attempt at scare tactics because there are absolutely zero side effects relating to mental retardation in the HPV vaccine4. The most serious side effect of the vaccine is fever or muscle pain5, so what the mother of the daughter is describing is false and what Bachmann is reiterating is a complete lie. Furthermore, they are affirming the consequent, which is an invalid argument form. “If I got the HPV vaccine, I will become mentally retarded. I became mentally retarded. Therefore, I got the HPV vaccine.” This undeniably invalid claim is an attempt at providing a link between vaccines and mental retardation, but it fails. It fails tremendously.
Anti-vaxxers are also employing other fallacies to discourage the usage of vaccines. For instance, in “Not Being Vaccinated Is Not Unacceptable,” anti-vaxxers utilize appeal to person, more specifically poisoning the well, by exclaiming that scientists and the government would rather lie to the public about the effectiveness of vaccines than honestly document their effects on the population. Here, anti-vaxxers are attempting to discredit the reliability of scientists and instead form their own narrative of how vaccines are harmful rather than helpful when empirical data exists6 that highlights that validity of vaccines. Moreover, the fallacy of composition is exemplified when anti-vaxxers portray the ingredients within vaccines as dangerous, but with further research we see that ingredients that would be dangerous injected on their own combine to form a safe, valuable injection to prevent diseases. Formaldehyde, a probable carcinogen, is used in vaccines to “inactivate toxins from bacteria and viruses.”7 Sure, formaldehyde is potentially dangerous on its own (even though it also exists in our own bodies), but when it is a part of a whole, it serves a unique purpose, hence the fallacy of composition.