Wednesday January 28, 2015

Who are anti-vaxxers?: Understanding the anti-vaccination movement

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A measles outbreak at Disneyland that spread to several U.S. states has turned the spotlight back on what are called the Anti-Vaxxers. Today, we hear from a sociologist who has been tracking those who choose not to vaccinate despite overwhelming evidence. Her conclusions may surprise you.

Well, they call it the happiest place on earth but in recent weeks Disneyland has been the epicentre of an outbreak of measles. As of this Monday, 87 people have been infected with the highly contagious disease. That number includes some babies, too young to get the vaccine.

But the vast majority affected were old enough to be vaccinated. They just never were -- by their parents' choice.

"We know there are benefits but we need to know that there are risks. When those injuries occur, we don't hear about them. And that is part of the story that needs to be told, we believe, because the parents, the families, live with those outcomes for the rest of their lives."

Heather Fraser, Vaccine Choice Canada board member

Heather Fraser sits on the board of a group known as Vaccine Choice Canada. And while she doesn't consider herself to be a so-called "anti-vaxxer," she says she thinks there should be more information made public about the safety of vaccines.

Despite what some parents would suggest, the science is in on the question of vaccines. There's widespread consensus that adverse reactions are extremely rare and that when they're given correctly they're nearly 100 per cent effective.

So why do some parents still choose not to vaccinate their children, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence?

It's a question Jennifer Reich has been studying since 2007. She's a sociologist at the University of Colorado Denver.

What's behind your own decisions in relation to vaccinations?

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This segment was produced by The Current's Sonya Buyting and Julian Uzielli.