Inside the minds of the antivaccine elites

The debate around vaccines has become as entrenched, polarized and vitriolic as any in popular culture, sparking spiteful comments from both sides. Opponents of vaccines are often called stupid, but this label is ill-suited to the wealthy, educated parents that form part of the resistance. So why are they against vaccines?

A feature in The Verge examined this question by talking to parents at San Francisco Waldorf School, a private institution that charges $20,200 a year for kindergarten. Antivaccine feelings are common among the lawyers and Silicon Valley workers who send their kids to the school, resulting in around two-thirds of children entering the kindergarten without a complete immunization record. Parents use the personal belief exemption law to avoid giving their kids vaccines they believe do more harm than good.

Antivaccine chiropractor Colin Phipps summed up why parents feel antipathy towards preventative vaccines. "It becomes a question of faith. Do you have faith in the CDC? The FDA? Big Pharma? Science not driven by profit or motive? Do politicians have our best intentions at heart? Or do you have faith that the body is built to deal with pathogens in the universe?" Phipps said. The questioning of authority and conventional wisdom that drives Bay Area startups manifests itself in a rejection of the CDC vaccine schedule in favor of alternative approaches.

The weight of scientific evidence shows that the use of alternative vaccine schedules--or complete rejection of all vaccines--increases the risk of infection. And, while vaccines have been at the center of high-profile scares, side effects are rare. Yet with herd immunity ensuring that unvaccinated kids are still partly protected, parents view the risk-reward balance as being skewed against immunizing. For these parents, naturopathic medicine and pox parties are preferable to Big Pharma's vaccines. "I think vaccines have become a scapegoat for our fears about medicine, the government and mistrust of authority," Dr. Julia Getzelman, a pro-vaccine pediatrician, said.

- read the Verge feature