Women and woo: Do women hate vaccines?

There are no women on the internet at Skeptic meetings, women are more religious than men, women love astrology and ghosts and talking to spirits, it is easy to get the impression that women are the ‘weaker sex’– estrogen and glitter and unicorns and intuition and strawberry bubblegum build an impenetrable wall between women and science and reason.

Jenny McCarthy and her ‘Mommy Warriors’ campaign against vaccines dont do us any favors by perpetuating this stereotype. Science is not on their side, but they *just know* better. Mommies intuition *gigglehairflip* They *just know* their babbies were perfectly formed until that evil vaccine homologous recombinaltion tinikered their brains.

So I was absolutely delighted to run across this paper analyzing what moms actually thought about vaccines.

The effects of vaccine characteristics on adult women’s attitudes about vaccination: A conjoint analysis study

Most moms have a very positive view on vaccines. When presented with 9 different vaccine scenarios, varying in the severity of the disease/efficacy of vaccine/transmission, 81 of 258 gave all 9 scenarios perfect scores of 100%, with only 3 giving all 0%. Of the remaining 174, the scenarios with the lowest scores were still ~74%. Moms responded more positively to vaccines against severe diseases and vaccines with the highest efficacy, they didnt care about how the disease was spread (STD or non-STD). This finding crossed ethnic and educational boundaries.

I am delighted!

1. ‘Mommy Warriors’ are in the minority (1% of respondents in this study). They are a vocal minority. Do not let loud assholes cloud your judgment of an entire group of people. But this also shows that a small minority of nutters combined with people who are not getting vaccines for non-anti-vax reasons are enough to damage herd immunity.
2. The reason why adult women and children arent getting the vaccinations they need might not be because moms are afraid of vaccines. This might be a time/availability/information issue. You cant fix a hysterical bimbo screaming ‘GREEN OUR VAXXINES’ into a microphone. We can fix time/availability/knowledge.
3. Moms respond to knowledge. They understand disease severity. They understand vaccine efficacy. Physicians need to get that info to their Moms, so they make vaccines a priority. Measles and mumps arent a ‘right of passage’– they can make your son sterile or put him in a coma. HPV is a silent killer– What mother wants to bury her daughter? Whooping cough isnt just a cold— its helplessly watching your baby suffocate.
4. Moms dont care about STD vs non-STD diseases. Idiot Christians bawing about how the HPV shots will make little girls whores isnt a barrier to vaccination on anything but a political level.

There are barriers to proper vaccination. We need to be careful how much attention we give the harpies wailing against vaccination or the know-nothing Evangelical assholes trying to regulate medical treatments from a senate seat, when there are perfectly normal moms out there that arent getting themselves/their children vaccinated for non-anti-vax reasons. Lets get them the information and the access to vaccines that they want.

Comments

  1. #1 Sandra Porter
    May 3, 2011

    One of the first people to introduce vaccines to the western world was Lady Montague, a mom who vaccinated her whole family to protect them from smallpox.

  2. #2 oldebabe
    May 3, 2011

    One needs to look at the caliber of all the sources giving this info.

    Many women, maybe most, obviously, and not surprisingly (an exception being, apparently, in politics), do not blat their beliefs in the media or in public, and have less need, IMO, to convince others to their way of thinking. Sort of a `whatever floats your boat’ attitude. Or so I’ve, personally, found to be the case. Or at least that’s the caliber of MY sources.

  3. #3 Prometheus
    May 3, 2011

    “Mommy Warriors” is a stress relief hug box for helicopter moms.

    McCarthy’s Oprah fueled crap factory is “Mother Warriors” from the title of her stupid stupid book where she describes curing vaccine induced autism with a wheat/dairy free diet and lots of chelation.

    I hope the little scratcher didn’t have Landau-Kleffner.

    Poor kid.

    Being the son of that guy who was in that thing nobody saw, the stepson of Ace Ventura, his mother’s Playboy spread, memories of holistic enemas, milk and cookies declared poisonous and possible brain damage because nobody did an EEG…..

    I’d rather be a ward of the state.

  4. #4 Renee
    May 3, 2011

    So you failed to adequately address your thesis; you didn’t contradict the idea that women are the “weaker sex” because you would need to compare them to men. The study looked at women only.

  5. #5 Greg Laden
    May 3, 2011

    BTW there will be skeptical chicks here: http://tinyurl.com/3egqs2y

  6. #6 anonymous
    May 3, 2011

    My status:
    [ ] not told
    [*] f***ing told

  7. #7 Joe Ballenger
    May 3, 2011

    Obvious question…

    …if ‘teh mommy worrierz’ are a vocal minority, then why do we have so many vaccine resistant communities?

  8. #8 Epinephrine
    May 3, 2011

    I’m not at work, so no access to the article itself, but this doesn’t look like it supports what you are claiming. The abstract is about *adult* vaccinations, and about women choosing immunizations for themselves.

    Yet, vaccine coverage rates for adult vaccinations have historically been low, and less is known about how adults in the mid-adult age range make vaccine decisions for themselves. The purpose of this study was to assess which vaccine characteristics affect vaccine decision-making among mid-adult women

    (emphasis mine)

    Perhaps I’m wrong, as I haven’t had a chance to review the article itself. If anyone has access before tomorrow morning and can clarify this, that’d be great.

  9. #9 ERV
    May 3, 2011

    Joe– There might be vaccine resistant communities, but in the population sampled (moms taking their kids to the doctor), moms liked vaccines just fine and were capable of understanding info about the vaccine scenarios presented. The anti-vax communities might do so for local social reasons (what is fashionable among a clique of parents, religious beliefs), but a sample of the general population doesnt seem to be ‘anti-vax’. There must be other reasons for non-compliance, which we can address and fix.

    Epinephrine– While the survey specifically asked moms if they would get the proposed vaccines themselves, their responses gave us fantastic information about how moms, in general, view vaccines, and what we can do better to increase vaccine rates of adults AND their children. Mommies are rational and reasonable, they need to be given the information they want.

  10. #10 William Wallace
    May 4, 2011

    The problem most in the pro-vaccine debate fail to realize is people process information more logically than you wizzards of smart and your cohorts at the CDC give them credit for. CDC vaccine information pamphlets are written at a 4th grade level, and are very biased toward getting vaccinated. This is consistent with their mission: control disease at a population level. But moms don’t care about the population. They are about their own children. Then there is the macro versus micro perspectives. CDC is macro. Mom is micro. What is good for the population isn’t necessarily good for the individual. Strangely, I heard somebody on NPR making a very similar argument recently.

    In any event, given the government says things like “we couldn’t find a country to accept bin Laden’s body” when many people in New York City would have loved to pay their last respects with slabs of bacon at his graveside, and also loved to have photographed any swarthy men who came to respectfully lay their hands on the grave, people distrust their government. If you want to increase vaccine rates, outlaw it.

  11. #11 SAWells
    May 4, 2011

    Dance harder, Willy! You’re not trolling at your usual standard.

  12. #12 Epinephrine
    May 4, 2011

    While the survey specifically asked moms if they would get the proposed vaccines themselves, their responses gave us fantastic information about how moms, in general, view vaccines, and what we can do better to increase vaccine rates of adults AND their children. Mommies are rational and reasonable, they need to be given the information they want.

    I don’t think you can generalise from one group to the other. We perceive risk differently when applied to our children, and typically view children as being more vulnerable. For example, we have stricter criteria to demonstrate safety for pediatric vaccines, and it’s more difficult to get REB approval for clinical trials. The application form for clinical trials (in Canada; Appendix 3 of the HC-SC 3011 form) specifically asks about the age of participants, so that pediatric trials can be flagged. Anti-vaccine groups capitalise on the protectiveness we feel for children.

    Studies of vaccinating and non-vaccinating parental attitudes have shown that even with non-vaccinating parents, they engage in the same type of risk/benefit analysis, they just have different beliefs about the amount of risk and the amount of benefit that vaccination presents.

    As for the comment that it might be a time/availability issue, studies have suggested that partial immunization of children is indeed often due to medical issues, illnesses at the vaccination times, and difficulties accessing services. Non-immunization tends to be due to beliefs about the risks/benefits.

  13. #13 Epinephrine
    May 4, 2011

    Sorry to comment twice in a row, but I’ve had a chance to read through the study now; the authors point out that

    Interestingly, while severity of the infection was most important for how parents ranked vaccines for themselves followed by efficacy, the order was switched in how parents ranked vaccines for their child with efficacy being the most important;

    This of course suggests that while similar factors may be at work in making decisions, decisions about vaccinations for children weigh the factors differently. As well, these studies look primarily at parents of adolescents (as they are looking at HPV vaccine), adolescents are not seen as being as vulnerable as babies are, so the perception of risk for them may not be as important.

    There was no discussion of vaccine safety in the study. If there was no perceived risk to vaccination (at all), then vaccination would be advantageous regardless of efficacy, as it would always convey a protective effect that outweighs non-existent risks. The fact that efficacy becomes a more important factor when looking at vaccination of children suggests that there is indeed a greater weighting of safety.

  14. #14 Jemima
    May 4, 2011

    People don’t hate vaccines because they want to be ‘different’, they hate them because they have harmful adjuvants, horrific side effects and conflicts of interest from the makers.

    Eliminate the need to have a VAERS/VICP program that records mass casualties/deaths.

    This would make more sense than trying to humiliate sensible mothers for not cowing to corrupt interests that would profit at our precious children’s expense.

  15. #15 Epinephrine
    May 4, 2011

    People don’t hate vaccines because they want to be ‘different’, they hate them because they have harmful adjuvants, horrific side effects and conflicts of interest from the makers.

    No, you’re thinking of ignorant people.

    Vaccine side effects are typically among the mildest of any drug product. Some reasons for this is that the safety evaluation of a vaccine is much stricter (as it is given to healthy individuals) and the required clinical trials are larger.

    In the past there have indeed been vaccines with some nasty side effects – 1st generation smallpox vaccines, for example. Still, given how deadly smallpox was, it was still a pretty good bargain.

  16. #16 Prometheus
    May 4, 2011

    Jemima@#14

    “our precious children”

    Ha ha ha. Shut up.

  17. #17 William Wallace
    May 5, 2011

    Why do vaccine makers hate children? Don’t they have enough money?

  18. #18 W. Kevin Vicklund
    May 5, 2011

    Why does Wally beat his wife? Didn’t he inflict enough bruises on his mother?

  19. #19 R2
    May 5, 2011

    Yeah, vaccines are real money-makers… If pharmaceutical companies were truly evil they would never make a vaccine and just make expensive treatments, you know, like with HIV

  20. #20 davidp
    May 12, 2011

    A time/availability/knowledge problem I encountered with our kids (since addressed) was that vaccinations were available after hours on Tuesday or Thursday nights, but the whole cell Pertussis vaccine usually made the child too sick for child care the next day (mild fever). With two working parents, that vaccine meant a lost day’s work.
    There were two problems: effective denial of the levels of reaction, and blindness to the effect on working parents.

    My response was to pay for the acellular vaccine that has since become standard.

  21. #21 Smurfette
    May 13, 2011

    They are a vocal minority. Do not let loud assholes cloud your judgment of an entire group of people. But this also shows that a small minority of nutters

    Reminds me of another group…

    Also, reminds me of this TED talk about Internet/social media participation following a power-law distribution:

    “It appears often in unconstrained social systems where people are allowed to contribute as much or as little as they like, this is often what you get. Right? The math behind the power-law distribution is that whatever’s in the nth position is doing about one-nth of whatever’s being measured, relative to the person in the first position.”

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