By Amy Knowles
In a time of a global pandemic, when questions of whether a vaccine will be found to eradicate COVID-19, it is unsurprising that anti-vaxxers and their celebrity advocates are crawling out of the wood work.
As I am sure many agree, the anti-vaxx movement and discourse is dangerous to say the least, but what has struck me recently as even scarier is that those against the motion of vaccinations are adopting rhetoric from those in favour of abortion (and coercing this) to fight their case.
Anti-vaxxers have been using the term “pro-choice” and using ‘choice’ in their argument, as if their actions will not affect anyone else. Those arguing for the rights of a woman, when in need of an abortion use the word ‘choice’ correctly, as it is the woman’s choice what she does with her body. Not allowing a woman who has been raped (which may I add, would not have been her choice), to have an abortion, removes her basic human right and choice. However, choosing not to be vaccinated or not to vaccinate your children, is not just a choice that affects you, it is a matter of public health. Those in favour of abortion, and those against vaccinations are not related, and shouldn’t be, despite anti-vaxxers adopting abortion rights’ language to try and guilefully build this bridge. Abortion rights activists have begun to use the label “pro-abortion” in order to present abortion as a human right and hopefully detach themselves from the anti-vaxx movement.
Not only have anti-vaxxers appropriated the discourse of those in favour of abortion, but they have also used the language of the #MeToo movement. They appeal to people to listen and believe women, specifically mothers, when they say they know what their children need, and in turn not vaccinate them. In most cases a mother does always know best, but perhaps when it will potentially kill other children, we need to listen with noise-cancelling headphones.
Ultimately, anti-vaxxers are adopting the language of popular movements in order to condemn science and avoid the fact that immunisation is a social responsibility, but by stealing the rhetoric of campaigns in favour of basic human rights, their propaganda comes across more subtly. Abortion and not being vaccinated are like chalk and cheese, one is fighting for the right not to have an unwanted pregnancy, and one allows communicable diseases to spread.
Jessica Biel isn’t the only celebrity who is anti-vaxx, sadly so are Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy, after their son was diagnosed with autism. Studies in the last 9 years have found no link between the MMR vaccine and autism, and after a study using 650,000 Danish children, there was no difference in rates of autism between those who had been vaccinated and those who hadn’t (NHS). I was also sad to find out that Robert DeNiro teamed up with Robert F. Kennedy (whose Instagram account is a collection of propaganda and an overuse of emojis) in a press conference for an organisation known for its anti-vaxx stance. Much to nobody’s surprise, Donald Trump too held this view as he tweeted in 2014 “Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn’t feel good and changes- AUTISM. Many such cases!”. Not only does this not grammatically make sense, in such a position of power this just adds to a large pool of idiotic tweets he has typed. Trump however, does seem to have gained a teaspoon of sense since 2014 as he backtracked this viewpoint to CNN.
One artist I was particularly disappointed with was Ziggy Alberts, a trendy and talented musician I saw perform in London. Just over a month ago he put a swipe up link on his Instagram story which he suggested would “help us bring back true democracy for our country (Australia).” He followed this up with “I’m not pro or anti vaccines, I’m pro-choice.” No Ziggy, you’re selfish. This petition on the swipe up stated as one of its aims to ‘refrain from linking any vaccines to restrictions on the public, including any future COVID-19 vaccine.’
Currently, immunisations prevent ‘2 million to 3 million deaths’ per year (chop.edu) and 86% percent of children are vaccinated; however over 1.5 million deaths are still accounted for each year just from vaccine-preventable diseases. Yes, we should have choice as to what goes into our bodies, but when this ‘choice’ can kill others, it becomes a matter of being removed from your reality and your privilege. The anti-vaxx campaign is a dangerous evolution which coerces human rights’ rhetoric, as perhaps when their argument is put in other words it is too ridiculous to believe.