The anti-vaccine movement strikes again – this time at Facebook CEO

Anti-vaccination advocates fell into a fury after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted a photo of himself and his daughter at the doctor’s office.

As we reported recently, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to post a photo of himself and his daughter at the doctor’s office caused massive uproar from anti-vaccination advocates on the social network. According to a Slate report, Zuckerberg’s caption, “Doctor’s visit-time for vaccines!” provoked such a heated response that Facebook users of all backgrounds joined the debate online.

While the debate was quickly overrun by people advocating for responsible and continued use of vaccines, the post has brought a rather complex issue to the national stage once again. Anti-vaccine advocates criticized the Facebook CEO for putting his own daughter at risk, while supporters of vaccination and Zuckerberg’s decision made their opinions heard as well.

One user, Carlos Muñoz wrote, “It’s kinda sad that we now live in a world in which we congratulate people for vaccinating their kids. Look at how far we have regressed due to science illiteracy.” Other users did not share the same sentiment, even going as far as to call vaccines “poison for humankind.”

Despite the fierce debate informed by a cornucopia of different sources, the anti-vaccination movement has soared from relative obscurity into a growing national presence.

People have been questioning the safety of vaccines for decades, particularly for diseases that have largely already been eradicated from the U.S. Even in the face of outbreaks of diseases that should have been long gone, like the recent rash of measles cases at Disneyland in California, anti-vaxxers maintain that the medical technology that did away with polio and tuberculosis is unsafe and ineffective.

And they seem to be having some pull. According to Dr. Gary Freed from the University of Michigan, vaccination rates in the U.S. have actually been falling. “It took the Disneyland episode to, I think, raise public awareness and consciousness to just how serious this is for the average child who becomes at risk as a result of other parents not vaccinating their children,” he said.

While most doctors universally agree that vaccinating babies is the responsible thing to do, and many safeguards exist that would prevent a child from receiving a vaccination that would put them at risk, the debate continues to make it difficult for reason to prevail.

According to Dr. Brendan Nyhan of Dartmouth University, bashing anti-vaxxers for their views can make them dig their feet in and support their stance with even more vigor. “It could make the problem worse,” he says. “Imagine what calling people selfish and dumb can do. If people call me selfish and dumb, it doesn’t make me more open-minded, and I don’t know why anyone wuld think otherwise in this case. I think it’s really short-sighted. People enjoy lashing out at the anti-vaccine folks, but it turns into an ‘us versus them’ thing.”

Perhaps the debate on vaccines is more than just a dispute over science. Nobody likes to be told what to do, and people who believe that vaccines put their children at health risks may simply be defending their right to an opinion.

While everyone deserves to be heard out, medical professionals around the globe remain strong advocates for immunization. According to the World Health Organization, vaccination remains a key component of fighting infectious diseases around the globe.

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