After the hilarious statements by Miguel Bosé or Enrique Bunbury , one would come to conceptualize the anti-vaccine movement as a mob of ignorant and rednecks and that only books would function as a true neuronal vaccine.
However, things are a bit more complex . In percentage terms, there are a large number of anti-vaccine people who have more information and have read more books than the average citizen. It is true that, with higher higher education, more is trusted in vaccines and also more mistrust that they cause autism (that they do not cause it). However, according to Peter Hotez , dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, especially in urban areas, anti-vaccines tend to be richer . They also come from regions of the country with the highest education rates, such as universities and tech cities . These anti-vaccines have better access to the internet and more time to visit websites and chat rooms that already align with their belief system. Online and in books, they can find a lot of fuel to fuel their conspiracy theory. Amazon and Facebook, Hotez says, are some of the biggest providers of anti-vaccination books and false information.
That is, they are not the most academically prepared, but they are not the least . Rather than lacking scientific data, they lack confidence in the principles and institutions that produce and disseminate science. If you know of an anti-vaccine, you may have better luck persuading them by trying to explain how you think science works and why you trust what they’ve told you, rather than dismissing their beliefs as irrational .
Anti-vaccines aren’t stupid. Many are intelligent and even educated, they have money, they have access to the internet, they are able to organize campaigns, disseminate effectively, spread hoaxes . This is precisely why studies have shown that these groups are particularly problematic because they can rapidly spread vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu vaccination rates among adults last year were just 37 percent, 6 percent less than the previous year. And the agency estimates that there have been at least 36 million sick with the flu this year. There have already been more than 22,000 deaths from seasonal flu this year .
What also happens is that, often, the most educated and intelligent people have more sophisticated ways of deceiving themselves, to the point that they are able to easily rebut the arguments against those around them. They are wise idiots, idiot savans. That’s why, according to social neuroscientist Jay Van Bavel , director of the New York University Social Assessment and Perception Laboratory, "People with more education tend to be more polarized." On any subject, not just vaccines.
In other words, if your tribe does not believe in vaccines, you are unlikely to change your beliefs, even if they may be inaccurate . You will use your intellectual and cultural skills to reinforce your prejudice. As a result, we will defend our camps even if we know that certain positions are wrong or even unethical.
Unlike many other animal species, for humans there is no greater punishment than being rejected or excluded from the group. We are so in tune with social position that when we feel alone or separated from our perceived group, it causes changes in our brains. These changes can cause the body to release cortisol, the stress hormone. We need to be part of the tribe, of the herd, even if that means using all our intelligence to deceive ourselves and take positions that are harmful to others, to ourselves and to humanity in general .