Following the Money Behind the Anti-Vaccination Movement

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

“In the United States, we are witnessing the scientifically ignorant and sometimes deadly impact of an anti-vaccine movement,” writes Dr. Robert Pearl, a contributor for Forbes. “Individuals who support the movement continue to question the safety and necessity of vaccines despite extensive medical literature to the contrary.”

And so we come to the latest trend in junk science: The shunning of vaccinations for children by misguided parents. While vaccines have been commonplace for decades now, this new movement among parents to opt their children out of the vaccination progress is starting to lead to some very real consequences, like a measles outbreak at Disneyland. Other children are at risk as well, and one father has even stepped in to ask his son’s school to ban unvaccinated children from attending.

So, why is this happening now? Surely, most of these parents who are deciding not to vaccinate their children have their kids’ best interests in mind. But why, even in the face of all the evidence to the contrary, do they decide to put their children — and everyone else’s — in danger? As with almost anything else, there has to be some kind of motivation for the anti-vaccine movement to perpetuate itself. And, like almost anything else, it’s probably money.

But finding out who, or if, anyone is actually profiting from the anti-vaccine trend is tricky. After all, most health care professionals, including Dr. Pearl, find the entire situation appalling. The anti-vaccine argument is that doctors and pharmaceutical companies have a profit motive themselves. While that is true, it doesn’t negate the fact that because of those efforts, many diseases have been eradicated.

What those perpetuating anti-vaccine sentiment have evidently found is that there was room for push back, and some money to be made on the other side.

Source: SHAUN CURRY/AFP/Getty Images

Source: Shaun Curry/AFP/Getty Images

The root of the problem, and the anti-vaccine movement at large, can be traced back to Andrew Wakefield, a doctor who famously linked vaccination to increased risk of autism. This sent parents into a panic, although Wakefield’s work was found to be an “elaborate fraud”. He was discredited, had his medical licensing revoked, and medical professionals around the globe have warned that he shouldn’t be taken seriously. But that didn’t stop many parents, whose lack of trust in the government and pharmaceutical industry combined with a knowledge of Wakefield’s work solidified the foundation for a manufactured “debate” as to whether or not vaccines truly are safe.

Knowing that Wakefield’s work has been discredited and that he himself has been found to be a fraud, it’s fair to wonder what motivated him in the first place. As you may have guessed, his motivation looks to have been financial gain.

According to a report from Discovery News, investigative journalist Brian Deer found that Wakefield had worked out several business deals with the Royal Free Medical School in London involving the vaccine debate he conjured up, and they even came up with numerous products to sell to those who believed him, including “safer vaccines,” and diagnostic testing kits. Deer reportedly said that Wakefield expected to make as much as $40 million annually from his dealings.

By creating a controversy where there was none, he could conveniently sell the solution back to a scared public. By rocking the people’s confidence in health care systems, Wakefield found a way for himself, and other medical professionals of his ilk, to make a lot of money.

Aside from Wakefield, it’s obvious that there are other professionals in the health care field who are running with the baton, and making financial gains at the expense of the public good. With Wakefield effectively out of the picture, but his work still resonating with millions of parents, a knowledge vacuum of sorts has been created, leaving an opening for doctors, “medical scholars,” homeopaths, and others to step in and try to sell the anti-vaccine movement a solution.

The anti-vax movement has created a demand for knowledge, even when there is none to be shared. Still, there’s been no shortage of people willing to supply that knowledge, otherwise the entire movement would have fizzled out much sooner. A slew of books and articles have been written, and of course there are always lucrative speaking fees and appearances for the new heroes of the anti-vaccine movement. The result has been that a whole lot of people — many of whom who thought that they were bucking the corporate profit train by opting out of vaccination schedules — are instead feeding another parasitic industry.

In addition to those in the medical world, several celebrities have gotten involved with the movement. While many may actually feel concerned, others may be taking advantage of the new platform for publicity purposes. Jenny McCarthy is the most obvious and outspoken example, and she has been unwilling to take back her claims even as they’ve been proven untrue.

If you needed definitive proof that there are financial interests involved, some of our most well-known politicians are pandering to the anti-vaccine movement now. Where there are special interests with money, you’ll find politicians.

As we can see, there is more to the anti-vax movement than meets the eye. To get to the center of the shrubbery maze, you simply need to follow the money. Medical professionals and others profiting off of a manufactured controversy while exploiting the fears of parents is proving an effective way to bring in the funds. After all, it’s just business.

More from Business Cheat Sheet: