that depends on your definition of informed…
When it comes to people utterly convinced that vaccines are responsible for nearly all of the world’s evils and that a routine vaccination will dissolve your child’s soul and turn him or her into a zombie, no amount of data, evidence, or authoritative summaries of peer reviewed studies will ever convince them otherwise. And this is why anti-vaccine activists are so opposed to an informed consent bill in the state of Washington. You mean they have to listen to a doctor who’s likely on the payroll of the population culling alien hybrid lizards behind a sinister Illuminati cabal, or in the pocket of a Big Pharma conspiracy to poison kids just for the hell of it?
Oh no, when it comes to informed consent, anti-vaxers like their information only from those who agree with their beliefs, and from quacks and cranks fawningly profiled in uncritical soft journalism, or groups foaming at the mouth about conspiracies to silence them while suing their critics and proudly parading their hatred of genuine medical experts as a badge of honor. Having a doctor tell them that vaccines have been effective in any way, shape or form is simply not an option since their delicate ears would be exposed to something other than vivid vaccination horror stories in cozy echo chambers maintained by a few heavy-handed moderators.
By itself, fear of vaccines is not a new phenomenon because once upon a time they were an unproven, brand new medical technology that had yet to prove its safety, efficacy, and merit in an age when germ theory wasn’t nearly as well understood by the public as it is today. Religious leaders argued against immunization on the grounds that diseases are divine punishment and to protect oneself from disease by immunization a sin. As nations begin to impose mandatory vaccination laws after seeing how well vaccines contained and prevented outbreaks of infectious disease, more libertarian critics sprang up and funded anti-vaccine movements which were primarily concerned about a government imposing vaccines on the people. And it’s these movements a lot of modern anti-vaxers follow, channeling their suspicions, fears, and medical problems into a culprit which seems to come from on high, i.e. the government, and is implicitly mandated.
They don’t know what vaccines are, how they actually work, don’t really understand how toxicity actually registers in the body or in what doses something actually becomes a toxin, and they’ve convinced themselves that vaccines must be truly awful. The modern anti-vax movements simply gave them reasons to continue to portray those dreaded vaccines as the root of all their problems. Get rid of the vaccines and almost everything they’re concerned about will be better; kids won’t develop autism anymore, greedy pharmaceutical companies won’t profit from the sick, and for the more paranoid out there, the Illuminati’s nefarious plans for the human race will be stalled, right?
Well, actually no. All it will do is resurrect smallpox and polio, raise epidemics of childhood diseases back to their pre-vaccine levels, and kill thousands every year. Just about every single argument from the anti-vaccine side is utterly and demonstrably wrong. We’re not indiscriminately poking kids with needles and even though there are more pediatric vaccines then ever, their antigen load shrank by 95% in 30 years, so the tired, worn mantra of “too many too soon” is actually the opposite of what’s happening. They blamed the wrong vaccine preservative for the rise of autism and after it was removed, saw autism diagnosed even more then it was before the preservative was removed through a combination of hyper-awareness and changes in medical diagnosing standards over the decades.
And then, after they watched their efforts produce no discernable or positive effect for children, they decided to double down and invoke just about every scary chemical name a writer in J.B. Handley’s employ could find on a vaccine package as the culprit for all pediatric evils. They’re so obsessed with the notion that vaccines must be responsible for something bad that every study on how a condition that’s very difficult to objectively diagnose, comes in many forms, and can change or just disappear on its own, is followed with their indignant howls of rage, demanding that scientists and doctors just give in to them, blame the vaccines, and stop childhood immunization programs. Now, just tell me that these obstinate menaces to public health will consent to being told that they’re wrong. They’d have a rage-induced aneurism right there in the doctor’s office and then argue that even being around vaccines causes aneurisms.
Someone even more cynical than me might say that anti-vaccination groups fuming at the notion of having to listen to a doctor outline the pros and cons of vaccines before signing off on a form which says that they still choose not to vaccinate their kids, are really just alarmed that the doctors may sway their followers with good science. But that’s probably not what’s going to happen. Instead, the anti-vax parents will listen to the doctors with about the same level of attention and interest as we listen to the FAA-mandated safety lectures before a flight, let the data flow in one ear and exit out the other, and sign the form. This is what existing in a perpetual echo chamber does. It turns people’s ideas as rigid and fervent as they could possibly be through a constant chant of the same rhetoric recycled countless times.
Then the parents who decide not to immunize their kids because misguided ignoramuses with way too much energy and their favorite quacks, whose goal is to sell highly dubious “cures” to parents of autistic children at a hefty price, told them not to, will insist that when their kids don’t get sick thanks to herd immunity, it’s a vindication of their decision, and when they do, that they will be better off because the same childhood diseases that used to kill kids a few generations ago suddenly lost their power and were never really all that bad at all. If we’re expecting informed consent from those whose opinions of vaccines come from anti-vax groups, we’re not going to get it, no matter how many binding legal forms we have them sign and to how many doctors we make them listen by law. They won’t be swayed.