Vaccines… Silver Bullets or Microchips?

Why do some people believe in the conspiracy theory? How do our motives shape our beliefs?…Vaccines in perspective…

lthough Jennifer Gates was joking when she commented on her Instagram photo after receiving the vaccine jab, a recent survey (2020) has shown that 28% of Americans think that Bill Gates is hiding a microchip inside the COVID-19 vaccine shot.[I]

Jennifer Gates’ Instagram account 12th Feb. 2021

It was also said that:

The vaccine contains pork or beef

The vaccine will change DNA and no guarantee which animal you would mutate to… A crocodile perhaps

The Vaccine contains aborted fetus cells… How dare they?

The Vaccine Can make women infertile… It is a global master plan as it seems

Those are the most wide-spread vaccine rumors and myths as per BBC report…which rose simultaneously with the development news and inoculation of COVID-19 vaccines since late 2020 or even earlier.[ii]

Rumors and more rumors

Misinformation and rumors about vaccines aren’t something new and they have been spread a long time ago especially by Anti-Vaxxers whose presence began as early as vaccines appeared especially in England and the United States in the mid to late 1800s.[iii]

Although they tried hard to relate vaccines to chronic illnesses and named Autism as one of the long-term side effects of vaccination, no evidence has been developed on such correlations…However, we can still see a growing number of parents rejecting routine vaccination of their kids as concerns are raised on safety parameters and in some cases vaccination decisions are interfering with philosophical and religious backgrounds

Autism has been one of the noted false claims associated with vaccines and later the paper that published that claim had been completely discredited due to serious errors with the procedures, fiscal conflicts of interest, and ethical concerns. Moreover, the author’s medical license has been withdrawn, and “The Lancet” retracted the paper.

Anti-Vaxxers have claimed that natural immunity coupled with healthy nutrition is a better mechanism than vaccines to fight diseases…This mechanism was adopted during our early life as humans and we lived like this for thousands of years….but here is a trick…

The risk of this approach far outweighs the relative benefits…Measles can be an example.

If you want to face Measles by gaining immunity post-exposure to the disease, you have an opportunity of 1 death per 500 cases. Meanwhile, those who develop severe sensitivity to the MMR vaccine are less than one-in-one million.[iv]

The psychology behind the conspiracy theory

So, in addition to previously stated factors or misconceptions about vaccines, why do some people believe in the conspiracy theory?

In general, it is suggested by Douglas, K. (2021) that people are inclined to conspiracy theory and its attributes to satisfy three psychological motives

The first set of these motives are epistemic motives. which is related to our need for certainty through having clear information of what is surrounding us… they need just to explain clearly what is happening. In many cases, people don’t have access to sources that differentiate between myths and facts, so they opt for superior-power interpretations. It is obvious that since the eruption of this pandemic, people don’t really figure out what is happening around them. The last pandemic humanity faced was the Spanish flu more than 100 years ago. So basically, we don’t bear any memory for this incident and its consequences from personal, experiential, and non-academic perspectives.

The second set of these motives are called existential motives which refer to our need for security and feeling safe in a place where we live. so, having an explanation for something unpredictable would give us a sense of control over the situation we are facing and consolidate our security feeling. As we don’t know what the impact of this COVID-19 pandemic is, how long would it last and how vaccines can solve the situation, conspiracy works very fine against what is vague and uncontrollable.

The final set of motives we would call social motives, and these are mostly related to the group where they belong, and having access to information that other people don’t have would feed that sense of power.

In some cases when the group is feeling underappreciated by other groups — which might be a false perception — and at the same time they have an inflated sense of importance, those perceptions drag people towards conspiracy theories.[v]

This is somehow debatable when it comes to reflecting on a specific population. Living standards, educational level, and general awareness in any society might affect the propagation of such beliefs among its people, specifically when this society lives on the ruins of old achievements and superiority convictions.

Based on concepts of heuristics and biases, Another set of explanations is related to a cognitive bias “The substitution bias” When we tend to take computationally complex decisions, we escape to an easily calculated attribute, The decision is processed by the intuitive judgment system rather than the self-aware reflective system

All the complex details of reality can be explained by invoking a grand conspiracy, which can accommodate any evidence.

Although the conspiracy theory as a concept is a self-defeating form of social cognition, more research is required to reveal more in-depth understanding to the vulnerable and disadvantaged populations that follow these patterns where it is highly propagated across the community.

Vaccines; Reality vs Myth

“We’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic. Fake news spreads faster and more easily than this virus and is just as dangerous.” This is how the WHO director described myths surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.[vi]

The impact of vaccines is undeniable; at least from empirically proven advantages or public health perspectives, and it has changed the map of diseases wherever it has been used, not to mention the indirect pharmacoeconomic benefits as the quality of life and life expectancy…etc. which needs separate comprehensive research; the US as an example can draw that notion carefully to see how conditions changed drastically in the post-vaccination era.[vii]

Impact of vaccines in the last century in The US

The term “Silver Bullets” has been used primarily in fictional horror movies as the most effective weapon to kill human-wolves. However, the terminology has been adopted later as a metaphor for a quick and magical solution to complex problems.[viii]

Werewolf or human-wolf

While WHO says that vaccines aren’t the silver bullets to eradicate all diseases in the world, it estimates vaccination to save the lives of 2–3 million every year in all age groups from diseases like diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), influenza and measles.

Vaccination is one of the most successful and cost-effective public health interventions.[ix]

Thanks to Edward Jenner who is considered the founder of vaccinology in 1796.[x]

Thanks to Scientists, Researchers, Health practitioners, Health Organizations, and Manufacturers whose work saved lives. And brought joy…

Thanks to vaccines

References

[i] Bharat, S. (2020), [online], Available at https://www.wionews.com/world/28-americans-believe-bill-gates-intends-to-microchip-people-using-coronavirus-vaccine-300988,

[ii] Carmichael,F. And Goodman, J. (2020) Vaccine rumors debunked: Microchips, ‘altered DNA’ and more, BBC News [online], Available at https://www.bbc.com/news/54893437

[iii] (2018) History of Anti-vaccination Movements, [online], Available at https://www.historyofvaccines.org/content/articles/history-anti-vaccination-movements,

[iv] (2021) Vaccine myths debunked, [online], Available at Https://www.publichealth.org/public-awareness/understanding-vaccines/vaccine-myths-debunked/

[v] Douglas, K. (2021), Speaking of Psychology: Why people believe in conspiracy theories, [online], Interview script Available at Https://www.apa.org/research/action/speaking-of-psychology/conspiracy-theories

[vi] UNICEF (2020), available at https://vaccinemisinformation.guide/,

[vii] Herper, M. (2013), How Vaccines Have Changed Our World In One Graphic, [online], Available at, https://www.forbes.com/sites/matthewherper/2013/02/19/a-graphic-that-drives-home-how-vaccines-have-changed-our-world/?Sh=c419b583302d,

[viii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silver_bullet,

[ix] (2019) Immunization, [online], Available at https://www.who.int/news-room/facts-in-pictures/detail/immunization,

[x] (2020) A brief history of vaccination, [online], Available at https://www.immune.org.nz/vaccines/vaccine-development/brief-history-vaccination#:~:text=Edward%20Jenner%20is%20considered%20the,first%20smallpox%20vaccine%20was%20developed.

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