Casting Aside the Fear that Fuels our Post-Truth Culture

Photo Credit: ADOBESTOCK

When we let go of fear, we can work toward progress — together.

The post-truth movement, at its core, is perpetuated by fear. Fear of losing security, fear of shaking a closely held belief, fear of vulnerability. Brene Brown, in an inspiring TEDtalk, speaks about how fear “keeps us out of connection”. This is essentially the root cause of how the post-truth movement in our culture has gained momentum. What started out as a political instrument is attributed to the perpetuation of misinformation ranging from the climate change “debate” to whether we landed on the Moon or not. This shift away from reasoned debate over critical issues is debilitating our ability to progress conversations that enrich our culture. However, by letting go of fear, we can fundamentally shift the conversation of a fear-riddled, contentious issue to one of open and thoughtful discussion

Take vaccines for example. The scientific community, and most of America, is united in the assertion that vaccines are necessary to prevent systemic health risks. In this post-truth culture, the anti-vaccine proponents’ arguments have more to do with emotional pleas and fear mongering than objective scientific evidence. In the past few decades, there’s been an increasing number of parents who have chosen not to vaccinate their children. Physicians normally recommend that an infant receives the standard batch of vaccinations during a well-baby checkup two months following birth. The course of this well-baby checkup typically runs like this: the doctor performs routine tests confirming the baby is in good health and then recommends a series of six vaccines.

A dwindling number of parents are delaying or outright refusing some or all of these vaccines for their children. The medical community is adamant that these vaccines exist to serve a critical purpose: the prevention and spreading of infectious and potentially fatal disease. What the parents think they’re doing is preventing an action which, they erroneously believe, will do their child harm. However, what they fail to realize that not vaccinating is, in and of itself, an action with intention. By withholding vaccination, you are intentionally putting your child and the community at risk.

In 2011 in California alone ten children died from whooping cough, the worst outbreak there since 1947. The misinformation that has spread through our culture over the perceived dangers of vaccines has resulted in a systemic health risk, not only to the young, but to our communities as a whole. The post-truth arguments over vaccines have neither objective evidence to back up their claims or verifiable test results to support their position. Understanding how vaccines work is the first step away from misinformation and toward a more informed decision-making framework. Vaccines were invented to expose the body to tiny doses of diseases like whooping cough to develop immunity against the disease while the body is in a healthy state, versus contracting the disease when the immune system is weak.

To understand how a modern vaccine works, consider a vaccine like Sci-B-Vac developed by VBI Vaccines Inc. (Nasdaq: VBIV), a Hepatitis B vaccine that has administered to over 300,000 patients. Sci-B-Vac closely mimics the virus, triggering an immune response in the body, which then teaches the body to recognize and fight Hepatitis B. The vaccine allows the body to build up a defense against this disease without the health risks of being exposed to the actual virus. Currently approved in 15 countries, this vaccine and others like it have the potential to save over 780,000 people who die from Hepatitis B complications annually.The FDA rigorously reviews the safety and efficacy of vaccines before approving them; and even a vaccine like Sci-B-Vac, which has been safely administered to over 300,000 patients globally, must still complete a Phase III trial before receiving U.S. approval.

In the US, our society has been largely pro-vaccine for a long time, until the Internet age when some ill-conceived studies emerged causing many Americans to question whether vaccines were helpful or harmful. One of the most damaging attacks against the safety of vaccinations came in the form of the claim that the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine caused some children who receive it to develop autism. The study, led by scientist Andrew Wakefield in 1998 cited a finding linking the MMR vaccine to autism. However after the massive upheaval in the medical community, several of its co-authors withdrew their support of it, and later Wakefield himself was accused of falsifying data resulting in the loss of his medical license.

Even with the objective debunking of errant research methodologies into the study of vaccines, some people still believe that the MMR vaccine can cause autism.

With so much misinformation and fear mongering in the media today resulting in the post-truth movement, it’s imperative to take the initiative to make sure that we are presenting a questioning attitude and framing our arguments based on verifiable evidence and critical reasoning. Throwing fear by the wayside is the first step to that end. Letting go of fear is a powerful exercise in understanding that we deserve that human connection that fear inhibits — that we’re enough. As Brene Brown asserted, “when we work from a place, I believe, that says, ‘I’m enough,’ then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.”

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