Perhaps no other topic induces equal parts debate and hair-pulling frustration for public health experts as the anti-vax movement.
Timothy Caulfield is a Canada Research Chair of Health Law and Policy at the University of Alberta and one of the most prominent voices trying to debunk anti-vax myths this side of the border. His latest publication, The Vaccination Picture, is a blend of hard scientific facts and tongue-in-cheek original illustrations, presented in an accessible format that anyone can read and enjoy.
“The goal of the book was to use original art to frame a brief, but highly researched, analysis of the relevant science and social controversy surrounding vaccines,” says Caulfield. “Studies have consistently shown that facts alone often fall flat. But by using art inspired by the public debates around vaccines, we hope the public will find the book both engaging and informative.”
Can celebs Trump science in the info-wars?
Each chapter of The Vaccination Picture explores a critical sub-topic: vaccination hesitancy, government policy and why it exists, media spin, the influence of social media, the rise of pseudoscience, and celebrity pied-pipers such as Gwyneth Paltrow.
This isn’t the first time that Caulfield has taken aim at Paltrow – his 2015 release, Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash, certainly didn’t beat around the bush. In this book, Caulfield highlights the anti-vax views of various public figures, including Trump, who unabashedly links them to autism, despite that particular theory being thoroughly debunked by the scientific community some 14 years ago.
One of the hardest hitting chapters, in my view, comments upon the impact of the contemporary meltdown in trust between the public and institutions, industry, science, and government. Ever-diminishing confidence is what has allowed non-experts like Trump and Paltrow to exploit the fears of the general public and let misinformation permeate their consciousness.
“Trust is important,” writes Caulfield. “Any strategy to deal with vaccination hesitancy will need to address this reality.”
The Illuminati are at it again
As a public figure in the debate, Caulfield naturally gets his fair share of hate mail – a curious amount of which is written on “yellow foolscap paper… these handwritten rants are long, highly detailed, and have a written-in-a-bunker vibe.” All part of the job, you could say, but it is nonetheless indicative of the skewed mentality behind the most ardent anti-vaxxers.
The writing maintains a down-to-earth and humorous touch throughout, and the artists did a rock solid job of caricaturing internet conspiracy theory culture. Next to wacky pictures of the Illuminati, you’ll find Tim poking fun at the theories that just won’t die (“Elvis lives!”), the science behind where they come from, and the real danger they pose.
For parents who are too busy to read academic papers but also feel that Charlie Sheen is not someone you should take advice from, spend an afternoon with Tim and discover that experts are there for a good reason: they’ve got you in mind.
The Vaccination Picture is out now via Penguin Random House.