Through right to decline such vaccinations. In several

Through the rise of technological advances in medicine,
the vaccine has changed the world for the greater good of the human race.
Making a great triumph and virtually eliminating an array of life-threatening
diseases, from smallpox to diphtheria, thus adding approximately thirty years
to many humans’ life spans. Although, a new complication has arisen, possibly
linking neurological digression with this rise of new vaccines. Such a
digression has forced parents to exempt their children from receiving vaccinations
and brought forth mental anguish affecting the minds of many.

In the Frontline episode The Vaccine War, a progressively
distressful debate ensues among many scientists and doctors within the public
health system and an unnerving alliance of parents, politicians, and
celebrities. The topic of debate is the overwhelming pressure parents feel to
vaccinate their children and their right to decline such vaccinations. In
several American neighborhoods, groups of parents have been exercising their
right to refuse vaccinations, which has elevated anxiety on the return of
vaccine-preventable diseases such as pertussis and measles. The reason such
parents are denying their children various vaccines such as the MMR “triple
shot” for measles, mumps, and rubella is because they are convinced that it is
linked to autism, a link that has yet to be proven. Many of these parents are
focused solely on their children, not taking into account that their decision
may put the American populace at risk for disease. Such parents are not
thinking about other members of society that vaccines don’t work for, and in
certain adolescents the effects deteriorate, thus only when every person is
immunized the “heard immunity” is successful. 
Throughout the episode various forms of media help spread
this debate virally across the World Wide Web, from the biased information of
numerous blogging sites to the overwhelming voice displayed by people on YouTube.
In addition, several celebrities make an appearance to illustrate their views
on this matter. Celebrities such as former Playboy Playmate Jenny McCarthy and
companion Jim Carrey as well as an appearance from a Redskins cheerleader
Desiree Jennings, all who claim there is a connection between vaccines and
neurological disorders. Though there is a vast amount of compelling data from
both sides of the spectrum this issue has yet to be resolved because the
situation is very complicated. Furthermore, the debate has escalated far beyond
just the medical risks and benefits but now has an ideological principle
regarding a parent’s decision and governmental confines. Scientist Hank
Jennings says, “They still want it to be a choice. They don’t want it to be
compulsory” (Palfreman, 2010). Additionally, despite the scientific fact that
vaccines are safe, government rule regarding parental choice is another
component increasing the fight against vaccines.

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Throughout The Vaccine War, the particular theory exemplified
on the human behavior is Cognitive Dissonance Theory. Cognitive Dissonance
Theory is a notion created by Leon Festinger that disputes that dissonance is
an awkward feeling that encourages people to take action to diminish it. This
theory is composed of two components: cognitions and cognitive dissonance.
Cognitions are defined as, “ways of knowing, beliefs, judgments, and thoughts”
(West & Turner, 2009). Cognitive dissonance is defined as, “feeling of
discomfort resulting from inconsistent attitudes, thoughts and behaviors” (West
& Turner, 2009). Furthermore, Roger Brown (1965) comments that the
essential factors of the theory follow relatively straightforward principles:
“A state of cognitive dissonance is said to be a state of psychological
discomfort or tension which motivates efforts to achieve consonance. Dissonance
is the name for a disequilibrium and consonance the name for an equilibrium”
(p.584). Additionally, the theory permits the two components to have three
singular associations being consonant, dissonant, or irrelevant. 

The initial concept within Cognitive Dissonance Theory is
magnitude of dissonance, which exemplifies the measurable amount of dissonance
a person encounters. Moreover, Cognitive Dissonance Theory relates to the
methods of selective exposure, selective attention, selective interpretation,
and selective retention as the theory expects that people will avoid
information that amplifies dissonance. Selective exposure is a way to reduce
dissonance by searching for dependable information that does not already exist.
Selective attention is to be aware of information that is consistent with
present actions and values. Selective interpretation refers to understanding
vague information so that it can become easily adapted. Selective retention
involves remembering information so that it can become easily adapted to
present ideas and actions. Furthermore, another intriguing concept that
Festinger created is minimal justification, which is being able to offer the
least encouragement necessary to get a person to change. 
When analyzing The Vaccine War in conjunction with the
Cognitive Dissonance Theory it is apparent throughout the episode that though
the many parents are looking out for the best interest of their children they
are aware that they are diminishing the “heard immunity” of the American
population. Such actions are conflicting against each other and this is further
exemplified when Dr. Jim Shames, a public health officer from Jackson, Oregon,
is having a very calm and collective conversation with several mothers who have
not had their children vaccinated. In this conversation, Dr. Shames presents
the three women with a question; what if their unvaccinated child contracts a
disease, such as pertussis, and infects a delicate newborn infant who is too
young to receive a vaccination? The women seem to be caught off guard by this
question and appear to be experiencing cognitive dissonance, as if they have
been confronted with a problem they do not want to acknowledge. This scenario
illustrates the concept of selective attention, because the women try to avoid
this problem so they in turn can avoid experiencing cognitive dissonance.
Moreover, throughout the episode various parents, such as Jenny McCarthy,
demonstrate the concept of selective exposure by searching for information on
the Internet that pertains to the link between neurological disorder and

Whichever side of the debate is correct; there is a much more
pertinent question that no scientific study can answer. That question being
whether parents have the rights to make choices for their children that involve
the needs for the greater good of the community. With this subject in mind one
can conclude that this debate will not disappear quickly, and solving such a
pressing issue will arise new complications that will question the rights of
American citizens. 


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