The Wellcome is one of the best places to go for a geek in London (if you’re a Digihuman listener I just assume you’ve the geek is strong within you), and they always have brilliant, well researched and vibrant collections on display.
The digital age may be amplifying anti-vaccination sentiment more than ever before, but fear has turned people away from medical progression for a long, long time.
Contemporary anti-vaccination campaigning started in earnest after the publication of Andrew Wakefield’s now infamous study suggesting that the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine caused autism. The MMR scare snowballed to become the biggest science story of 2002, leading to demands in the British press for Tony Blair to disclose whether his son Leo had been given the vaccine.
In 2010 the study was retracted by its publisher, the Lancet, after an investigation discovered multiple conflicts of interest and manipulation of research data. Wakefield lost the right to practise medicine in the UK, but that didn’t stop him continuing his campaign against vaccines. In 2016 Wakefield released the documentary Vaxxed, which followed other anti-vaccination documentaries such as Trace Amounts and Calling the Shots. Vaxxed was pulled from the Tribeca Film Festival before its screening, following a public outcry about its message.
It’s pretty unlikely you’ll be seeing anti-vaccination documentaries at your local cinema. But anti-vaxxers are adept at using digital technology to sidestep what they see as official censorship, reaching new converts through ‘news’ articles, self-produced documentaries and memes. Despite this, anti-vaxxers aren’t a new digital phenomenon, but rather the latest incarnation of a social and political movement with a long history of resistance to large-scale vaccination programmes.