Why are anti-vaxxers right?

Andrew Wakefield

On 5 March 2019 Statens Serum Institut published a study proving there is no connection between MMR vaccination and autism. The study analyzed 657,461 children and was funded by Novo Nordisk and Danish Ministry of Health. In spite of such results anti-vaxxers – people who believe that vaccination causes autism – will continue to refuse vaccination of their children. Anti-vaxxer belief is rooted in the lack of trust in the data source – scientists, scientific institutions, scientific process, health organizations, governments, and health companies. Anti-vaxxers make their decision based on exclusion of data because of the lack of trust in its sources.

They are a perfect example of how bad decisions are made. If data sources are not trusted, then data can not be included in the decision. A bad decision is made because relevant data was excluded, and the decision makers defend their decision arguing against the authority of the source. This process not only results in bad decisions, but wastes resources of everybody involved.

However, the problem is more complex. People reject authority when they are not included and are just served the results. Anti-vaxxers are a natural occurrence and their rejection of the authority is normal even though it is completely wrong and dangerous. Anti-vaxxers are part of an always present percentage of population which will have a strong reaction to an absolute authority which excludes them. They are a symptom of the discomfort much more people feel. For every anti-vaxxer there could be ten thousand people who feel uncomfortable to vaccinate their children just because science suggests it, but still decide to trust it. Luckily vaccination is a simple process and all these people need to decide is to do it, but many cases are not that simple and require much more motivation.

If we transfer this logic to a companies, then following rules apply: good decisions are based on trusting data sources, and data sources are always based on individual authority. If authority is outside the team and members are given an option to trust it or not, they will be less motivated to trust it and will make lower quality decisions. But if they are included in the data source and data design, their trust and inclusion of data will be higher and their decisions better. No company wants to have the anti-vaxxer type of people in its team. To avoid it all team members must be included in the data and data sources design. If excluded they will have the right to feel discomfort, be less motivated, and eventually not make best decisions. It is up to management to include them instead of expecting their blind trust.

Anti-vaxxers, in this sense, are right to complain, but they are definitely not right to not vaccinate their children.

Written by: Nikola Tosic
Publishing date: 14 Mar 2019