Conquering Infectious Disease Through Memes

For a person on the fence about a scientific issue, especially a personal one like GMOs, fluoridated drinking water, or vaccines, a seed of doubt is often all it takes to push them over the fence on the side opposite the scientific consensus. That’s why internet memes touting the dangers of these issues can be so effective — those against them only have to make you wonder “what if?”, whereas those in favor have to lay out each of the reasons why you shouldn’t worry.

Which is why what Facebook groups like The Vaccine Meme Machine and Refutations to Anti-Vaccine Memes are doing is so impressive and important. More and more people get their scientific facts from social media these days, and instead of wringing their hands and *headdesk*ing, these groups are using that fact to their advantage. Sometimes the memes they spread are specifically designed to counteract one that anti-vaccine proponents have created, sometimes they’re more general in order to address common fears, and sometimes, as with any Facebook page, they’re simply sharing the cool things they’ve seen elsewhere.

First of all, let’s cover the level of rhetoric we’re dealing with. It is not high. Here are a few of the memes one can find on an antivax Facebook group like The Vaccine Meme Machine, posted without comment:





Clearly, not a lot of thought is going into designing memes to convince the internet public that vaccines are unsafe (and even less though is going into making that message humorous). That’s a relief.

While some of the memes that the Vaccine Meme Machine and the like have posted also go for the simplified, humorous angle (what’s a good meme if it doesn’t make you grin?), most take a more scientific, though easy to understand, approach. First, a few reactions to the ones posted above:





My favorites are the ones that communicate the science behind immunization without making your eyes glaze over. These ones do a particularly good job at that:





If you don’t follow The Vaccine Meme Machine and Refutations to Anti-Vaccine Memes, you should. They’re doing good work, and I hope it continues.

Ashley Hamer

Ashley Hamer (aka Smashley) is a saxophonist and writer living in Chicago, where she performs regularly with the funk band FuzZz and jazz ensemble Big Band Boom. She also does standup comedy, sort of, sometimes. Her tenor saxophone's name is Ladybird.

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One Comment

  1. The whole conversation in the baby picture should be,
    Baby – “Hey, Doctor what part of “No Vaccines.” don’t you understand?”
    Doctor – “The part about talking medical advise from someone who still shits his pants.”

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