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“A Discredited Vaccine Study’s Continuing Impact on Public Health” by Clyde Haberman

Vaccination can be considered as a significant contributor to global health. It is one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century that has helped to eradicate serious infectious diseases and save tens of thousands of lives, as Haberman states (par. 11). However, there is a percentage of people who still have a strong belief that vaccines bring more harm than good. This essay is going to analyze the article entitled “A Discredited Vaccine Study’s Continuing Impact on Public Health” that was written by Clyde Haberman. Mr. Haberman is a journalist who has mainly contributed to The New York Times since 1977 and became the New York Press Club’s Hall of Fame member in 2015. The article delves into the issue of vaccination denial, talks about its background cause and influence it bears on public health. The paper will also discuss the overall execution of the piece: the ways the author backs up his claims and the tone he chooses to convey the message. Apart from that, possible improvements to the article will be proposed.

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The Main Idea and Purpose of the Article

The central topic of the article “A Discredited Vaccine Study’s Continuing Impact on Public Health” is the fact that despite the numerous successes of vaccinations, many people still think that inoculation can be risky. They base their beliefs on claims of public figures and outdated findings, proven by leading researchers and epidemiologists to be fraudulent (Haberman par. 7). The article is set to inform readers about the issue, as well as explain its cause and demonstrate the motivation of people standing against vaccination.

The piece also mentions the dangers that the aforementioned viewpoint can bring to public health. The explanation uses the concept of herd immunity as an example to show why the majority of people should be inoculated. “Health professionals say that a vaccination rate of about 95 percent is needed to effectively protect a community. Fall much below that level and trouble can begin” (Haberman par. 10). With that in mind, the article under discussion bears an important purpose. It attempts to address concerns of people unwilling to vaccinate themselves or their children and to help health professionals to gain a proper understanding of psychological factors that make people reject vaccinations (Cummings 254). The next section of this essay is going to take a look at how the author approaches the execution of his article.

The Execution of the Article

It is possible to say that one of the biggest strengths of Clyde Haberman’s article is the fact that the author backs up all of his claims, leaving readers without a doubt in his level of expertise. After stating the issue in the introductory paragraphs, Haberman mentions an outbreak of measles that happened in Southern California and a couple of other nearby states (par. 4), which became an initial source of concern. The fact that the officials deemed the disease to be eradicated back in 2000 only strengthened the effect.

The author then transitions to describing what turned out to be the original source of disbelief in the benefits of vaccines. It was the study presented in 1998 by a British doctor Andrew Wakefield, who claimed to have found the connection between M.M.R. (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine and the onset of autism (Haberman par. 6). The findings were based on only 12 cases and got promptly rejected by the community and proven to be wrong in later studies. The journal that originally published the article retracted it, and the medical authorities took away Dr. Wakefield’s license (Haberman par. 7). The author mentions this story to emphasize the fact that despite all of these events, the rejection of vaccines still has a place to be. The first successful vaccination happened back in 1796 (Caulfield 24), and the tremendous progress was made in eradicating diseases through mandatory vaccination (Caulfield 26). Taking into consideration the aforementioned facts, the inoculation denial seems nonsensical.

The author moves on to discuss the possible reasons for people to still have such strong beliefs against vaccines. After mentioning the concept of herd immunity, Haberman reaffirms the importance of immunizing by saying how much it helped in terms of improving public health (par. 11). He also states how dangerous infectious diseases can be to an unvaccinated person, referencing back to the measles outbreak. This affirmation emphasizes how important it is to understand the mindset of people who reject immunization.

Haberman mentions multiple factors that add up to people’s skepticism towards vaccines. Those factors are listed with reference to the interview with Seth Mnookin, the author of a 2011 book The Panic Virus and the science writing teacher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This proves the author’s credibility and shows his level of expertise yet again. Haberman says that one of the factors of disbelief in vaccines is that they are successful. Many American families lived through generations without experiencing deadly diseases, which made them question the existence of those diseases in the first place (Haberman par.12). Hence, it is impossible for them to fear something they have never seen.

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Another influencing factor is the one that transcends all the political views. This skepticism is based on the general lack of trust towards many public institutions. Those include the government and news outlets, both of whom do not necessarily have a lot of people trusting them. Then there are pharmaceutical companies that earn money from selling vaccines. Lastly, there are scientists who also are not protected from making mistakes (Haberman par. 13). Instead of trying to prove skeptics wrong, scientists only seem to make matters worse for themselves.

The thing is that scientists do not make absolute statements. There is a justified basis for that, especially when speaking about vaccines. It is impossible to fully confirm the effectiveness of a certain immunizer due to differences between laboratory tests and real-life cases (Saadatian-Elahi et al. 2). Apart from that, according to Wilder-Smith et al., “full public health impact of vaccinations should consider health and non-health benefits of vaccination in both vaccinated and unvaccinated populations” (2). As a result, the language that scientists prefer to use leaves many people doubting their authority and questioning their knowledge in the matter.

The author leads the readers to the conclusion that even though the issue of vaccine skeptics is not yet critical, it is still worth looking into so that it does not become a bigger problem in the future. It is also clear that the piece was well-researched, as plenty of evidence is shown to support the claims in the text, while none of its components feels out of place. While not trying to appeal to the readers’ emotions directly, the author uses a simple enough language for the article to be engaging and the message to be conveyed clearly.

Possible Ways to Improve the Article

While the main idea and the purpose of the article are easy to understand, the fact that the article does not go beyond acknowledging the problem makes it seem unfinished. Even though the author finds the reasons for people to be against vaccinations, no real solution to the issue is suggested. Presenting the way out of the problem would add value to the piece. At the same time, it would act as a basis for health professionals to build the strategy of disproving the fallacy that vaccines are harmful. However, it is still impossible to deny the authority of Clyde Haberman as an author of this article. The abundance of references he provided to support his claims and emphasize the importance of the issue makes his expertise unquestionable.


In conclusion, it is fair to mention that the problem of vaccine deniers is far from being resolved. To successfully tackle this issue, it is essential to find a proper way to address the distrust people have towards the immunizers. The solution would include not only developing the scientific approach but also shifting the way public institutions promote vaccines. With the help of this article, the first important steps can already be made towards better understanding the core of the problem. Just like numerous infectious diseases were successfully eradicated with vaccination, it is also possible to change people’s minds with the right arguments that would make them understand that nothing is going to harm them.

Works Cited

Caulfield, Timothy. The Vaccination Picture. Viking, 2017.

Cummings, Louise. Fallacies in Medicine and Health: Critical Thinking, Argumentation and Communication. Palgrave Macmillan, 2020.

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Haberman, Clyde. “A Discredited Vaccine Study’s Continuing Impact on Public Health.” The New York Times, 2015, Web.

Saadatian-Elahi, Mitra, et al. “Beyond Efficacy: The Full Public Health Impact of Vaccines.” Vaccine, vol. 34, no. 9, 2016, pp. 1139–47. Crossref.

Wilder-Smith, A., et al. “The Public Health Value of Vaccines beyond Efficacy: Methods, Measures and Outcomes.” BMC Medicine, vol. 15, no. 1, 2017. Crossref. 

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StudyCorgi. (2022, March 11). “A Discredited Vaccine Study’s Continuing Impact on Public Health” by Clyde Haberman. Retrieved from


StudyCorgi. (2022, March 11). “A Discredited Vaccine Study’s Continuing Impact on Public Health” by Clyde Haberman.

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