Definable Anti-Vaxxers In One Image

By Nicholas Staropoli — Dec 08, 2015
A new pro-vaccine ad campaign in Australia targets the secret anti-science demographic known as "Whole Foods shoppers."

Market research is a tough business, in particular because it operates on an often faulty assumption that we can identify what humans want by lumping them into homogeneous categories. Sometimes this is easy enough: By now it is safe to believe that Bostonians are interested in baseball, construction workers like pickup trucks and that female millennials like cats.

And it is safe to believe that anti-vaxxers must be the kind of people who shop at Whole Foods and care about recycling, as evidenced by a recent ad campaign from the Immunisation Alliance WA (Western Australia) 1.


The stereotypical Whole Foods shopper is the type of person that will vilify the pesticides on your tomato (unless they are organic pesticides) and recommend a homeopathic remedy for your child's strep throat infection. The message Immunisation Alliance WA is trying to get across to these people is that just because you believe in living an "all-natural" lifestyle doesn't mean you can't also vaccinate your child.

Why do the people they are reaching out to have such a disconnect when it comes to biology? The demographic who shops at Whole Foods and cares about recycling diapers is very likely to remind the world of the scientific consensus on climate change - that they deny the even stronger scientific consensus on vaccines is puzzling.

Their beliefs are in line with what American public health professionals know about the anti-vaccine movement (states like Mississippi have terrifically high acceptance while states like California lead in exemptions for arbitrary beliefs) it is at odds with recent political statements: The American Council on Science and Health has been critical of the beliefs of Ben Carson and Donald Trump because they are in defiance of science and more in line with Whole Foods thinking. It is odd that mainstream voters of one party are far more likely to be anti-vaccine while the other party has Presidential candidates espousing distrust of vaccinations. They are defying their own constituents in doing so. There is excellent adherence to vaccine scheduling in states like Alabama and North Carolina. Carson and Trump act like they should be campaigning in Oregon and Washington state.

But ad campaigns like the Immunisation Alliance WA need to do what they can to identify a target and that is possible in the U.S. also. What really connects Whole Foods shoppers, Hollywood celebrities and even some nurses? It is that science has become a world view, an a la carte belief system where we are told corporations are buying off scientists and even independent science sites (like the American Council on Science and Health) but that journalists hired at newspapers that sell corporate advertising are trusted guides for the public - if the publication matches the political beliefs of the person reading them.

Outside the conspiracy claims of Natural Resources Defense Council or the Globe and Mail, scientists remain very difficult to buy off, while activists have used their command of the media to promote fear and doubt about mainstream research and data, and that undermining has bled over into other fields. No area of health is immune from 'follow the money' slurs.

Perhaps we need to create a vaccine against groups infecting our culture with their anti-science beliefs.


  1. Nappies are diapers.
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