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The Anti-Vaccine Movement

In recent years, the anti-vaccine movement has focused on the idea that vaccines can be connected to the neurological disorder that is autism (Vaccines & Autism). On average in today’s society, 1 out of 4 parents believes vaccines can cause autism in otherwise healthy children (Olson, Samantha). The whole idea of vaccinations causing autism began when a gastroenterologist from the United Kingdom named Dr. Andrew Wakefield published a study in The Lancet (a general medical journal) in 1998. In his publication, Wakefield claimed to have found a connection between vaccines and the onset of autism (Chatterjee, Archana).

When The Lancet was published, it spread rapidly. Hundreds of thousands of people began to question vaccines, and as a result of the article, fueled a powerful anti-vaccine movement in the United States as well as England (Specter, Michael). Due to the fact that many people were no longer getting their children vaccinated, medical doctors as well as the government had to figure out of Dr. Wakefield was really correct. After a decade long investigation, studies of 25,782,500 children, researchers concluded that there was no connection between vaccines and autism.

Among these studies, 537,000 children were evaluated in Denmark, 535,000 children in Finland, as well as 14,700,000 children in the United States, and no one else could find a direct link. No other studies have been able to even come close to replicating Wakefield’s findings. So his study was officially taken down in 2010. However, this does not mean that his article did not have a lasting effect on people. Dr. Wakefield’s findings had left millions of children unvaccinated, and susceptible to diseases (Olson, Samantha).

Many of the fears of vaccines were aimed at one, the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine, also known as the MMR vaccine. Scientist had to conduct hundreds of thousands of more studies to prove that the MMR vaccine also had no connection to children developing autism. In a not too long ago court case, the United States Court of Claims ruled that the evidence found by doctors and scientists overwhelmingly contradicted parents’ claims that the MMR vaccine was to blame for their children’s development of autism (Iliades, Chris).

The false connection of vaccines and autism had caused the government to take to court a topic that used to have been highly trusted by the citizens of the United States, but was ruined by one man’s published research. However, the revoked findings of Dr. Wakefield did not only stop people from giving their children the MMR vaccine. Before Wakefield’s paper was published, there were only 2,900 cases of whooping cough throughout the 1980’s. In 2014, there were now 5,400 cases in California alone (Olson, Samantha).

These statistics show that the effects of this article, even though proven false, still have a strong impact on parents’ decisions to vaccinate their children. Due to the fact that many people are hesitant about allowing their child to be vaccinated during infancy, the Food and Drug Administration, also known as the FDA, ensures the safety, effectiveness, and availability of vaccines for everyone in the United States (Infant Immunization). After the autism scare, which many people still believe, it has been extremely difficult to instill in new parents that it is okay to give their newborn child a vaccine.

It will not hurt them. Children’s immune systems are stronger than most people think. They are designed to protect children from the hundreds of thousands of foreign germs, bacteria, and viruses. Children are exposed to more antigens in the environment, such as being at a park or grocery store, than to those in all vaccinations combined. Today’s vaccines contain far fewer antigens, or toxins, than those administered in the past (Schultz, Laurel). For example, in 1954, the first polio vaccine was introduced to the public.

When the polio vaccine first came out the ingested vaccine actually caused some people to contract the disease. More than 16,000 children per year in the United States were afflicted with natural paralytic polio in the 1950s. This is why so many people were lining up to get their children and themselves a polio vaccine. The shot vaccine worked correctly, and there were no flaws. However, there were a few cases where, as stated before, the ingested version of the vaccine, that was given as a sugar cube, caused the receiver to contract the disease (Summary).

With all of the advances in the medical field, a flaw was never seen in a vaccination as widespread as this one ever again. However, even though there are no longer instances where a large number of people contract a disease through vaccination, about one in a million vaccine doses, a child could have serious life-threatening reactions to a substance in a vaccine (Infant Immunization). Even with this statistic, it can be seen that it is not the virus itself that is harming the child, it is an allergen within the vaccine. Vaccines for most people cause mild symptoms such a rash, pain, or swelling at the injection site (Vaccine Myths).

Many people also have questions about the connection between vaccines and allergies and asthma. Experts say that current studies have not been in depth enough to rule out such a connection. However, vaccinated children do not appear to have a higher rate of allergies and asthma than unvaccinated children (Schultz, Laurel). Nearly 25% of parents reported that they believed their child was receiving too many vaccines that could result to weakening the immune system, and lead their child to face problems such as allergies (Summary).

The Institute of Medicine report published in 2002 stated that there was no evidence of a connection between multiple vaccines and increased infection or autoimmune disease (Schultz, Laurel). Another piece of information that would be helpful if society today knew, would be that many of the ingredients in vaccines, are produced naturally in the human body. Vaccines and immunizations are meant to work with the body, and help it to fight off infections. They are not created to push the body to its limits and see how far it can keep itself healthy before it contracts a disease.

According to the FDA and the CDC, formaldehyde is produced at higher rates by the metabolic system than is contained in any vaccine. There is also no evidence to show that the levels of mercury or aluminum in vaccines can be harmful to the human body (Vaccine Myths). It is important to stress however that the mercury and aluminum levels in vaccines are okay to be in the human body, but increased levels of these two substances in the body are very harmful and can result in fatality. There is a difference between the amount of the substances in vaccines, and if you were to ingest any types of mercury or aluminum (Vaccine Myths).

All of this information just goes to show that there is a lot that parents or adults need to take into consideration when contemplating whether to receive the vaccines or not. With the help of research and studies, one can see the obvious choice to benefit a child for a lifetime would be to get him or her vaccinated. The topic of whether to vaccinate children or not is very much so influenced by people in power, and their viewpoints on the subject. With a new President, it is important to know where he stands on things such as immunizations and vaccines for adolescents.

In 2005 when Robert F. Kennedy Jr. , nephew of former president John F. Kennedy, published an article in Rolling Stone called ‘Deadly Immunity”, it of course caught people’s’ attention. Kennedy’s article was based on Dr. Wakefield’s published findings in “The Lancet”. This article had once again brought up some suspicions about vaccines, but was quickly put to rest by other government figures. Recently, before the election, there were some questions asked about, at the time president-elect Trump’s viewpoints on childhood immunizations.

President-elect Trump has some doubts about the current vaccine policies and he has questions about it” Kennedy said in an interview in Trump tower. “His opinion doesn’t matter, but the science does matter. And we ought to be able to be assured that the vaccines that we have- he is very pro-vaccine, as am I- but they’re safe as they can possibly be” -Kennedy (Specter, Michael). The general public should generally feel more comfortable that the highest person in the American government is saying that he believes the vaccines are safe, and will continue to work to make them better.

It is important that the government keeps helping those who cannot afford vaccines to be able to receive them because it will cost less to achieve herd immunity, than it would be to have to pay for the hospitalization of thousands of people due to exposure to a deadly disease. The Vaccines for Children Program helps provide vaccines to those parents or guardians who cannot afford them (Infant Immunization). Preventative care is the cornerstone for pediatrics, and all of those who work in the medical field (Summary).

On the positive side, 95% of children in kindergarten have had vaccines for preventable diseases. On the negative side, 26 states have not reported meeting the government coverage for the MMR vaccine (Child VaxView). It is important that more and more people in this day and age understand what vaccines really are. All of the fear that used to be directed toward the diseases, has now turned into a fear regarding the safety of the vaccines. The parents of children in today’s society have not had to love through or experience all of these horrible deadly diseases.

As newer generations of children are born, fewer and fewer are getting vaccinated. If a parent does not know what a disease is, they wonder what the point is in injecting their child with a virus. The lack of understanding is very prevalent in society because if parents understood what they were protecting their child from, most children would be vaccinated in a heartbeat. It is because of the lack of knowledge and experience that children are left to suffer the consequences of not being armed against deadly preventable diseases (Chatterjee, Archana).

The United States currently has the safest, most effective vaccine supply in its history (Infant Immunization). However because of the false published work of one doctor, many people still find it easy to question the vaccines and question the government. If people did the research, they could find plenty of helpful tools and information to help guide them to making the right decisions. Humans have benefitted from vaccines for more than two centuries and there will still be many advances to come (Infant Immunization).

One would think that after two centuries of helping people vaccines would be accepted. However, scientists will have to keep disproving false statements, and finding all of the ways in which vaccines are helpful to society. The world of vaccinations and immunizations is not as complex as it sounds. If more people did research on the true effects of vaccinations, there would not be as much debate. Vaccinations keep society for the most part healthy. With new advancements being made every day, there is almost no end to all of the things vaccines can do to better humans and their immune systems.

Vaccines have so far stood the test of time, and will continue to be improved upon (Summary). Children are so vulnerable to diseases with all of the things that they touch and play with or on, it is very important that they are vaccinated as soon as they can be to prevent any types of illnesses. Yes it is important that children experience some germs and rub a bit of dirt on a cut, but it is not the same as dealing with a deadly disease. It helps to improve more than just one aspect of a child’s life when they are vaccinated.

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