Vaccination has become a hot topic of conversation for many people in our society today, especially parents. What is a vaccine? A vaccine is defined as a biological agent used to prevent serious illnesses and diseases, such as measles, smallpox, hepatitis, etc. by injecting a weakened version of the infectious organism into the human body. When they are administered, the body produces antibodies against the foreign substance, creating a defense mechanism for immunity to the disease.
Now I understand that the decision making process for a parent when it comes to their child’s health is a tough one, and this has become a sensitive matter. As of late, there has been research into the adverse effects of vaccinations. What would possess you to inject a disease into your children? Why is there not a lot of information on vaccinations and how they are prepared? What are the side effects? These are questions that have created an uproar, both in the medical field and, especially, in the media. How do I feel about them?
Although there are merits to both sides, I tend to side with vaccinating. The positives to vaccinating your child outweigh the negatives by too much. You must vaccinate your child. Let’s begin with the obvious; it keeps people healthy. Do you remember when your brother had polio? Or when your nephew had the diphtheria? No? Do you only know those words from The Oregon Trail? Well that’s because of vaccinations. A 2008 study in the September 6th 2008 issue of the American Medical News showed the numbers of cases and deaths pre-vaccinations and post-vaccinations.
There were an average of over 21k annual cases and over 1800 annual deaths a year from diphtheria. Today those numbers are zero. In the case of Polio, it was over 36k cases and over 3200 deaths, both zero now. Vaccines have done what pretty much every other drug cannot. It has completely wiped away the chance for disease. Those are only some of the stats. In some cases, it has only lowered the case and mortality rates, but it has lowered most of them by 90% or more, and all of them by over 80%. The numbers are hard to argue.
In the end, your child will always walk away with an exponentially better chance at a long life than they would have without it. So with all those numbers and obvious reasons to vaccinate, why do people still choose to leave their kids unvaccinated? Well there is a lot of misinformation out there, and I believe it all started with the widespread theory by Doctor Andrew Wakefield, a British gastroenterologist. He claimed the he found the MMR vaccine (Measles Mumps Rubella) had a strong connection with autism.
He then published those findings in the medical journal The Lancet. These studies, done out of the Royal Free Hospital where his clinic is based, were not very precise. He based the findings on a study of just twelve children, hardly a big enough sample size. Right away, his methods and findings were put under scrutiny by his medical colleagues. Instead of running a new study to prove them wrong, he appealed to the public. He preyed on parents’ worries, and said that the scientific community was just determined to discredit him and keep the pharmaceutical companies happy.
The media ate it up, and despite his small sample size, and his history of unproven results, they began to tell a story about how a “Maverick Doctor” protecting their children from the big bad pharma companies. Shortly thereafter, the rates of child vaccinations dropped dramatically in Europe. The General Medical Council dismissed his studies, and implored the population to ignore them and vaccinate their children. In my eyes, Dr. Wakefield used the media to manipulate uninformed parents into making rash decisions about their childrens’ well-being.
Shortly thereafter, the rates of two out of the three diseases prevented by MMR skyrocketed from 56 cases to 449 cases within the first five months of 2006, and resulted in the first death since 1992. Even the CDC chimed in saying they “found no relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism” after conducting their own studies. Case in point, this whole debate started with one “Maverick Doctor” who, in my eyes, cared more about being published, and his place in society as a forward thinking doctor, than he did the health and well-being of the children. Well what else is there?
Surely there’s no more reasons to keep your children from being vaccinated right? Well now we get to “Immuno-overloading”. This is a concern that I can understand, since I am not a biology or chemistry expert, so how do I know that a young infant has the immune system to fight off all these vaccines at such a young age? Well the idea that an infant cannot handle the overload of vaccines injected has been proven wrong as well. When a child is that young, they are very vulnerable to some preventable diseases. Vaccinating them at a young age is imperative to fighting off those diseases.
Infants do have immunity to some diseases due to the antibodies given to them from the mother, but that immunity only lasts two/three months. Most of them do not have the immunity to such diseases as polio, tetanus, hepatitis B, and many others. Without the vaccinations at birth, it is much harder for the infant to fight off those serious illnesses. All that being said, it has been proven that an infant’s immune system is more than strong enough to fight off the small amount of weakened and dead antigens that comes with a vaccine. The amount administered is miniscule. OK so you aren’t into the science of it all?
You just think that God will drive you down the right path and make sure your child will be healthy? Well this is a whole different story. Faith is a hard egg to crack, but let’s give it a try. I talked with a friend who I know to be religious, and he gave me a story that I really find to be relevant. “I recall a conversation I had with my grandma. My grandmother was a very devout Catholic, and practiced her faith every minute of every day. Before I was born, she was diagnosed with skin cancer. For months, she refused to take the medicine, and told every doctor that she was waiting for Gods way.
As her condition worsened, and my dad and uncles couldn’t talk her into taking the chemotherapy, they brought their concerns to a local priest. He came in to talk to her, and he pointed out that God WAS trying to guide her. He sent her a nurse, He sent her a doctor, He sent her children, all people who love and care for her, to convince her that her life is precious and she should fight for it with whatever God’s Earth has created for her.
This is what turned her around, she got the treatment, and she was able to meet all 18 of her grandkids and 20 more years in our lives. I am relaying this story, not to prove you should take vaccinations, but that the words of religion can always be skewed towards love, but people decide to hide behind certain words and it lends to distrust of very smart people who really just have your, and your child’s, best interests at heart. Now, I get to the most integral part of the discussion: the right to choose. If a woman has the right to choose if she aborts her child, or a man has the right to choose to marry another man, why can I choose to not vaccinate my kids?
Now I am a very big supporter in a person’s right to make their own choices concerning their body, or their lifestyle, and ultimately, it is the parents’ right to choose what they do to their children. That being said, I also feel that they have a social responsibility as a human. Most parents like to ignore the highly intelligent doctor who spent 10 years in school and residencies, and tons more in experience, and instead like to surf the internet for reasons to worry about their baby’s health.
What they fail to realize, or at least what they choose to ignore, is that most people writing things on the internet are uneducated biased individuals who finally found a platform for their bogus ideas, and choose to spread them. Combine that with the way internet theories get talked about boundlessly with no actual research or knowledge of the subject, and the complete degradation of the “headline grabbing” journalism of today. It begs for the kind of theory that makes that “obvious choice” to become cloudy.
We should definitely have the freedom to choose, but when that choice is the kind of choice that puts not only your child, but other children in harm’s way, and comes off of the theory you read in a Facebook post, that choice needs to be regulated. Well if I decide to immunize my child, how do I know there is still research being done? There are plenty of programs in action continuing to do studies on vaccinations. One such place to look at the recent studies is The Vaccine Safety Data Link.
This is a collaborative project involving the CDC and several other large health organizations in the US. This project actually started in 1990, predating the studies of Dr Wakefield, and has been studying the safety and health concerns of vaccines ever since its inception. For many doing the right research into their child’s health, it is the best place to go and stay up to date on today’s vaccine studies. In the end, some parents, aren’t willing to risk the very rare side effects of vaccines, so they choose to skip the shots.
Their children benefit from herd immunity (the protection of all the vaccinated kids around them) without risking the vaccines themselves. Is this selfish? Perhaps. But as parents you have to decide. Parents may justify their decision to deny their child of immunization over the illusion that it is for their own good, by riding on the herd immunity for protection. But with more and more parents succumbing to the bystander apathy, the levels of herd immunity thins resulting in ominous consequences.
In reference to the question at hand, it is beneficial for the health of society that laws are passed to make compulsory the immunization of children given the vaccinations are meticulously researched and tested for safety and effectiveness thus disagreeing with the statement provided. Vaccinations are a medical gift to the progressing world and should thus be taken advantage of. If you want to save your child from polio, you can pray or you can inoculate. … Choose science.