There has been and there currently is an anti-vaccination movement going on that is based on bad information that has been found to be incorrect and debunked many times over. Many parents are worried about giving their children vaccinations because they have been led to believe that vaccines can cause and have been linked to autism. However, this belief is false, and the results of parents not vaccinating their children have led to a resurgence of diseases and risks to the general public’s health.
Vaccines are incredible for the health of the general public, in terms of helping to stop diseases in the United States. Vaccinations have helped to stop the spread of diseases like diphtheria, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, etc., and have even eliminated diseases like polio and smallpox from the United States. For the most part, people tend to vaccinate their children; it is required to do so for their children to attend public schools. Unfortunately, there has been an anti-vaccination movement, based on bad misinformation regarding a possible cause for Autism or other types of adverse reactions, which has led to a resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases. It is true that vaccinations have led to adverse reactions up to and including death, but it is very rare and it is usually a result of an allergic reaction to the vaccine. The idea that Autism is being caused by vaccinations has been proven to be false, but it seems like that information is not being heard about as much as the anti-vaccination propaganda. I will discuss the importance of vaccinations, the possible adverse reactions from vaccinations, and the falsehood of the anti-vaccination movement.
“It is always better to prevent a disease than to treat it after it occurs. Diseases that used to be common in this country and around the world, including polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), rubella (German measles), mumps, tetanus, rotavirus, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) can now be prevented by vaccination. Thanks to a vaccine, one of the most terrible diseases in history – smallpox – no longer exists outside the laboratory. Over the years, vaccines have prevented countless cases of disease and saved millions of lives. Immunity is the body’s way of preventing disease. Children are born with an immune system composed of cells, glands, organs, and fluids located throughout the body. The immune system recognizes germs that enter the body as “foreign invaders” (called antigens) and produces proteins called antibodies to fight them… The first time a child is infected with a specific antigen, the immune system produces antibodies designed to fight it. This takes time, usually, the immune system can’t work fast enough to prevent the antigen from causing disease, so the child still gets sick. However, the immune system “remembers” that antigen. If it ever enters the body again, even after many years, the immune system can produce antibodies fast enough to keep it from causing disease a second time…” (cdc.gov).
The Center for Disease Control recommends that people should start receiving vaccinations early on in childhood and if need be, boosters, later in life. People should not receive vaccinations if they are mild to moderately ill, have a weakened immune system, are pregnant or think they are possibly pregnant, or they have had severe allergic reactions to vaccination in the past. “A vaccine is a medical product. Vaccines, though they are designed to protect from disease, can cause side effects, just as any medication can. Most side effects from vaccination are mild, such as soreness, swelling, or redness at the injection site. Some vaccines are associated with fever, rash, and achiness. Serious side effects are rare but may include seizures or life-threatening allergic reactions. A possible side effect resulting from vaccination is known as an adverse event. Each year, American babies (1-year-old and younger) receive more than 10 million vaccinations. During the first year of life, a significant number of babies suffer serious, life-threatening illnesses and medical events, such as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Additionally, it is during the first year that congenital conditions may become evident. Therefore, due to chance alone, many babies will experience a medical event in close proximity to a vaccination. This does not mean, though, that the event is in fact related to the immunization. The challenge is to determine when a medical event is directly related to a vaccination” (historyofvaccines.org). Dr. Peter Hotez is a pediatrician and physician-scientist who specializes in developing, producing, and testing new vaccines. He is also one of the leaders in the field of Tropical Diseases, which are prevalent in areas with severe poverty. “Peter J. Hotez, M.D., Ph.D., is the Baker Institute fellow in disease and poverty. He is dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and professor of pediatrics and molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine, where he is also chief of the Section of Pediatric Tropical Medicine and the Texas Children’s Hospital Endowed Chair of Tropical Pediatrics. Hotez is an internationally recognized physician-scientist with expertise in neglected tropical diseases and vaccine development” (bakerinstitute.org). He is also a father to a daughter with autism and an opposer of the anti-vaccination movement.
According to Dr. Hotez, there is no link between vaccines and autism, and vaccines cannot cause autism. “There is no link between vaccines and autism. I trace the modern anti-vaccine movement alleging vaccine-autism links back to 1998 when a paper was published in The Lancet, a prestigious medical journal, claiming that the live measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine (especially the measles component) might lead to pervasive developmental disorder, a term then used to refer to autism. That paper was subsequently retracted by the journal editors and shown to be fundamentally flawed and scientifically invalid. In addition, several large population-based studies showed that children who received the MMR vaccine were no more likely to get autism than children who were not vaccinated, while further studies found that autistic children were no more likely to have received the MMR vaccine than children not on the autism spectrum. However, claims of autism and vaccines then shifted from the MMR vaccine, when it was alleged thimerosal preservative that used to be found in many childhood vaccines (but which now has been mostly removed) caused autism. Again, population-based studies showed no links between autism and thimerosal-containing vaccines, and indeed after thimerosal vaccines were removed from markets in the United States, Denmark, and elsewhere, autism rates did not decline. From there, the assertions moved to the concerns that somehow spacing vaccines too close together was the issue, but that too does not hold up, and lately, there are new rounds of allegations claiming that aluminum-based adjuvants found in some childhood vaccines cause autism, which is also not true. The point being that this is the modus operandi of the anti-vaccine movement — a strange type of vaccine “whack-a-mole” — forever looking for new vaccine links only to have them disproven time and time again. We now have clinical studies with over one million children enrolled, showing there’s no link between vaccines and autism, not MMR, not thimerosal-containing vaccines, not vaccines closely spaced, not aluminum-containing vaccines, not to mention the fact there is no evidence showing that there is a link. Vaccines cannot cause autism. There is no reasonable plausibility of vaccines causing autism. In the last few years, we’ve learned a lot about the developmental pathways leading to autism and its associated intellectual disabilities. There are at least 99 autism genes to fetal brain development, mostly related to the expression of genes in brain cells or communication between neurons. Many of these result in anatomic changes during prenatal development (pregnancy), meaning well before children ever get vaccinated” (thehill.com).
Vaccines are very effective medical products designed to protect and prevent people from disease. Vaccines prevent the spread of contagious, dangerous, and even deadly diseases. Misinformation, controversies, and the anti-vaccination movement have raised concerns about the safety of vaccines for children; this has resulted in a declining number of parents vaccinating their children. It is true that there are mild to severe reactions to vaccines, but the positive benefits overwhelmingly out way the negative possibilities. Vaccinations are extremely important in the overall health of our communities; it is even more important now because some of the preventable diseases are making a comeback. Hopefully, with more education and better information being distributed to the general public, everyone in the United States will vaccinate their children and put an end to the anti-vaccination movement.