Why The Anti Vax Campaign is Dangerous
Do you believe in vaccinations?
Who Am I To Speak
I figured I should start out this article with an admission, I am NOT an expert, medical or otherwise. You may be asking yourself, why should you take my assertions seriously then, don't follow the citations, research for yourself. I don't recommend anyone blindly follow the advice of another without knowing more, but I do encourage you to read reputable sources and ignore the quasi science many pretend demonstrates how evil vaccines are.
What is the Controversy about?
For both of you who missed the controversy some people are not vaccinating their children because they believe that vaccinations might be dangerous. Usually they focus on the MMR vaccine, however they also target any and all vaccines for various reasons. While some people have always distrusted vaccines and drugs in general this recent rash of anti-vaxers began when Andrew Wakefield published an article in a medical journal linking Autism to the MMR vaccine.
Now most anti-vaxers are aware of the issues surrounding the Wakefield "study", and have additional concerns, but there is no doubt that Wakefield started the craze.
Andrew Wakefield and His Terrible Medical Study
Andrew Wakefield published a study in the Lancet medical journal. This study claimed that there was a sharp increase in cases of autism in children who were vaccinated with the MMR vaccine. Specifically it traced 12 children who reportedly developed autism after being vaccinated. The article was pulled from the Lancet when complaints were made about the validity of his methods and the conclusions he drew. Over time it became clear that Wakefield's study was more than just flawed, he outright lied and because of this Wakefield lost his license to practice medicine. It has come out that Wakefield falsified much of his research, and that he held the patent for a measles vaccine that would only be profitable if the MMR vaccine were discredited.
As I said earlier though, I know that Wakefield isn't the only hook Anti-Vaxers hang their coat on. They have plenty of "evidence" to throw at anyone who will listen about why Vaccines are bad, and about why it should be a matter of personal choice to get vaccinated or not. I am telling you not vaccinating your children is putting everyone at risk, and everyone, who can get vaccinated, should get vaccinated.
Vaccines Contain Toxic Chemicals
A common concern anti-vaxers have is the claim that vaccines contain all sorts of nasty toxic chemicals such as mercury. The fact is this is partially true. Thimerosal is a common preservative used in several vaccines, and it does indeed contain mercury. However it is important to understand what this actually means, just because something sounds scary does not mean it is. Thimerosal contains ethyl mercury, which is mercury in a state that the human body does not contain the ability to absorb, as such the mercury is quickly passed through your system and does not build up. Understanding how these chemicals work and their effects on the human body is important, and I definitely urge anyone with any concerns to research the effects of any compound in a vaccine that they are unfamiliar with, with knowledge comes understanding, but again proper research is required.
You are at more risk from eating tuna then you are getting a vaccine shot. The mercury contained in tuna is methyl-mercury and stays in your system for longer and does more damage. It is also in higher concentrations then you'll find in ANY vaccine. The fact is thimerosal is not even used in most vaccines anymore, especially in vaccines for children.
Herd immunity is the main reason everyone who can get vaccinated should get vaccinated. The fact is vaccines only improve your chances of fighting off a disease, they don't offer you a foolproof shield, someone vaccinated against measles can still contract and even pass on the measles, but the vaccines make it easier for the measles to be fought by your immune system, and a disease that is weakened is less likely to be spread. The higher the percentage of people vaccinated against the disease the higher the chance is that the disease won't become contagious or even all that dangerous once enough of the population has the antibodies to fight the disease.
People who have immuno compromised situations, in other words whose immune system is weakened, cannot get immunized in some cases, they rely on everyone else around them getting vaccinated so that the immunity of the population is high enough that any given disease will not spread. Every additional person who does not get immunized weakens the system as a whole. This weakening of the herd immunity system is the very reason why measles is making a comeback after years of nearly being eradicated. The primary reason for this is an increased distrust in vaccinations despite a long history of success.
Measles is Harmless
This is an actual reason man people give for not getting their children MMR vaccinated. This reason is absolute nonsense. I personally believe that a big part of the reason this myth exists is because many of my generation have not witnessed a real measles outbreak, we haven't seen the destruction and death measles can cause. The reason my generation has almost no experience with measles is, you guessed it, vaccinations.
The truth is measles is a deadly disease, in fact it is one of the leading killer of children in the world despite the fact that vaccinations are common. Measles kills 330 children EVERY DAY. In the year 2000 it was announced that the United States was officially rid of the measles, in 2002 it was announced that the entire of the Americas was measles free.
The measles are not some childhood irritation disease that kids get and then create their own antibodies, it is a deadly disease that cause mass deaths everywhere. The fact is the MMR vaccine works, thanks to the vaccine there has been a 78% reduction in measles cases in 2000-2012, the vaccine SAVES LIVES.
1 out of every 1000 people who contract the measles WILL die. Considering how easily the measles are spread (90% of unvaccinated people exposed will get the measles) this is a very scary number. Then you start looking at the permanent damage like deafness and lifelong brain damage, you have to consider measles to be a VERY dangerous disease.
Ruebella is a more mild disease, that is rarely fatal. This does not mean you shouldn't get vaccinated against it, if a woman is pregnant and contracts ruebella there is a 90% chance of the child being born with multiple severe and life threatening defects.
When talking about shedding in reference to vaccines it refers to a freshly vaccinated person actually having the virus or bacteria present in their system. It does occur, I am 100% willing to admit this. You won't find any denials to this in this article. That being said it is not a reason to avoid vaccinating your children or vaccinated people.
Shedding occurs only in live virus, or live bacteria vaccinations, and is extremely rare for the disease to be capable of transmission, in every single one EXCEPT the oral polio vaccination which is no longer given out. And shedding does not actually generally mean that the virus shed can actually be transmitted. For more information check out this article explaining what shedding actually is.
Several anti-vax articles I have read have brought up this life threatening condition as a reason to avoid vaccinations. It usually goes something like this "ok vaccines don't cause autism, but they do cause encephalitis, and encephalitis can cause... you guessed it.... autism". The truth is that many vaccines do list encephalitis in the information pamphlets, but again no cause for alarm. First of all, you have to understand what encephalitis is.
Encephalitis is swelling of the brain. This can be a life threatening illness, and it can cause brain damage and even death. It has never, as far as I know, been linked to autism. It CAN cause autism like symptoms in a patient with encephalitis which usually go away once the encephalitis fades.
The most important fact to realize about encephalitis is the leading causes of encephalitis is the very diseases the vaccines are preventing. For example 1 in 5000 children who contract the measles will develop encephalitis 15% of those children will die from the encephalitis, and 20-40% permanent damage from it. Encephalitis is just one of the MANY ways to die from the measles.
Some People Can't be Vaccinated
This, for me anyway, is perhaps the most infuriating argument imaginable from the anti-vax movement. The concept is that since some people cannot get vaccinated due to various immunodeficiencies that there is no reason why their child (who is not immunodeficient) should not be granted the same "right" not to vaccinate.
The reason this argument is so irritating is that the reasoning is completely backwards. Some people with immunodeficiencies cannot use some vaccines, this is true, but this just makes it even more important for everyone else to vaccinate to minimize the transmission routes to the immunodeficient people. People with immunodeficiencies are actually more likely to require vaccinations to prevent further compromised immune systems, and the inability to get other vaccines is not a right for them, but a dangerous situation. It's basically like saying because cancer patience can undergo sever radiation treatment anyone should be able to.... why in gods name would you want that?
Don't trust the gobermint
Another common tactic taken by anti-vaxers is to eliminate possible sources of studies by claiming they are corrupt for one reason or another. I've seen claims that you can't claim CDC studies, or studies done by ANYONE remotely related to the pharmaceuticals industry (this includes MD's since they are apparently in the back pocket of "big pharma"), Bill Gates, Monsanto, etc. etc. ad nauseum. This tactic basically makes it so that they only people they call "credible" are people as shady as Andrew Wakefield, or worse.
The belief that all of these people are complaisant in some massive cover up requires two things, motive and opportunity. Some say money is the motive, "big pharma" makes so much money on vaccines, they will do anything to keep the gravy train flowing. The truth is vaccines account for a mere 1.2% of their profits from vaccinations. If you think about it pharmaceutical companies would be better off if vaccines were discredited and eliminated, more illness means selling more drugs which means more profit. If money isn't the main motivator then it must be something else, some other reason all these groups are advising you get vaccinated, in order to continue with this reasoning you must then have to start bringing out the big guns of conspiracy theories, eugenics or maybe government is really injecting something else like tracking devices. As for opportunity, this implies that they had means to carry out such a HUGE conspiracy without anyone blowing the whistle. Have there been doctors and other organizations to claim there is a conspiracy, sure a couple discredited nut jobs like Wakefield but not nearly in the numbers that would make sense for such a massive conspiracy.
The CDC admitted that MMR vaccine causes autism
On August 27th 2014 a CDC researcher named William Thompson released a statement which seemed to imply that the CDC had deliberately covered up research which indicated that the MMR vaccine might cause autism in black males. Snopes explained in great detail why this is not actually what Thompson said. In short the study demonstrated that there was an increased risk of autism by 21% of black males who had gotten the MMR vaccine. The fact that this was left out of the official CDC study is not evidence of a grand cover up, or even that MMR vaccines cause autism in black males. The fact is the study did not have racial information on the entire group, and the sample size of black males was considered to small to be of statistical importance. In statistics if you take data from small sample groups you have to expect some statistical anomalies.
Ignoring the size of the sample group, even if there was a 21% jump in autism cases among immunized black males this still does not mean that vaccinations cause autism. The reasoning used to state that since there is a 21% increase in autism among immunized black males means that vaccines cause autism in black males is a logical fallacy called Post hoc ergo propter hoc which boils down to correlation does not imply causation. You can't assume that just because the number of pirates have severely decreased as global temperatures increased that pirates caused global warming, or that having more pirates would reverse global warming.
Why you absolutely should vaccinate your children and yourself
Prior to vaccinations the infant mortality rate in Victorian England ranged from 140/1000 all the way up to 500/1000 (that's right 14-50% of all children born died), some of this could be traced back to various aliments we now know how to treat, but vaccinations save more lives than any other preventative health measure. Since 1994 732,000 lives have been saved by vaccinations alone. Yes autism is on the rise, no vaccines ARE NOT the cause of this rise. A big part of the rise in autism cases is increased detection and expansion of the definition of autism. The autism spectrum has grown wider, and awareness of autism is on the rise, which means more doctors are detecting in then before.
Even if there was a chance of developing autism as a direct result of vaccinations, unless the numbers were staggeringly high it STILL wouldn't be a reason not to vaccinate. One of my favourite responses to the anti-vaxers comes from Penn and Teller. The video below is this argument, be warned it does use vulgar language and is NSFW.
Warning contains harsh language!
© 2015 Jeff Johnston