Vaccination is a miracle of modern medicine. Vaccines can be attributed with saving more lives over the past 50 years than any other healthcare development. There is no doubt that many of our lives would be cut short, or filled with pain, if not for this wonderful procedure. So why then does it seem that so many parents disagree so strongly with vaccinating their children? I’m sure that many of you reading this have heard the rumours that vaccinations can cause autism. That being vaccinated can in fact give you the disease you were supposed to be getting protected from. How about that vaccines contain dangerous or even lethal toxins? pH7 would like to explore some of these claims and show that in reality, vaccines are absolutely nothing to be afraid of.
“The MMR vaccine causes autism”
I suppose it’s fitting that we start with this one. In 1998, a study by Andrew Wakefield, a British doctor, concluded that the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine seemed to cause autism in children.
This publication saw an onslaught of worldwide panic which led to dropping immunisation rates. Since 1998 he was proven wrong; his study shown to contain numerous falsehoods and inaccuracies, in addition to unethical procedures. There has been a plethora of papers published and studies conducted since, showing that there is no link whatsoever between receiving the MMR vaccine and developing autism.
One reason people may still so strongly believe that MMR vaccines cause autism could be that autism seems to become noticeable at around one year of age, the same age at which the MMR vaccine is usually administered. Moreover, as the exact causes of autism are unknown, parents argue that there is no way of knowing if the cause of the autism was indeed the vaccine, however more recent research into the topic has shown that autism develops well before a child is born let alone receives this vaccination.
“I’ve heard that it’s better to be immunised naturally rather than by a vaccine”
Ermm… Well, yes. It’s certainly true that immunity from surviving a disease in the first place gives much stronger levels of immunity the next time you are exposed to the disease, compared to a vaccine. But the key thing to remember here is; this is only true if you do survive the diseases the first time. Clearly it’s barmy to try to protect yourself against a disease by infecting yourself with said disease, when it could be fatal or lead to horrendous side effects. Many antivaxxers spout out this fact, without realising that they may have the wrong end of the stick.
“If other children are vaccinated then there is no need for me to vaccinate my child”
OK, I’ve got to admit this is one of the myths which makes me angry. Protection against a certain disease, globally, nationally, and within our communities depends on herd immunity. If enough of us are vaccinated, those that aren’t probably won’t catch the disease either, as they will not be exposed to it. For some, being vaccinated is not possible due to health reasons, which can themselves be life threatening or difficult to live with, so it is up to the rest of us to ensure we are fully protected - for our own sake and theirs.
In the 2014 measles outbreak centred around Disneyland in California, 12 of the 133 patients were infants too young to be vaccinated. So when children are not vaccinated for no other reason than that their parents being misinformed of the facts, herd immunity deteriorates. This means that those who are physically unable to get the vaccination are unfairly no longer protected.
“Vaccines contain substances which are dangerous and potentially lethal”
This myth comes from the fact that some vaccinations, such as the hepatitis A vaccine, contain substances which are toxic; mercury, aluminium or formaldehyde. Of the hundreds of thousands of vaccines tested, the results showed only trace amounts of these chemicals. Just traces. These substances in these concentrations are absolutely NOT harmful. In fact, with no problems at all your own body produces far, far higher concentrations of formaldehyde than there is in a vaccine; over 3000 times more, in fact. It’s almost like being afraid of a glass of water because you can drown in large amounts of it. Of course it is true that in high concentrations these substances can have life shattering effects, but it is unnecessary to worry about these effects when talking about vaccinations.
The development of commercial vaccines has dramatically shaped the world we live in for the better. We have been lucky enough to live our lives almost entirely without fear of contracting many devastating diseases, with some diseases completely wiped of the face of the earth due to vaccine use. Vaccination myths are not only scientifically flawed, but they are dangerous to the immunised population the human race has worked so hard to create, with crippling diseases such as polio making a comeback because of low immunisation rates. So if and when you ever have to make choices regarding vaccines, whatever your choice may be, ensure you are informed of all the facts, as other people’s lives depend upon it.