By Peyton Macrina
In 1998, former medical researcher and gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield and a dozen of his colleagues published a research study that showed a connection between certain vaccines such as MMR (Measles-Mumps-Rubella) and the development of social and learning disorders in children. Wakefield had put forth concrete evidence that vaccines caused autism.
…Except for the fact that the whole study had been botched.
By 2010, Wakefield’s publisher, The Lancet, retracted the paper officially, after members of the original research team admitted there was insufficient evidence, along with other researchers being unable to recreate the results. Wakefield, the Enron of medicine himself, even admitted to the fraud, and was found guilty on claims of ethical misconduct and scientific misinterpretation. Problem solved, right? We can all go back to vaccinating our children and preserving our herd immunity?
Here stands a man openly admitting to providing false information to the public, and yet, the issue of whether we need vaccinations continues to be a hotly debated topic in today’s society. Why? In what world does this make any sense whatsoever?
First thing’s first: Vaccines do not cause autism, contrary to the claims of the anti-vaccination movement. Unless the recipient has an unusually bad allergic reaction to the vaccine, the worst thing that usually happens is local redness and swelling in the vaccination area, along with a minor tenderness and a low-grade fever. This is favorable to the alternative: Brain damage. Using the Hib meningitis vaccine as an example, only about 1 in 50 recipients contract a fever, while 1 in 20 people who contract Hib meningitis end up dead and 1 in 4 with permanent nerve or brain damage. It should also be noted that research has shown that autistic children are either born with autism or develop it shortly after birth. The problem is, autism cannot be reliably diagnosed until around age 2. There are signs beforehand, but none that would raise concern in a parent until a later age. Often, parents confuse signs of autism such as the desire to be alone, discontentment with being held, and quietness as having an ‘easy baby’. I think most of us would if we were running on about two good hours of sleep a night and dealing with new financial adjustments.
Second: Vaccines are vital to preserve herd immunity. Herd immunity occurs when most members of a society hold immunity to a disease, which in turn protects those who are unable to build that immunity themselves. When you make the decision not to get vaccinated, you are not only putting yourself at risk, but your family, friends, and community as well. Think of your poor grandmother, who may not have had the vaccines available to her that we have today. The only reason she’s not being constantly bombarded with disease is because of our herd immunity. If people stop getting vaccinated, that group immunity is diminished, and grandma has nothing standing between her and an early death. The same goes for pregnant women and infants. Even vaccinated people are put at risk, as viruses mutate at an alarming rate. Vaccines are only designed to protect against the most current version of the virus, which is why they have to be updated every so often. We are all somebody’s parent, child, brother, sister, or neighbor. Each and every one of us has someone they hold near and dear to their heart. Whoever that is to you, you know that if anything were to happen to them, you would be completely devastated. So please get yourself vaccinated, for grandma’s sake.
Third: There is no excuse for the revival of diseases that had been previously eradicated. There’s a reason we got rid of them, you know, and now they’re back again. Outbreaks of measles, mumps, rubella, and even whooping cough have taken place in North America this year alone. Just over in Duval and St. Johns, Florida, three cases of mumps were identified. If this doesn’t worry you, maybe the 2,931 cases in Arkansas will. This is not a few odd cases. This is an epidemic. We are killing ourselves and each other from inside our own communities. Every time a man, woman, or child dies from measles, mumps, rubella, or any other easily preventable illness, it is inexcusable. If your child is dying, and you do nothing, then the blame is on you. The kids had no choice in the matter, relying on you to keep them safe, and you failed them.
Vaccines are a tried and true method of preventing illness. “But what about my freedom of choice?” you cry. To that I say sure, of course you have a choice. All I’m saying is to ask yourself this: Is it worth the consequences? Are you willing to accept the fact that you are putting your friends, neighbors, community, and loved ones at risk of becoming severely ill? At risk of dying a horrible death? Vaccinations are a necessary component of our society, designed to prevent epidemics and excruciatingly painful viruses and diseases from taking hold of large populations. Your immune system can only handle so much before it becomes overwhelmed, crumbling as you begin wither away. Or, even worse, as you watch the people around you succumb to their fates. Some of them may not even be dead by the time it’s over, leaving them with debilitating nerve and brain damage, unable to lead a normal life. Please, get vaccinated, if not for your own sake, then for the sake of the herd.
Header image from libertyucc.com