The Culture and Necessities of Vaccination
The great vaccination debate began in the late 90s when a gastroenterologist, Andrew Wakefield, published a paper linking the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) Vaccine to Autism and bowel disease. The finding sparked public outcry and further review of the materials used in vaccines. Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carey were the famous faces of the campaign to end all unsafe vaccinations (which eventually encompassed most vaccines). McCarthy was especially provocative, claiming that her son developed Autism from a vaccine. However, Wakefield lost his license to practice medicine in the U.K. in 2010 for the fraudulent study that put children’s well being in jeopardy. To this day, there is still no credible evidence to suggest such links, but the debate and reduced vaccination rates continue.
The point of vaccination is to keep not only the individual, but society safe. Kids who are not vaccinated have an increased risk of catching viruses that are virtually unseen by medical professionals today. For example, there was a major outbreak of measles in California (at Disney World in 2015) and in Florida (2014). Not only are the non-vaccinated kids at risk, but people with suppressed immune systems (due to HIV/AIDs, cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, and Lupus) are also likely to become deathly ill because of exposure to these viruses from unvaccinated children. Such measures are not only a costly danger to a child, but to society as a whole.
An argument made by parents is that they do not want their children to be in pain because of a vaccine. The statement is naturally paradoxical, since getting polio, HPV (and possibly cancer), chicken pox, tetanus, measles, and mumps would be way more painful for children than one needle prick.
Parents are also always worried about what kind of ingredients are in their children’s vaccines. The most common worrisome ingredient I hear mentioned is formaldehyde. The chemical is most notable for being used to preserve the remains of animals, plants, and humans (usually for dissection). However, the FDA reports that:
“that for a newborn of average weight of 6 - 8 pounds, the amount of formaldehyde in their body is 50-70 times higher than the upper amount that they could receive from a single dose of a vaccine or from vaccines administered over time.
Excessive exposure to formaldehyde may cause cancer, but the latest research has shown that the highest risk is from the air when formaldehyde is inhaled from breathing, and occurs more frequently in people who routinely use formaldehyde in their jobs. There is no evidence linking cancer to infrequent exposure to tiny amounts of formaldehyde via injection as occurs with vaccines,”
so the concern about getting cancer from a vaccine is invalid.
To be clear, vaccines are safe. While food/drug allergies and medical history should be observed by a medical professional before vaccine administration, there is no logical reason to not vaccinate your child (with the exception of the ability to pay, in which case many hospital clinics will administer vaccines for free and most vaccines are also covered under Medicaid). Even with the Wakefield update and the study of the safety of vaccine materials, there still is a very ominous threat looming to the spread of correct information regarding vaccination. Everyone jokes about ‘fake news’ as if it something new, insignificant, and only generated by political machines. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Fake news has been used to spread rumors about the dangers of vaccines for years, confusing many parents with the personal tales of child agony, maiming, and death. The spread of false information could cost children mobility, happiness, and even their lives.
If you are still not convinced that vaccines are the best thing for your kids, I encourage you to read On Immunity: An Inoculation, an eye-opening book by Eula Biss. Biss is a mom who writes about the her internal struggle on the decision to vaccinate her son and multiple other issues surrounding vaccination. However, Biss is not the only source of accurate information. For more help on deciding to vaccinate your children, it is always best to consult a physician certified by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Some other helpful resources are the FDA.gov website and the CDC.gov website.
While the decision to vaccinate is still legally considered to be a private choice, I strongly encourage every parent to vaccinate their kids. It’s not too late if you haven’t yet vaccinated your kids. But parents, if you can’t vaccinate your kids for their own sake, do it to protect the thousands of people they interact with on a daily basis -- don’t subject others to the potential consequences of not vaccinating your children.