Vaccines have become a hot topic in the news lately. Due to outbreaks of measles and other diseases, there has been a growing backlash against the anti-vaccination movement.
On one hand, it seems like that the decision to vaccinate a child should belong to the parents, and that it shouldn’t be anyone else’s business. However, the situation isn’t quite that straightforward. Choosing not to vaccinate doesn’t just affect your child and your family; It can affect the rest of the population as well.
There are some people who, for a variety of reasons, can’t receive vaccinations. Since they can’t be vaccinated, they are reliant on others to do so in order to eliminate the spread of the disease. It’s also believed that as the number of un-vaccinated people increases, the population’s “herd immunity” decreases. And as a result, diseases like measles – once thought to be essentially eradicated – have been making a comeback.
Is this enough reason for the “anti-vaxxers” to be subject to the derision that they’ve received? To me, it all depends on why a person is opposed to vaccinations.
I’m all for people not blindly doing what they’ve been told. If you don’t want to accept as gospel that “every child must be vaccinated,” then please do some research and fully educate yourself. But also be sure that your sources are reputable since there is a lot of mis-information out there.
If you do a quick search on Yahoo! you’ll come across several sites that promote an anti-vaccine agenda. Before you believe everything you read on these sites, you also need to uncover the authors’ motivations and determine just how reputable they are.
There’s also a danger of confirmation bias. If you are skeptical of vaccines or want to believe that they’re harmful, then you’re going to find plenty of sites and “information” which back you up.
For instance, the anti-vaccine site VaxTruth.org seems to have uncovered some information that the CDC is being dishonest and covering things up.
Well, guess that proves it: Vaccines are bad!
But wait, maybe we should check to see what Snopes has to say about it. Oh. Okay then.
Like I said, it’s fine to be skeptical. But if you’re going to be skeptical, don’t stop once you find something that backs up your suspicions. Be thorough and make sure you’re getting the facts and not poorly supported opinions.
Another warning: If you perform research on the internet, you’ll find that there’s a lot more anti-vaccine stuff out there than pro-vaccine. Don’t place too much stock in this imbalance. There isn’t as much pro-vaccine information mostly because for many years, it was accepted as near-universal truth that vaccines were beneficial. For instance, people who believe the Earth is round probably aren’t going to write a blog post about it.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that I am firmly in the pro-vaccination camp, and that my children have followed the recommended vaccination schedule and will continue to do so. But as I mentioned, I don’t want to blindly shut out opposing point of views, so I’m willing to take a look at the anti-vaxxer’s arguments to see if they have any merit.
Here are a few of the more prominent reasons why people choose not to vaccinate:
Chemicals are bad
Vaccines contain an imposing list of chemicals, and some parents are reluctant to have that injected into their children’s bodies. You might have read that vaccines contain potentially harmful elements like mercury.
If you fall into this camp, I recommend you take a look at the ingredient list of that soda you’re probably sipping on. Phosphoric acid? Does that sound like something that we should be putting into our bodies? And what about penicillin? Penicillin is made out of mold! Do we really want to have our children ingest mold?
The fact is, most of us are not scientists, and have no real clue about how chemicals will react with the body. We shouldn’t reject vaccines simply due to that ignorance.
Just let nature do its job
Some people believe that natural medicine is the best medicine, and many diseases would have gone away even without the vaccines. If that’s the case, could somebody explain this chart?
I’ll admit that science doesn’t always get it right. History is littered with cases where science has been proven wrong. It seems that health trends change overnight, and yesterday’s “must avoid” often becomes tomorrow’s “must do.”
However, there is one thing that science has been pretty consistent about over the years: Diseases are bad, and you should avoid getting one whenever possible.
God will protect my child
Some people don’t want to rely on doctors and medicine to keep their family healthy. Instead, they place their faith in God to keep their family safe. Perhaps they should read this parable.
Vaccines cause autism
Ah yes, this is the big one. The supposed link between vaccines and autism was one of the major reasons why the anti-vaccine movement began in the first place. The only problem, there’s no actual proven link between vaccines and autism…or at least not from a credible source.
And no, I do not consider Jenny McCarthy to be a credible source. The funny thing is, had Hugh Hefner simply chosen a different Playmate of the Year for 1994 (and Echo Johnson would have been a much better choice), the whole anti-vaccine moment might have never gained any legs.
Who knew that Hugh Hefner’s decisions would have such far-reaching consequences?
There are risks with vaccines
Maybe the vaccines aren’t causing autism, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t risks involved. A child could suffer side effects or adverse reactions as a result of a vaccination. Then again, you could say the same thing for just about any medication that exists.
Earlier I mentioned penicillin. Penicillin and it’s derivatives have long been the go-to drug for fighting bacterial-based illnesses. For the vast majority of people, the drug works exactly as it should with no complications. Unfortunately, there are some people who are allergic to the drug, or others who have suffered adverse reactions that resulted in serious injury or even death.
Does this mean we should avoid giving penicillin to our children? Probably not. Based on statistics, the risk of suffering major negative effects from the illness is much greater than the risk of a negative reaction to the drug.
At the risk of sounding blunt, if you or your loved one is one of the very few who suffer a negative reaction to a vaccine, then the unfortunate truth is that you’re just extremely unlucky.
I think just about any parent would be devastated if something happened to their child due to a vaccination. Therefore, some parents might choose not vaccinate because they would be better able to accept any negative outcome that resulted from that decision. For many people, it’s easier to absolve themselves of guilt if something bad happens due to inaction rather than action.
If a parent doesn’t vaccinate their child and the child gets sick, they can rationalize it as “fate” or “God’s will.” But if the child has an adverse effect to a vaccine? They will feel more guilt since they “caused” the problem.
There’s one major flaw in this line of thinking: The inaction is actually far riskier than the action. Vaccines can be risky and have unfortunate side effects. But you know what else comes with side effects? Measles…and polio…and whooping cough…and lots of other diseases which vaccines help prevent.
The anti-vaccination movement has brought with it a strange sense of nostalgia regarding these diseases. It’s now being spun as if they aren’t potentially deadly, but rather a harmless rite of passage. There’s even a children’s book based on the premise.
Maybe I’m wrong about the statistics. Maybe these vaccines are actually more dangerous than the government and other sources are leading us to believe, and the truth is being intentionally concealed.
But why would they do that?
The drug companies are getting rich from vaccines
According to some theories, the only reason why vaccines are so en vogue is because of propaganda from the vaccine manufacturers. After all, if everyone vaccinated their children, sales of the vaccines will be strong, and the manufacturers will continue to profit. And to ensure that this continues, the manufacturers have discredited anti-vaccine research and funded campaigns to vilify anti-vaxxers.
Anyone who tells you that the drug companies aren’t making any money off producing vaccines is probably being dishonest. It would be naive to think that big companies are going to serve as a charitable organization and simply donate vaccines to the people out of the goodness of their hearts.
Do you know why the drug companies are making money off of the vaccines? Because the point of a business is to make money.
Making money isn’t illegal or immoral, and just because they’re making money doesn’t mean that the vaccines aren’t beneficial. If you get a headache do you abstain from taking aspirin simply because the drug companies are making money from it?
Based on this article from 2005 (before the anti-vaccine movement really took hold), the drug companies might be making money from vaccines…but they aren’t getting rich. It seems like their vaccine business is too small of a percentage of their profits to embark on a worldwide conspiracy to protect it.
But maybe the drug companies are making more money than we think. After all, if they’re going to lie about the safety of vaccines, wouldn’t they also lie about their profits? Then how do you the studies done by the CDC and other researchers which also show vaccines to be (largely) safe?
According to some conspiracy theorists, the drug companies aren’t acting alone. The government is closely working with them to keep the vaccine machine humming along. If there wasn’t a conspiracy, then why would this exist?
Once again, the vaccine manufacturers are not charities. If they had to defend themselves against vaccine-related lawsuits, they might decide it wasn’t in their best interests to make the vaccines anymore.
Infringing on personal freedom
Thanks to the anti-vaccine movement, a few of these diseases have been making a comeback lately. It’s gotten to the point where there’s been talk of the government mandating that children be vaccinated.
Any time the word “mandate” gets used, a certain subset of the population gets a bit upset. These are the people who believe that “The government has no right to tell me to vaccinate my children! It’s an infringement on my freedom!”
Some people don’t seem to understand just how government works. The government always has and always will take away personal freedoms in order to keep the public safe. That isn’t the sign of a totalitarian regime, it’s a sign that we aren’t living in anarchy.
Then again, some people probably object to other public health measures like sanitation standards and car seat laws. How dare the government oppress us like that?
Here’s a thought: For the government to pass a law like that, it would pretty much require agreement between Democrats and Republicans. And these days, if both political parties could agree that vaccines are necessary, then that’s a pretty good sign that vaccines are necessary!
I’m sure that if you were skeptical about vaccinations before, reading this hasn’t been enough to change your mind. But I do hope that if you a skeptic, this causes you to be thorough and learn all the facts before making a decision. Because as I mentioned, your decision doesn’t just affect you and your family. It could affect all of us.
This post has been part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. In case you couldn’t tell, today’s letter was V and the topic was “Vaccines”