To Vax or Not to Vax; that is the question…
While controversies surrounding vaccination are not new, they have spawned very alarming trends, particularly over the past decade. Constant trolling and debate between proponents and opponents of Vaccination- the “Vaxxers” and “Anti-Vaxxers”, has prompted parents to claim nonmedical exemptions from routine vaccinations — leaving their children, their children’s classmates, and other children in their communities extremely vulnerable.
Vaccination Pros and Cons:
Proponents claim that vaccination is not only safe; it is one of the greatest health developments of the 20th century, with adverse reactions being extremely rare. That millions of children are protected from debilitating and sometimes disfiguring illnesses like rubella, diphtheria, smallpox, polio.
The opponents are adamant that children’s immune systems can deal with most infections naturally, that injecting questionable vaccine ingredients into a child may cause side effects like seizures, paralysis, and death, and that preservatives used in vaccines may trigger problems like autism and ADHD. They also argue that mandatory vaccinations violate individual rights to medical decisions and religious principles.Currently, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends 28 doses of 10 vaccines for kids aged 0 to 6.Click To Tweet
The Autism Controversy:
In February 1998, Lancet published an article by Andrew Wakefield, MD, titled “Ileal-Lymphoid-Nodular Hyperplasia, Non-Specific Colitis, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder in Children,” which associated the Rubella virus with autism, and also implicated the combined measles, mumps, and rubella [MMR] vaccine. Anti-vaccination groups and parents began using Wakefield’s article as rationale to opt out of vaccinating children.
Between 2003 and 2012, Brian Deer, an investigative reporter, published 36 articles accusing Wakefield of falsifying the subjects’ medical histories and essentially concocting a vaccine scare. Lancet eventually retracted Wakefield’s article on February 2, 2010, stating that several elements of the 1998 paper by Wakefield et al have been deemed incorrect.
In 1999, the CDC and American Academy of Paediatrics had vaccine manufacturers remove Thiomersal, a mercury-based preservative in vaccine preparations, as a precautionary measure. While exposure to mercury may result in damage to brain, kidneys, and developing foetus, no convincing scientific evidence has been linked to Thiomersal. This action, however, sparked widespread concern that Thiomersal could have been responsible for autism, and extreme tactics used by those sold on this hypothesis have since been increasingly successful in influencing public opinion and legislation.
A natural infection might provide better immunity than vaccination — but there are undeniable risks, for instance, a natural polio infection could cause permanent paralysis.Moreover, when a critical portion of a community is immunized against a contagious disease, most members of the community are protected as outbreaks are minimized. Individuals not eligible for certain vaccines — such as infants, pregnant women, or immuno-compromised individuals — get some protection too. This “community immunity” or “herd immunity” conferred by vaccination, therefore has far-reaching benefits.
Meghana Joshi is a Biomedical Sciences major and writer, specializing in Science Communication. She has run her own socio-environmental venture to promote natural products, fostered abandoned animals, and co-authored ‘ROOMIES/FOODIES,’ a memoir-plus-recipe book for Indian students abroad. She now works at Mirai Health and is based in Pune, India.
CDC, “School Vaccination Requirements, Exemptions and Web Links,” www.cdc.gov, July 21, 2011