Shots That Save
By Stephen Tuttle | April 2, 2019
Apparently we need to go over this again since the anti-vaccine crowd never tires of spreading disinformation and misinformation.
Their repeatedly debunked arguments blame vaccines for autism, muscular dystrophy, any other neurological disorder ... and pretty much anything negative that happens to their child during or after the child’s vaccination schedule. It's proof, they claim, that vaccines, or the ingredients therein, are dangerous, especially a mercury derivative. Never mind that a mercury derivative hasn't been used since 2001, except in some flu shots.
The result is childhood diseases once thought to be eliminated now returning.
There have been 268 reported cases of measles this season, an illness declared eradicated in 2001. Unvaccinated children in Washington, California, Illinois, New York, and Texas are thought to be the source of the disease’s spread.
Well, big deal. Lots of us had the measles as kids, and we're all fine. Except not everybody who contracts measles is fine. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 110,000 people — the vast majority of them children — died around the world from measles in 2017. That doesn't sound so benign. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says 1 in 10 children with measles will develop a serious ear infection that can lead to deafness. Two out of every 1,000 cases result in death.
Fortunately, there is a cheap, effective, and readily available vaccine that prevents the measles. And others known to prevent a host of potentially dangerous childhood maladies.
Before vaccines there were 3 million cases of chicken pox annually, requiring 11,000 hospitalizations and resulting in more than 100 deaths. Whooping cough (pertussis) killed more than 8,000 Americans annually.
According to the CDC, international vaccination efforts have saved the lives of more than 700,000 people and prevented 300 million illnesses compared to pre-vaccine rates. In fact, you can look at a chart of life expectancy and see two periods of dramatic increases: The first was the advent of sanitary sewer systems. The second occurred with the introduction of vaccines.
If you're already convinced vaccines are going to harm your child you might as well skip the rest of this. There will be references to actual research and facts contrary to your orthodoxy. Perhaps I'm part of the vast conspiracy between the American Medical Association and pharmaceutical companies.
No substances have been investigated more than childhood vaccines. There have been thousands and thousands of peer-reviewed papers published on both the efficacy and safety of these drugs. The conclusions are nearly always the same: The vaccines work, and they are safe.
No connection between vaccines and autism has been found. The more rigorous the research, the more obvious the lack of connectivity. The same holds true for the other ailments the anti-vaccine crowd attributes to the shots. (There are a literal handful of children who have had a dangerous allergic reaction to the vaccines; six of the millions of children vaccinated in 2017 died from such a reaction.)
The most current research on autism points to a genetic cause rather than an external one. That's why some unvaccinated children are also diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
It is easy to understand parents searching for a cause of their child's illness while grasping for a solution. ASD in particular is mysterious, and behavioral interventions can involve years of painstaking efforts. There just isn't any evidence vaccines are the culprit nor have we found anything to cure ASD.
But it's no longer enough for the anti-vaccine folks to dangerously prevent their children from receiving the protection. They've become militant and radicalized with organized online groups. If you Google vaccine safety, the first page contains a number of anti-vaccine sites and organizations full of nonsense.
Some will be happy to sell you some snake oil in the guise of preventing childhood illnesses. There are diets aplenty, hyperbaric chambers, blood chelation — and an oldie but a goodie, a foot bath with ionized water that claims to draw the toxins out of your body through your feet.
Groups now use social media to attack parents whose child has died, accusing them of murder or being a hoaxer. A woman in Washington whose infant died of whooping cough before he could receive the vaccine was so bombarded with hatred and threats she had to seek police protection.
At some point we have to decide if we want to believe the best peer-reviewed duplicated science, or stumble in the dark. We can't make up our own facts because they are more hopeful or less onerous.
The real science tells us vaccines are highly effective and very safe. Parents who believe they know better than researchers and doctors endanger not only their own children but also unvaccinated infants and people with compromised immune systems, too.
Those promulgating or believing the anti-vaccine propaganda do themselves, their children, and society a dangerous disservice.