Buckle up for a Mostly Sensible opinion of the Vaccine Wars. There are really few debates out there that have caused such an uproar and influenced decisions about such a personal part of our lives, namely, our children. There is so much to weed through in this debate of whether ‘To Vaccinate, or Not To Vaccinate’ your children. Since the Pro-Vaccine Movement seems to have gotten behind the Anti-Vaccine Movement in spreading their side of the issue on the Internet and social media, I wanted to just tell my point of view that vaccines are safe for the vast majority of our population, even necessary in this age of global travel, and why.
I’ve learned a lot from the reading that I’ve done. And given the deluge of information out there against the use of vaccines, I’m actually surprised to find myself on the Pro-Vax side of things. Before I was married, I did tend to lean toward the belief that all-natural is generally going to be better. Why take or eat something synthetic when natural can be just as effective (so they say). Keep things the way God created them to be. Quit messing with “nature.” And given all the stories out there and campaigns to discourage folks from vaccinating their kids, I was open to the idea of not vaccinating my own children when the time came. After all, I had taken advantage of some homeopathic treatments before with some success.
But being the Mostly Sensible person I am, I didn’t want to take anything at face-value, and I determined to find out more about the issue. Having been vaccinated myself, my husband as well, without problems it seemed reasonable to let my children be vaccinated. I did opt out of the optional vaccines, and I also did a bit of research into the MMR vaccine and the autism scare before those were given to my kids. Being confident that the vaccine was safe as you’ll see below, I did not opt out of that one. That was the beginning of my skepticism in the Anti-Vax Movement. So I did some more reading.
Admittedly, I have not delved too deeply into the plethora of materials available. That would be a full-time job! But what I have learned, has led me to be very confident that immunizations are safe, and the benefits outweigh the relatively small risks. I hope you will see what I mean. Here are the reasons why my children are immunized.
My kids are protected from those infectious diseases.
(Emphasis on the word “infectious”.) This is also the reason for getting my kids their immunizations on schedule. I am always remembering that it is a different world today than it was 60 years ago because of the tremendous progress in vaccinations. Diseases like Polio, Diphtheria, Whooping Cough, Tetanus, and others are no joke! We’re talking about diseases that can take away your mobility, you can lose limbs, your ability to breathe can be inhibited; they can scar and they can even kill. We also tend to forget how highly contagious these diseases are. Some have said that there are just too many vaccines, and maybe we should spread them out more over more time. But the reason we vaccinate as early as possible in life is because it is the youngest of our kids who are most vulnerable. The longer we wait, the more probable it becomes that they will be exposed. Here in Kansas City there have been a couple of outbreaks of Whooping Cough. Measles cases have also increased as has the death toll in the US. It’s not too far fetched to think that one of my little babies could have been exposed before they could get the 8 week inoculation. All because people refused to take a shot that has never been found to be fatal…yet whooping cough and measles has!
The idea that a simple shot, early in life could prevent such devastating diseases is quite amazing! I am more than willing to do that than take my chances that my children may not be exposed to whooping cough. It may seem like we just don’t have a problem with these diseases any more, but that is not true. That kind of thinking is one of the downsides of the vaccine’s own success. We don’t have a major problem with polio because our kids are vaccinated. But the disease is not eradicated. It could be, since this is a disease that occurs only in humans. Small Pox, for instance was eradicated, and so we don’t vaccinate for it any more. (That’s why it has to be manufactured in a lab now.) But also remember, we live in a world in which people can travel from the other side of the world in one day. It is not out of the realm of possibility that the highly contagious polio could rear its head again in the United States, simply by one infected person traveling from overseas. Please, give me the shot!
The most vulnerable of our society are safe around us.
There are a lot of people out there who cannot be vaccinated for various reasons. Some are too young, or too old. Those who have a history of severe allergies are not advised to take vaccines. And those who have compromised immune systems have been advised not to be immunized. So in their cases, they rely on the health of the rest of the population to protect them. If I never come in contact with someone carrying a disease, then I will never contract it whether I’ve been vaccinated or not. This is what is referred to as “herd immunity.” Sadly, with the recent trend against vaccinations (because of over-publicized anecdotal stories and incorrect data) it is not such a safe place out there any more. But someone with a compromised immune system would be safe from the infectious diseases around my family. Since our family is in the ministry, this is a definite plus as we minister to many people in many walks of life.
It is highly unlikely that they would suffer a severe reaction to the vaccines.
(Emphasis on the word “severe”.) This is where a lot of the controversy begins. I have never met anyone who disputes the success numbers of vaccines. The dispute is whether the benefits outweigh the risks. What I have found from reputable and educated sources has led me to be confident that the risks are very small. (See the list of sources at the end of this article.) Most people, my kids included, have low-grade fevers, drowsiness, and sensitivity at the injection site. What is categorized as ‘severe’ reactions include things like high fevers and seizures and inconsolable crying. Even those instances of mild and severe side effects are rare, statistically speaking. And those statistics become more and more encouraging as the years go by. It is 500 times more likely that one would be in a car accident than something bad would happen with the vaccines, and yet we don’t think twice about putting our kids in the car almost every day.
Now, I want to be very sensitive to my friends who have experienced some of the more severe side-effects. I have a couple of friends whose children suffered seizures, high temperatures, muscle spasms, and other allergic-type reactions which they think are probably from the shots. While I’m sure those instances were very scary, and it must have been frustrating to think that it might have been avoided simply by not taking the shot, we must remember that those reactions, difficult as they were, are treatable. I’m sure they will agree that going through that would have been preferable to their child contracting polio or a severe case of pertussis.
There will never be a vaccine that is 100% safe. But science has come very close to that. I would rather take my chances that my children may be one of the extremely rare cases in which they have a severe reaction, than take my chances that my children may contract measles (which is more dangerous than we commonly think) or Whooping Cough or even polio which could potentially maim them for life or cause death.
With good health insurance, the cost is usually minimal and it is done easily during routine medical checkups. Even those without insurance can get immunizations through their local health services departments. In addition, many clinics and pharmacies have periodically offered free or almost free immunizations. This is a simple and inexpensive thing to do, and really the only thing preventing folks from getting immunized is the fear that they are too dangerous…which I believe is not sensible.
The objections I have heard have been debunked in my mind.
I’ll just touch on a few of the objections and the reason why I don’t think these are valid arguments. For the sake of time, I will let the reader do their own research into the details.
The claim that the MMR vaccine could cause autism has been debunked, and that scare has begun to die down it seems. The main study done in England which showed a correlation between the MMR vaccine and autism (The Wakefield Study) was shown to be flawed. In addition, the results of that study have never been able to be reproduced which is a key component of a scientifically factual study. Besides, the MMR vaccine is a different one today than the one that was researched in the Wakefield study anyway.
The objection to so-called dangerous substances found in vaccines is a false objection. Yes, there is formaldehyde, aluminum, squalene, SV40, thimerosal and others are found in vaccines, but the amounts are extremely small and not dangerous. When there was a question about thimerosal in the vaccines, the powers that be chose to remove it from the ingredients just as a precaution, as I understand. When further research was done, it was shown to be completely harmless as an ingredient for the vaccines. I choose to trust the researchers, the medical community, the CDC, and other regulatory agencies that the level of these substances are completely safe.
There is the objection that there are too many vaccines. Maybe we ought to spread out the schedule some more so our kids can handle it better. I’ve already touched on this before. The reason for inoculating kids with so many and so early is because it is the youngest of our population who are at the most risk. And since the risk is small (i.e. they can handle it), then I don’t see the problem. Some even say at this point that they don’t like to see how much trauma their kids are going through getting these shots. If you google for images of “vaccines” you will come up with the most horrid cartoons and pictures of crying babies with dozens of needles sticking into them. How could you do such a thing to a sweet baby?! They do cry and may have fevers, etc. I’m sorry…since when do we decide what is good for our kids based on how comfortable they are? We all know this is a poor way to judge whether this is necessary for them or not. Besides…why spread out the misery? Isn’t it better to get the hard part done quickly all at once?
Many people are turned off to giving their kids a vaccine simply because the big drug companies make too much money off it. The thinking goes something like this…there is too much money at stake for a vaccine to be found dangerous, so they will do anything to cover up any negative press. This is basically a conspiracy theory that says the “powers that be” must know there is something wrong because so many stories of adverse reactions could not be wrong. There has to be some truth to it if so many bad reports exist, they say. So family doctors are pressured to give out as many vaccines as possible so that the money can keep flowing. Frankly, I can’t believe my ears when good conservative friends of mine think this way. Here are some points to make regarding this objection:
- First of all, it is not logical to say that just because something is claimed enough times, there must be some truth to it. Telling a lie enough times only makes people believe it. It doesn't make it true. I hope we don't apply that kind of thinking when you hear gossip!
- Conspiracies like this have a fatal flaw. Do you realize how many people would have to be lying for this to be true? It is just improbable that a cover-up of this magnitude could be true. There are too many scientists, researchers, secretaries, government officials, doctors, nurses, etc. involved for this objection to be true.
- Let’s not forget that there is big pressure on the anti-vax side of this controversy too. It is not cheap to have some of these natural remedies performed. Those vitamins aren't cheap, and organic food isn't cheap. Strange treatments like Chelation therapy are $5K each. Thousands of dollars in supplements and stem cell injections. I mean, there's a whole industry on the other side too. It’s not just the modern-medicine side that makes money here.
- Anyone who listens to conservative talk radio knows that money is a motivator to make good things happen more often than bad things. Remember that for a vaccine to come to market, you're talking about decades of research, study, and clinical trials. It potentially becomes a scientist’s life's work to do this! Not to mention the college bills that the researchers racked up themselves to get the degrees to be qualified to produce the stuff. Billions of dollars along the way just to bring ONE vaccine to market and then be villainized because you've brought life and health to millions of people worldwide. I would HOPE there would be a big pay-off at the end. No one would do it otherwise! That's how a free market works.
- If something works and it's safe and effective, then who cares how much someone gets paid for developing it and bringing it to market. Profit is not bad. Sure there is a potential for greed corrupting the system, but you can't get away from that whether you take vaccines or whether you go the natural route.
Those whom I have read who are Pro-Vax, seem to have more logical and more facts/science based data to support their claims. And conversely, those whom I have read who are Anti-Vax tend to give mostly anecdotal and unscientific evidences to support their claims. I have googled and searched and watched TV specials trying to find any scientific proof of the claims from the anti-vax community. I was careful to dismiss any anecdotal testimonies. Please remember, just because something seems to be true, doesn’t make it true. It may be enough to pose a hypothesis, but then it must be backed up by evidence. I’ve read through some scientific-sounding papers, and frankly…even I could see the flaws! It wasn’t too hard to find articles from reputable sources that pointed out the flaws in a more thorough way. For instance, last year there was a “study” done that claimed that the infant mortality rate has risen just as the number of vaccines given has risen, and so the two facts had to be related. Does anyone else see the obvious flaw in this kind of thinking? Just because one set of numbers increases and another set of numbers increases at the same time, does not mean that the two are connected causally. And besides, the data this “scientist” used was flawed. He used raw data from other countries who don’t even count live births the same way we do, so of course the results will be skewed. (In Germany, they don’t count a birth as a live birth unless the baby is a certain weight!) This has been a typical finding as I’ve researched any claims that I’ve come across.
Honestly, I have yet to read a truly scientific study done that proves that the risks (which are rare and treatable) outweigh the benefits. I welcome anyone to contact me to try to convince me otherwise, because truly this is an important issue. What we know for sure is that each year, worldwide…
- About 2 million child deaths, and 9 million total deaths are prevented through the use of vaccines.
- 5 million deaths from Small Pox each year have been prevented, and the disease has been eradicated thanks to the use of vaccines.
- 630,000 deaths from Diphtheria have been prevented through the use of vaccines.
- 1.6 million deaths from the Measles have been prevented through the use of the MMR vaccine.
- 0.7 million deaths from Neonatal Tetanus have been prevented thanks to the DTaP vaccine.
- 200,000 deaths from Tuberculosis have been prevented thanks to vaccines.
- 550,000 deaths from Polio have been prevented thanks to the polio vaccine, and it is on the verge of being eradicated if enough people can be vaccinated.
This is a good thing!
Here's my caveat: While I think I’m right on this, there is always the possibility that I could be wrong. I’ve looked and done my own reading, and frankly I’ve moved from being open to the idea that vaccines are harmful to being convinced that they are just fine for the vast majority of people. The benefits definitely outweigh the risks.
Some Resources and Links
Frontline did a great job, I thought, of outlining the controversy. It seemed to give an accurate overview of the main concerns of both sides of the issue. I saw this video through Netflix because I like to watch documentaries sometimes, so I know you can watch it that way as well. At Frontline's website, however, you can read the transcripts of the full interviews as well, and I thought that was very interesting.
This website has a lot of good detailed articles dealing with this issue. Contributors are highly educated and have years of experience in their field. The only down-side that I've seen is that they tend to go overboard on the science side. That is, they tend to not believe in any God or are at least skeptical of that. So you have to understand why they have such animosity against the anti-vax movement and by extension, the all-natural homeopathic movement, which tends to espouse some eastern mysticism and other “spiritual” beliefs. I see their point, though. Perhaps in another post, I will address my position on how sensible it is to disregard any and all modern advances in the sciences and in agriculture in favor of organic food and homeopathy. BUT if you are looking for purely facts-based studies and evaluations on pretty much any controversial medical subject, this is a good source. Here is the link for the Reply to the Study on the Infant Mortality Rate from this site.
I found this website when looking up the credentials of Dr. Paul Offit (www.paul-offit.com) whom I had seen on the documentary above and on other news programs. He is the co-inventor of the rotavirus vaccine, Rota Teq, and director of the Vaccine Education Center as well as author of several books on the subject of vaccinations. His books are easily found on Amazon.com by searching his name. The CHOP Vaccine Education Center is a great place to find easily understood overviews and information regarding vaccinations. You can take a look at each vaccine and find out about the disease it is preventing, how it is made, what the risks are, and other statistical information. It is helpful to visit the “In The News” section for the latest information out there.
I came across this website by reading their featured article that a friend posted on Facebook. It is mainly a bunch of stories about complications and deaths caused by the diseases that are preventable by vaccines. The anti-vax movement is really good at scaring us away from vaccines through the use of anecdotal stories of situations where a death or a complication seemed to be from a vaccine. In reality, serious adverse affect occur very rarely, and in the case of some vaccines the incidents are so rare that the risk cannot be accurately assessed. Well, here are a bunch of stories that are anecdotal for sure, but they are factual cases of complications and deaths resulting from infectious diseases. It's just as scary and just as sad.
Of course, the CDC is a great source for raw data, and statistical facts.
UNICEF has a section on their website dealing with immunizations worldwide. It is a great source for statistics and worldwide trends. This page is where I got the numbers at the end of my article. I may disagree with a lot of what the UN does, but I have to admit that they do keep good records!
The WHO also is a great resource for world-wide statistics and information.
Each of these sources have links to other sources on their websites that are useful as well.