There has been a lot of talk for decades around the credibility of vaccines which has stemmed into a flurry of conspiracies around them. Like the arguments about the Earth being flat, a lot of these deluded perspectives come from faults in the education system that potentially skimmed over the basics around each of these big topics. This article is going to provide information on the basics of vaccines as well as some of the history involved to hopefully provide insight and sway the harmful ideas of those a part of society who speak poorly of vaccinations. Let’s dive in.
What Are Vaccines?
A vaccine is a biological agent that is used to activate the immune system so that it can later on respond to an uncontrolled case of a particular disease. When you receive a vaccine, you are in fact injected with something that resembles the disease. The injected agent is either the dead microorganism or a weakened version of it, the proteins that can be found on the surface of the microorganism or the toxins that a functional microorganism would produce when causing diseases in the body. Vaccines DO NOT contain completely functional disease causing microorganisms; just enough ‘information’ about it to educate your immune system on how to combat it when you come into contact with the microorganism again (transmission from another host or environment).
History Of Vaccines
Some of the first examples of vaccinations occurred in the 10th century when Chinese practitioners would take the scabs of people who had smallpox, crush them up and blow them up the nose of people without to try and protect them from the disease. Similar practices also occurred in India. This wasn’t an always successful practice but was definitely more effective then leaving it up to chance and trying to survive without. Edward Jenner later investigated similar ideas further and can be thanked for pioneering the science of vaccines and vaccinations. Around 1796, Jenner heard rumors of dairy farmers in the countryside who were not contracting the deadly smallpox virus and it was rumored that it was because they had contracted cowpox; a relative of the disease, non-deadly to humans, that affected the cattle that the farmers were working with. Jenner tested the rumors by taking the pus from the hands of one of the handmaidens and scratched an 8 year old boy with the pus extracted. 6 weeks later, the boy was then scratched again but this time with the pus from someone infected with smallpox. The child did not contract smallpox. The experimentation was then extended in 1798 when Jenner started using the process on more children and adults. In the centuries to come, vaccine technology and administrative techniques continued to advance leading to vaccines against diseases like cholera, anthrax, measles, mumps and rubella; with some once life threatening diseases on the way to becoming eradicated (Polio).
Current Vaccine Concerns And Arguments
Currently, there are some terrifying statistic when it comes to the concerns associated with vaccines. The main issue is the number of people who aren’t getting their children vaccinated because of some of the things that they have read online. Lets have a look at some of the major concerns associated with vaccinations.
Vaccines Cause Autism
This is one of the main arguments that has been thrown around a lot despite the mountains of data that says otherwise. The original piece by Andrew Wakefield in 1998 suggested that there was a potential link between the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination, Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and bowel diseases. Since then, Wakefield has been taken off the UK medical register for the fraudulent journal article, no other study conducted that aimed at replicating the results could come to the same conclusion, and he has been charged with 4 counts of dishonesty for the journal as well as 12 accounts of abuse of children who have diagnosed developmental issues. The only piece of evidence that established a connection between autism and the MMR vaccine has been established as utterly false and the article has been removed from the journal publication.
A 2013 study was conducted that didn’t just look at the MMR vaccine but at all vaccines that a child will receive within the first 2 years of their life. Unlike the original study conducted by Wakefield that had only 12 children (small sample size decreases credibility of results), this study tested 256 children with medically diagnosed ASD as well as 752 children of similar age and sex as a control group. They found that there was no risk of developing ASD as well as there was no regression in children previously diagnosed with the ASD. Meaning, regardless of being diagnosed with or without ASD, the vaccinations did nothing to change that diagnosis.
Vaccinations Contain Mercury
Another concern associated with vaccinations is the ingredients of the vaccination itself. Thimerosal is a preservative found in vaccines and other medicines that prevents the growth of bacteria when the vials are stored. Thimerosal contains a type of mercury called ethylmercury. One of the most damaging things about mercury is the accumulation of it inside your body, which causes damage over time. Luckily for us ethylmercury is easily removed from the body by normal processes meaning that it doesn’t stay in the body long enough to damage it. Most vaccinations contain approximately 25 micrograms of ethylmercury per 0.5 ml of vaccine; this is the same amount that is approved by the FDA to be in a standard can of tuna you buy from the shops (approximately 85 grams or 3 ounces). The type of mercury found in fish however is a hard to remove type known as methylmercury which is toxic at high enough doses. If consuming mercury is a concern for you then, by your logic, canned fish is deadlier than vaccinations.
Some Other Concerns
- Syncope: Also known as fainting, is something that occurs mainly in adolescent receiving HPV and MCV4 vaccinations (3% of men & 3.5% of women). The ingredients for the vaccines vary though so scientists speculate that it is the process itself rather than the ingredients; there is no definitive answer for this one though.
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): SIDS is a death that occurs in infants under the age of 12 months that is unexplained. It is also called crib death as the infant usually dies while asleep. A, now out of date, study found that there is no association between SIDS and vaccinations and that the initial fear was coincidental and not causal. Since then, there has been a decline in the number of SIDS incidents of parents following recommendations to let infants sleep on there back.
- Pregnancy Vaccinations: Finally, there are some issues associated with receiving vaccinations while pregnant. There are some vaccinations that a recommended (depending on age and health) that can ensure the optimal health for mother and baby. Vaccinations containing live strains of the virus should not be given to women who are pregnant or in stages of planning a pregnancy; such as MMR, HPV and chicken pox.
So there you have it. This is but a short look at vaccines, vaccinations and some of the evidence to counter the fears that some have. Vaccinations ensure that people are protected from an extensive list of disease; with the list continuing to grow. Not only that, but they protect others from easily vaccinated diseases that are potentially dangerous like whooping cough or measles. Getting vaccinations when you’re suppose to can also save you money and time in the long run by protecting the body from diseases that would lead to expensive trips to the hospital. Over time, the continual development and use of vaccinations is going to ensure the healthy survival of many people in the world today. More and more diseases are slowly becoming eradicated thanks to vaccinations making the world a safer place; from diseases at least. So come on, it’s just a little annoying prick; how painful can that really be?