Earlier today I published a guest post entitled “Four Reasons Parents Choose Not to Vaccinate Their Children.” The Parenting Patch is dedicated to finding guest bloggers to write guest blog posts on opposing viewpoints. However, The Parenting Patch is also adamantly pro-vaccination, so I must respond to the invalid points laid out in the most recent guest post.
Invalid Point #1: There is not enough medical research regarding the long-term effects of vaccinations. These days kids are instructed to get a plethora of vaccinations, but not all of the vaccinations have been in effect for long enough to know if there are any potentially harmful long term side effects. On the other hand, kids have been going without immunizations for years with no consequences, which begs the question as to if the vaccinations are actually necessary or not.
Truth: All vaccines must undergo stringent testing before being released to a wider market. When a problem is discovered with a vaccine, then the vaccine is pulled from the market. No vaccine is 100% safe or effective. However, the benefits of vaccines far outweigh the potential and theoretical problems. As for the claim that “kids have been going without immunizations for years with no consequences,” one need only look at the morbidity and mortality rates of highly preventable illnesses from just fifty years ago. Scores of children suffered from or died from polio, a disease which has been nearly eradicated in the United States since the introduction of the polio vaccine. Measles, which was once on its way to eradication, has begun causing more illnesses and subsequent problems including death simply because parents have begun to opt out of vaccines. My own grandmother, who was born before the advent of the MMR vaccine, got the mumps while she was in her 40s. As a result, she developed diabetes and suffered from the mumps-related complication for the rest of her life. Individuals who are not vaccinated are at an increased risk for acquiring highly preventable diseases. Individuals who are not vaccinated are also more likely to spread these highly preventable diseases to others, especially those in high risk groups including the very young, the very old, and those with underlying health issues. Vaccines are very necessary.
Invalid Point #2: Vaccinations could result in an increased risk of autism. As the number of vaccinations kids are required to get has risen, so has the number of kids who are suffering from autism. Many parents believe that there is a definitive link between the two and opt out of immunizing their kids because of this.
Truth: The one study in the late 1990s that linked the MMR vaccine to autism has been debunked. The doctor, Andrew Wakefield, has had his medical license revoked and has been banned from practicing medicine in the United Kingdom for his unethical practices. No other study has been able to duplicate his fraudulent results. The MMR vaccine does not cause autism. Unfortunately, too many parents jumped on the bandwagon, believing the fraudulent study. Even today, too many misinformed individuals still believe that vaccines cause autism. The truth, however, is that no study to date has confirmed a linked between autism and vaccines. In fact, the rates of autism among vaccinated and unvaccinated children are almost identical, indicating that autism is not linked to vaccines but is instead caused by some other, unknown factor. The truth is clear: Vaccines do not cause autism.
Invalid Point #3: Increased immunizations could be making our kids less healthy. In addition to the increased number of children being diagnosed with autism, there has also been a drastic increase in the number of unhealthy children. Many parents feel that this is a direct result of the growing immunization schedule, resulting in kids suffering from chronic conditions that were never a problem before now.
Truth: Again, no credible study has yet determined a link between vaccines and autism. (In my researched opinion and the opinions of many midwives, the increasing use of ultrasounds that coincides with the increase in autism diagnoses should be further investigated.) Furthermore, how anyone can make the claim that there are now more unhealthy children is beyond me. First, there is the apples to oranges argument. Our environment now is much different than the environments of the past. I could argue that children are much healthier today when compared to the scores of children who were killed from the bubonic plague during the Dark Ages. And what about the scores of children who suffered from a vitamin D deficiency just a little over a hundred years ago because of pollution in cities. Additionally, I could blame any claims to more unhealthy children nowadays on the obesity epidemic, which as been linked to a lack of breastfeeding, an increased use of infant formula, diets increasingly full of processed foods, and a general lack of physical activity. And what about all the children in our country who are no longer suffering from the long-term effects of highly preventable diseases such as polio? The statement that “there has also been a drastic increase in the number of unhealthy children” is just too loaded to comprehend.
Invalid Point #4: Funding for vaccination research has largely been conducted by pharmaceutical companies. It is in the best interest of the pharmaceutical companies to provide research that immunizations are good and necessary for children; however, they also are the people who directly benefit from the immunizations. That raises the question to how valid these statements really are, as these companies need to turn a profit from children receiving these vaccinations.
Truth: Yes and no. Vaccine manufacturers do fund some research. However, independent researchers also fund their own studies. Furthermore, research in other countries that corroborates research in the United States has little to no bearing on the market value of vaccines in our country. As for who directly benefits from vaccines, I must argue that people as a whole benefit. The more people who are vaccinated, the greater the herd immunity and thus the greater the protection from highly preventable illnesses for all individuals.
Choosing to vaccinate your children or to abstain from the common childhood immunization schedule should not be a personal choice. All children, aside from those with legitimate health problems that prevent safe vaccination such as age or an underlying medical condition, deserve the protective benefits of vaccines. There is no credible reason not to vaccinate.
Polio Drops Vaccine: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Poliodrops.jpg