Category: Blog, Librarian Mom|May 26, 2013 6:00 am

Six Misconceptions About the Vaccination Controversy

Flu Shot PreparationsVaccines save lives. End of question. Yes, as with any medical procedures, vaccination comes with risks. But nothing in life is risk free. And, despite the possibility of potential problems, the benefits of vaccines far outweigh any theoretical risks. The Parenting Patch 100% supports vaccinations for 100% of people who do not otherwise have a medical condition (allergy, compromised immune system) contraindicative of vaccination.

Back in 2011, former blogger Life on the Franco Farm wrote an anti-vaccine post entitled entitled “6 Points I Would Have to Believe Before Resuming Vaccinations.” The writer, who is clearly not in favor of universal childhood vaccination, asked six questions about the vaccination controversy that she would need to believe before she started vaccinating her children. I am all for asking questions and doing research before making decisions. Unfortunately, although she asks some good questions, her arguments are monumentally flawed.

Statement 1: The writer would have to “[b]elieve that vaccines are 100% effective, yet the CDC acknowledges they are not. Far from it.”

No, vaccines are not 100% effective, and no legitimate health organization has never and would never make sure a claim. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) both acknowledge, vaccines are not 100% effective in 100% of people 100% of the time. But, as Benjamin Franklin once said, “[I]n this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” No medical procedure is going to work 100% of the time for 100% of the population. In fact, nothing in life, except for death, is ever certain.

However, the truth of the matter is that unvaccinated children who are exposed to a virus or bacteria are much more likely to contract the disease than those who are vaccinated. Vaccinating is statistically more likely to prevent illness than not vaccinating. For example, among children who receive the chicken pox vaccine, some will never get the disease but some will. However, the vaccinated children who do get the chicken pox generally suffer from milder cases than children who are not vaccination against the disease. Thus, vaccination reduces not only the severity of diseases but also the risk of getting a disease. But no one legitimate has ever claimed that vaccines are some sort of magical tincture that prevents disease 100% of the time in 100% of people. Therefore, the first argument is a moot point.

Statement 2: The writer would have to “[b]elieve vaccines do not contribute to the spread of these illnesses, yet the CDC acknowledges that they do.”

To support her claim, the writer cites a study from the CDC: “Vaccinated adolescents and adults may serve as reservoirs for silent infection and become potential transmitters to unprotected infants. The whole-cell vaccine for pertussis is protective only against clinical disease, not against infection. Therefore, even young, recently vaccinated children may serve as reservoirs and potential transmitters of infection.” However, in the conclusions of the study, the researchers also suggest that booster shots may eliminate the transmission of the disease from previously vaccinated individuals. Furthermore, the study dates all the way back from October 2000, so the results must be taken with a grain of salt because more recent research may explain the previous results more fully. The age of a study matters.

Regardless, even if vaccinated children were potential transmitters of diseases, not vaccinating contributes — in fact, is a main contributing factor — to the spread of illness. An individual who has been vaccination against a disease is less likely to contract said disease. By not contracting the disease, the individual is therefore less likely to transmit the disease. As the CDC further points out, vaccines have reduced or eliminated many infectious diseases that once routinely killed or harmed many infants, children, and adults. But easily preventable diseases still exist and can once again become common — and deadly — if vaccination coverage does not continue at high levels. Sure, I might catch something (although very unlikely) after being vaccinated. Statistically, however, I am even more likely to catch something if I am not vaccinated. Skipping out on vaccinations also makes me personally responsible for the resurgence of preventable and previously eradicated diseases.

Statement 3: The writer would have to “[b]elieve that vaccines are 100% safe and do not cause encephalopathy and other complications, yet the US Vaccine Injury Compensation Court has paid out over $2 BILLION to families with vaccine-injured children.”

Again, no legitimate medication group has ever or will ever make the claim that vaccines are 100% safe or 100% effective 100% of the time in 100% of individuals. Nothing in life is 100% free of risk. Medical procedures in particular are not 100% free from risk. Even something as innocuous as putting a bandage on a cut could lead to problems for something with a latex allergy if a latex bandage is used. Yes, vaccines come with risks, but the benefits of vaccines far outweigh the theoretical risks.

Furthermore, illness prevented and eradicated by vaccines not only cause injury but also kill children. Before the introduction of the polio vaccine, 13,000 to 20,000 cases of paralytic polio were reported each year in the United States. Before the introduction of the measles vaccines, an average of 450 measles-related deaths were reported each year in the United States between 1953 and 1963. Hib meningitis once killed 600 children each year and left many survivors with deafness, seizures, or mental retardation. Between 2000 and 2008, 181 people died from pertussis with 166 of these deaths in children less than six months old. Children under still age cannot receive the pertussis vaccine, and many of these children contracted the disease from older unvaccinated or undervaccinated individuals. The numbers are in favor of vaccines. I am willing to take the small risk of a negative side effect by giving my daughter a vaccine for a terrible disease like polio rather than risk the horrors including death that are often an all too certain outcome of the illness.

Statement 4: The writer would have to “[b]elieve that vaccines are produced for the improvement of our health, yet the manufacturers are SO concerned about our health, that they include this disclaimer on every vaccine package insert, ‘_________ has not been evaluated for its carcinogenic or mutagenic potential, or its potential to impair fertility.’ ”

Again — and I cannot reiterate the point enough — no legitimate medical group has ever or will ever claimed that vaccines are 100% safe or 100% effective 100% of the time in 100% of individuals. Furthermore, many diseases prevented by vaccines also impair fertility as well as lead to other health complications, even death. Polio frequently leads to paralysis. The chicken pox and the mumps can lead to infertility. Rubella (German measles) can cause miscarriage. The list of the tragic consequences of easily preventable diseases gores on and on. Although I agree that continued testing should be done on vaccines, I am not going to risk my child’s health by denying a childhood vaccination in the meanwhile especially when the risk of complication from a disease is much more likely than the risk of a complication from the vaccine.

Statement 5: The writer would have to “[b]elieve that these infectious illnesses – each and every one for which there is a vaccine – are highly contagious, deadly unless vaccinated against, with no effective natural remedies, and that permanent immunity is inferior to vaccine-induced inflammatory responses.”

To address the first point, between 1348 and 1350, the Black Plague killed between 75 million and 200 million people. In total, the plague reduced the world population from an estimated 450 million to between 350 and 375 million. When Europeans brought the smallpox to the Americans, an estimated 80% to 90% of Native American victims died. The 1918 flu pandemic infected 500 million people around the world and killed 50 to 100 million individuals, 3% to 5% of the world population. So, yes, many diseases are highly contagious and extremely deadly. Of these diseases, many can now be prevented through vaccination. Furthermore, I would like to see her say this to all the parents who lost children to polio a century ago or to all the parents who continue to lose children to easily preventable diseases like malaria.

As for the inferiority of immunity, immunity is immunity. Immunity from the disease and immunity from a dead form of a virus or bacteria via a vaccine is equal. As the CDC explains: “Active immunity results when exposure to a disease organism triggers the immune system to produce antibodies to that disease. Exposure to the disease organism can occur through infection with the actual disease (resulting in natural immunity), or introduction of a killed or weakened form of the disease organism through vaccination (vaccine-induced immunity). Either way, if an immune person comes into contact with that disease in the future, their immune system will recognize it and immediately produce the antibodies needed to fight it. Active immunity is long-lasting, and sometimes life-long.” The end results of natural immunity and vaccine-induced immunity are equal. However, the immunity offered by vaccines is safer because of the lack of potential side effects from the easily preventable illness.

Statement 6: The writer would have to “[b]elieve that pharmaceutical companies, the CDC and the FDA truly have our best interests at heart.”

First, what exactly does “best interests at heart” mean? Everyone has an agenda. Everyone. But I cannot find evidence to indicate that the push for vaccines is related to anything other than stopping the spread of highly preventable diseases. Illnesses such as polio, smallpox, and measles and even chicken pox, hepatitis, and HPV put a huge strain on the medical system. Through vaccination, the strain caused by such diseases is easily and hugely lessened.

Although the writer over at Life on the Franco Farm attempted to support her refusal to vaccinate her children with a sound argument, her reasoning is based mostly on hype. No, vaccines are not 100% effective or 100% safe in 100% of the population 100% of the time. No legitimate source has even made such a claim. The truth, however, is that not vaccinating is statistically worse than vaccinating. I for one am not denying my daughter her life-saving vaccines based on some silly numbers game that will never be won. I vaccinate, and so should you.

References

6 points I would have to believe before resuming vaccinations: http://lifeonthefrancofarm.blogspot.com/2011/06/6-points-i-would-have-to-believe-before.html
Immunity types: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/immunity-types.htm
Pertussis infection in fully vaccinated children in day-care centers, Israel: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/6/5/00-0512_article.htm
What would happen if we stopped vaccinations?: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/whatifstop.htm

Image Credits

Flu Shot Preparations: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US_Navy_021019-N-9593M-007_Flu_shot_preparations.jpg


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