I feel the need to write a post about vaccination, due to the insane amount of misinformation out there on the internet. Vaccination/immunization shouldn’t even be a debate, in my opinion. It’s a no-duh kind of situation, yet an inordinate amount of people, nearly all unqualified to do so, feel the need to vehemently disagree with vaccination. I shall now offer an argument of my own, as well as some refutations of commonly cited issues.
I did go through a questioning phase, where I wondered about the science behind vaccines, which prompted me to do my own research. As a high schooler, I was able to see the logical fallacies and problems presented in the anti-vax literature, as well as understand the science and medicine behind immunizations to come to the conclusion that vaccine are good.
Vaccines work by stimulating an immune response, using either attenuated or killed germs, or even pieces of germs. The body’s immune system sees the invaders and attacks them, producing antibodies. The body now knows this germ, and the next time it encounters said germ, it knows how to produce the correct antibodies, thereby mitigating or eliminating the infection.
Myth: Vaccines cause the disease they are supposed to prevent.
The most common time I hear this is about the flu vaccine. The flu vaccine doesn’t give you the flu. In fact, the flu vaccine is made of part of a dead virus, so it is impossible to get the flu from it. (Note: some nasal spray flu vaccines contain attenuated virus). However, since people often get the flu vaccine in late fall, they often have sniffles, runny noses and mild coughs, maybe even a mild fever, that appears shortly after they get the flu vaccine. This is not influenza! It’s a cold. Influenza causes a high fever, muscle aches, headaches and fatigue, along with the aforementioned cough and sniffles.
Most other vaccines are also killed viruses or virus particles (a piece of a virus). This means they have absolutely no ability to cause the viral infection. There are a few vaccines that are live virus. These viruses are attenuated, meaning they have been weakened. MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine) is an attenuated vaccine, as are the vaccines for chicken pox/shingles, rotovirus and yellow fever. The viruses in these vaccines have lost their ability to replicate in humans. Again, they cannot cause infection.
Myth: Risk of vaccine side effects are much greater than risks from the actual disease.
The diseases against which we are vaccinated are severe, and often cause lasting side effects. For example, measles, once a common childhood disease was down to around 50 annual cases (2002 – 2007), with the majority being due to travelers exposed outside of the country, jumped to nearly 200 in 2008, with the majority being home-grown cases. 1 in 10 measles patients require hospitalization, and up to 30% of those who contract measles will have complications, including pneumonia in 1 in 20 children, and encephalitis in 1 in 1000 children. By contrast, the MMR vaccine causes a fever in about 1 in 3000 children and a severe allergic reaction in 1 in over 1 million. All of the diseases that we vaccinate against have greater risks from the illness than from the vaccine.