Vaccines seem to be a constant source of concern, particularly for new parents, who have hundreds of other things they should be worried about. Anyone reading the rest of this blog knows that I am all for natural medicine, but I do have very strong opinions about vaccinations. They can be summed up in two words – GET THEM.
I know there are scare stories out there, and that they resurface every other year or so. The studies they are based on are almost universally resting on studies which were debunked over two decades ago. While the fear over the safety of vaccines is completely understandable, it has also been proved to be unfounded by years of research. So here are a few of the top scare stories, and the truth about them.
Vaccines Cause Autism
This was first suggested by Andrew Wakefield in a study published in The Lancet in 1997. Since, Andrew Wakefield has lost his medical license, and the study has been thoroughly discredited due to ethical violations and financial conflicts of interest.
Unsurprisingly, however, the medical community took the hypothesis that vaccines might cause autism very seriously, and have conducted several other major studies since. None of these future studies have found any link between any form of vaccine and the chance of a child developing autism.
While the true causes of autism remain a mystery, recent research has offered evidence that autism actually begins to develop well before birth, meaning that no vaccine could have any degree of influence over it.
Infant Immune Systems Can’t Deal with Vaccines
This is a more recent myth, but one that will understandably concern many parents. And to debunk it, you need to look at the number of antibodies present in the blood. When you do this, it rapidly becomes clear that the immune system of a new-born baby would have the ability to respond to around ten thousand vaccines at any one time.
Obviously, that would be utterly ridiculous. But rest assured, even if all 14 scheduled vaccines were given at once, less than 0.2% of their immune capacity would be used. The immune system can never truly be overwhelmed, because the cells are constantly being replenished.
Finally, even though it seems like there are more vaccinations today than ever before, the vaccines we have today are more efficient than ever.
Natural Immunity is Better than Vaccines
This one is at least partially based in truth. In some cases, natural immunity – meaning catching a disease and getting sick – results in a stronger immunity to the disease than a vaccination. Given that the effects of the diseases in question can be permanent paralysis, or even death, the risks of this option far outweigh the potential benefits.
Vaccines Contain Unsafe Toxins
This myth comes from reading the ingredient lists of vaccines without fully understanding what happens within the body. The three big concerns are formaldehyde, mercury, and aluminium.
First of all, vaccines only contain trace amounts of these chemicals. In the case of formaldehyde, the body actually produces more naturally than is contained in any vaccine. The compounds and levels of mercury and aluminium contained within vaccines have also been proved not to be harmful.
Hygiene and Sanitation Are Really Responsible for the Lower Disease Rate
Don’t get me wrong about this point – vaccines cannot take complete credit for eliminating the rates of infectious diseases. Increases in sanitation, nutrition, and the development of antibiotics have certainly played their part. However, even when these factors are taken into account, the role of vaccines in preventing the spread of some truly deadly diseases cannot be denied.
Vaccines Can Cause the Disease They are Meant to Prevent
Vaccines can cause mild symptoms resembling those of the disease they are protecting against. This has caused a common misconception that these symptoms are a sign of the disease itself. In fact, when this occurs, it is the sign of the immune system responding to the vaccine, not the disease itself.
Disease Rates are So Low, We Don’t Need to Vaccinate
Thanks to a concept called ‘herd immunity’, as long as the majority of a population are vaccinated, the unimmunized population are protected, up to a point. This is important, because there is always a portion of the population – infants, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems – who cannot be given vaccines.
However, if too many people don’t get vaccines for themselves and their children, the collective danger from the diseases grows, which opens up opportunities for these diseases to establish themselves and spread.
Vaccines Aren’t Worth the Risk
Despite continued scare stories, children have been successfully vaccinated for decades. In fact, there has never been a single credible study linking vaccines to long term health conditions.
As for immediate danger from vaccines, in the form of side effects or allergic reactions, the incidents are so rare that it is impossible to truly calculate the risk level. The overall incidence rate is around one case for every one to two million injections.
Vaccines are one of the great pillars of modern medicine. For children in particular, the return to a world where diseases like measles, whooping cough, and rubella can return is a scary thought – all of those diseases can be fatal, and today they can be completely prevented with a simple injection.
So as science continues to advance and tackle new challenges, people should not forget how many deaths and illnesses vaccines have prevented. And we should embrace the fact that we no longer need to wonder if our children will survive their infancy.