Why the Anti-Vaxxers are Wrong

Disclaimer:  I have no background in healthcare.  My own opinions regarding health issues are based on personal experience, observation and print material available to general readers.

Please click the two links at the end of this post.  One goes to an outstanding New York Times op-ed piece by Dr. Peter J. Hotez, and the other goes to an American Academy of Pediatrics document with additional links to research documents on childhood vaccines. I’ll admit I haven’t looked very closely at the latter.

We can’t argue with the claim that a small number of people have become very ill after receiving one vaccine or another.  A seasonal flu vaccine administered in the fall of 1976 was what prompted news coverage of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an immune disorder which attacks nerve cells and can cause paralysis.  Although the media reports were terrifying, it’s my understanding that very few people reacted that way to the vaccine.  Ironically, the strain of flu covered by the vaccine never arrived.  In retrospect, we know that was one shot we could have skipped, and the handful of people who drew the immune response short straw would have been better off for it.

Nothing is perfect, but current information suggests vaccines aren’t nearly as imperfect as some of us have been led to believe.  A number of years ago, a physician named Andrew Wakefield engaged in shoddy research whose results were published in The Lancet.  He claimed the Mumps/Measles/Rubella combination vaccine caused autism, and some people have treated the story the way they treat sensational gossip:  They believed the original story, and no amount of enlightened follow-up will convince them they were told an “Alternative Fact.”  The bullshit is cast in stone.

Yes, the MMR vaccine scare was the product of an Alternative Fact. We can expect to hear more inaccurate claims on practically every topic under the sun, and it’s time to stop being gullible.

For the record, I was born in 1960.  People who are about my age may or may not have full protection from measles, due to a weak batch of vaccine which was circulated during the early 1960s (I’ve been told there’s no way to track the weak batch, so we don’t know which of us are at risk).  Two years ago, I visited a public health clinic and got another shot.  No problem.

There may have been a problem if I hadn’t gotten the shot, though. We were having an outbreak, and occasionally I share my apartment building elevator with families who have infants.  Getting the vaccine doesn’t just protect me.  It also protects my neighbors who aren’t ready to receive the vaccine themselves.  A child who is still too young to sit up, speak or eat solid food shouldn’t suffer a preventable crisis.  Nor should anyone else.

Click to access immunization_vaccine_studies.pdf

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