Why Vaccines are a Shot of Common Sense

Posted: February 11, 2015 in Living and Life, Reflections, Social Activism
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Vaccines are back in the media again after an outbreak of measles got its start in Disneyland and spread to several other states, including Illinois, Georgia, and New York. Several health experts have pointed to parents opting out of vaccinating their children as the root cause of the current outbreak. This shocks me, because in previous generations vaccines were seen as common sense, and they should still be seen as common sense.

Vaccines work by taking a harmful microbe that has either died or been rendered harmless and sending it into the body so that our immune systems can find it, destroy it, and then recognize it when the real thing comes along. When a majority of the population has been vaccinated, preventing the virus from spreading and infecting others, it’s known as herd immunity. There are occasional side effects to getting a vaccine, but the chances of having serious side effects is like filling six football stadiums with people and maybe one person out of all those winning a lottery.

However, for whatever reasons–a false study about links between vaccines and autism, bloggers and message boards recounting horror stories, etc.–many parents, often educated and liberal-leaning, are opting out of vaccinating their children. The result is this current outbreak of measles, because the people spreading and contracting the virus aren’t getting vaccinated against it. And it is even easier to cause this sort of outbreak than most people realize, because herd immunity is actually pretty fragile. When immunization rates in a given population are below 95%, herd immunity is compromised. Yes, you read that figure right. Herd immunity requires 95% immunization rate in order to be effective. And because more Americans are opting out of immunizations than ever before, herd immunity is suffering.

Now, I know that a lot of people are worried about possibly harming their children with possible side effects. It probably doesn’t help that most vaccines are inserted with needles! But time and time again, scientists across the world have confirmed that vaccines are the best route to keeping your child safe and the children of others as well. The study that supposedly linked vaccines with autism has been proven false, the levels of mercury and other metals in vaccines, if present, are negligible, And like I said, serious side effects are rare, and are usually in combination with other factors, such as preexisting medical conditions.

Now I’m probably going to get a few people telling me about this or that story they’ve seen or heard. Let me tell you something: in science testimonies and anecdotes are not accepted as scientific proof of anything. Doctors rely on observable data, not on a possible single datum point told secondhand. This is why doctors and scientists will tell you not to always trust stories told on blogs or public forums, as the story may be altered or information may be missing.

Though if you want to rely only on anecdotes, I have two: last semester I got my flu shot and I’m pretty sure it’s a factor in why I haven’t caught a cold this whole winter, something that hasn’t happened in years! Also, when I was six or seven, I got my second chickenpox shot, as most kids did. I still came down with the chickenpox. But my doctor said that if I hadn’t gotten the vaccine, I might have had to be hospitalized. So vaccines saved me a trip to the hospital, which would’ve probably terrified my young self.

And there’s a reason why this anti-vaccine movement is only occurring in developed nations. It’s because developing nations, where the medicine is more scarce, parents will walk miles and miles to get their kids vaccinations. They know they work, and they’re willing to risk highly unlikely side effects because they want their kids to be healthy.

Look, I’m not a parent. If I was though, I’d get them vaccinated because I don’t want to risk them coming down with something awful, which is much more likely to happen than any possible side effects. And I bet many parents who are suspicious of vaccines would as well if a new disease popped up that was extremely contagious and just as deadly and a vaccine became available. Because when it comes down to it, every parent will go to whatever lengths to protect their child.

What’s your opinions of vaccines? Why?

Do you think there should be consequences for not vaccinating your child? If so, what?

Oh, and if you’re wondering where I got my facts, you can check out this NOVA special from PBS. These guys do their research.

  1. israt25 says:

    It is true that a lot goes on about vaccines and that not getting them isn’t the best thing to do BUT quite a few people suffer from an illness (flu, fever, etc) when they take the shot. Now I’m not saying vaccines should be stopped because a fraction of the worldwide population can’t handle it but no illness at all versus one that you suffer from AFTER getting a vaccine that is supposed to prevent you from getting ill just doesn’t make sense.

    • Maybe so. Even so, I think a lot of people will agree with me that it’s worth risking a fever and possibly a few days in bed rather than coming down with something that could potentially cripple or kill you.

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