The War Against Vaccines

Anyone who is friends with me on Facebook is probably becoming annoyed at the many articles I post about the dangers of not vaccinating your children.  However, this is becoming a serious issue in the US, so I felt the need to address this topic on my blog.  I was also inspired by watching House last night.  Dr. House is a jerk and is blunt in how he interacts with patients.  However, you can imagine that it would be frustrating dealing with ignorant people who are putting their children at risk.  On one particular episode, he was examining a baby with a flushed, red face.  His mother proudly said: “We aren’t giving her vaccines.  Big pharmaceutical companies try to convince me that I need the vaccines for my child, but they just want my money.”  Without skipping a beat, House replies: “And how much does a baby coffin cost?  If enough parents like you don’t vaccinate their children, there will be enough infant deaths to lower the price of vaccines, so good for you!  Or you could cough up the $40 to let your child live.”  He also explained that infants only benefit from antibodies in breast milk up to 6 months after being born, after that they require vaccines.  In a brief exchange, a TV character perfectly explained the issue of anti-vaccination in America. 

Let’s look at the facts here:

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When I look at this chart, I think: “Why in the world would anyone chose not to vaccinate their children, knowing this?”  Yet many parents are still deciding to opt out of vaccinations.

Why?

Because parents are under the false assumption that their is a correlation between vaccines and autism.

As someone who attended grad school in genetics last year, I know without doing background research that this idea is completely ridiculous and absolutely false.  There is extensive research going on now as to the causes of autism, and it’s not that simple.  Currently, the exact agents of autism are unknown.  What is hypothesized now is that autism, like many other complicated mental disorders, is caused by a wide range of interacting genes.  There is no magic gene that turns on the disease, but rather a complex web of genes and environment.  I remember one seminar that suggested many mental disorders including autism are found throughout a family tree.  For example, one family member might have schizophrenia, her aunt might have bipolar disorder, and her son might have autism.  By taking a fairly basic genetics class, I know this anti-vaccine craze is based on no scientific evidence.

But I am a person with a scientific background, and not the average American. Speaking to the average American, this is why you should not believe the anti-vaccine propaganda:

1) In 1998, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, a prominent British surgeon, published a research paper in support of the claim that there is a direct correlation between the administration of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, and the incidence of autism.  In the science field, researchers are always trying to repeat others results.  No one was able to reproduce Wakefields’ data.  In fact, the British journal that published his paper ended up retracting his article, because his claim has been continuously discredited.  He also had financial conflicts of interest.  In my first year of grad school, I learned that not disclosing financial conflicts of interest (or any other kind of conflict of interest) is a huge no-no, and a great way to ruin your reputation as a scholar.  As Wikipedia puts it: “Some of the parents of the 12 children in the study in The Lancet were recruited via a UK lawyer preparing a lawsuit against MMR [measles, mumps and rubella vaccine] manufacturers.” 

I shouldn’t have to provide anymore evidence because seriously, you can Wikipedia this and find out that this whole crazy fad is based on completely made up data.  But, while I’m ranting I’ll continue:

2)  NOT VACCINATING YOUR KIDS MEANS YOU GET TO BURY THEM!!!

Congratulations, you chose to be a horrible parent and not vaccinate your kids.  Guess what?  There’s a large chance you’ll outlive them now! Just a few days ago, a baby died of whooping cough at only 9 weeks old.  Whooping cough is easily preventable if you take a vaccine for it.  Measles, which had been eradicated in the US in 2000, is now making a comeback.  Oh and it kills 1 in 1000 people.  If you are vaccinated against it, you won’t have to take those chances.  Parents against vaccines argue against them because they are “worried about the side effects.”  Guess what the side effects are of not taking vaccines? Death, extreme sickness, epidemics, and in the case of this child, losing all your limbs and eyelids.  If it were up to me, I’d take my chances on my kids getting a rash or slightly sick from a vaccine.

All the evidence supported by scientific, unbiased data, shows that vaccines are a crucial part of a person’s health.  Parents who refuse to vaccinate their children should be charged/arrested for child neglect/endangerment.  If you intentionally refuse health care for a child that could save his/her life, that is abuse. 

 

Further reading:

1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Wakefield

2) http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/03/health/research/03lancet.html?_r=0

3)  http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2004/Immunization-Safety-Review-Vaccines-and-Autism.aspx

4) http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/04/06/anti-vaccine-movement-is-giving-diseases-a-2nd-life/7007955/