By Emily Gardner
To vaccinate or not to vaccinate? Though it may not be important in the average person’s world of cares and concerns, the decision of whether or not to vaccinate one’s child has been, for some, a decision of conflict. There are plenty of theories and facts to consider, both those that support and those that oppose vaccinations. So what should you believe? I think that in order to be well informed about anything, you have to first know where to look for the facts; you have to choose your sources carefully.
Vaccinations are intended to build your immunity to a disease by injecting your body with a very small amount of the disease. By so doing, vaccinations help you fight off the disease if you are exposed to it in the future.
English physician and scientist Edward Jenner invented vaccination in 1796. To test his theory, Jenner injected an eight-year-old patient with a small dose of cowpox in hopes that it would build his immunity to smallpox. It worked. Smallpox vaccinations went global soon after his discovery, and smallpox has since been completely eradicated in most countries.
Fast-forward about 200 years: Vaccinations are now a household item. However, there are many more to choose from. Take, for example, the MMR vaccine, a mixture of three diseases (measles, mumps and rubella) that is administered via injection. This vaccine got a bad rap back in the ‘90s when the medical journal “Lancet” published an article by medical researcher Andrew Wakefield that drew a link between the MMR vaccine and autism in children.
It wasn’t until recently that Dr. Joel Harrison decided to look into Wakefield’s claims. In his article, “Wrong About Vaccine Safety: A review of Andrew Wakefield’s ‘Callous Disregard,’” Harrison reveals his startling findings. Not only did Wakefield have absolutely no valid statistical basis for his claim that MMR was linked to autism, but he also made up most of the evidence in his research article.
That being said, it is possible for vaccinations to have negative side effects. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), about 30,000 cases of adverse reactions to vaccines have been reported annually, with 10-15 percent associated with some sort of permanent disability, life-threatening illness, or death.
Additionally, there have been times when people have tried to link vaccines to cases of autism. But is there strong evidence of these accusations being true? No. Are the bad side effects associated with certain vaccines negligible? Some seem to think so. Dr. Frank DeStefano, director of the CDC’s immunization safety office, says that the most common side effect of vaccines is anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction), which occurs in “one per several hundred thousand to one per million vaccinations.”
Let’s look on the bright side: The CDC estimated that, due to vaccinations, 732,000 American children were saved from death and 322 million cases of childhood illnesses were prevented between 1994 and 2014.
It is up to you to decide your own stance on vaccines. I encourage everyone to do their research before they make a decision. Oftentimes, theories are misread or misunderstood, leading to false claims about the “reality” of medical issues. A decision regarding vaccinations is important enough that you should fully understand the reality of vaccinations for yourself. Multiple reliable sources should verify medical claims before they are generally believed.