The war between vaxxers and anti-vaxxers is rife and it astonishes me, that despite all the independent, peer-reviewed research that has been published over the years, there continues to be a fear of vaccination, a trend that seems to be increasing. After some intense internet searching and blog reading I find myself lost for words at the frankly preposterous, rumours about vaccines.
As a science graduate I have some understanding of how vaccines work and fully support their use, however, even though I consider it dangerous and irresponsible not to, on some level I can accept that there are always going to be people who choose not to get vaccinated and/or not vaccinate their children, it is a fact of life. What I cannot accept is the spread of fear and misguidance that some people feel is their right to disseminate (Erhmmm Jenny McCarthy).
Behind clean running water, vaccines are one of the most influential tools in history to improve public health; however they can be difficult to understand which is probably why, when people start researching them, they feel as though they didn’t get the whole story from their friendly neighbourhood doctor. The truth is that in order to give the full story you would need quite a few biology, chemistry and various other lessons in order to grasp the whole picture; something that is obviously not feasible.
Various rumours have been spawned from this lack of understanding, the most common ones being; ‘vaccines cause autism’ or ‘vaccines contain dangerous substances’ (for a full list of vaccine myths and corresponding research head to http://io9.com/lets-just-debunk-every-flu-vaccine-myth-in-one-fell-sw-1454237689).
Vaccines are most commonly given during childhood, a time when kids are most likely to be diagnosed with autism so although it may look like vaccines are the cause, the truth is that the rise in autism rates is actually more likely to be a function of doctors getting better at diagnosis and the autism spectrum expanding to include other disorders; correlation is not always causation.
It is disappointing that bloggers and celebrities alike, choose to put their ill-informed views out in a mass public forum and scare the daylights out of new or soon to be parents. Some people claim they haven’t vaccinated their children and they’re fine, but that is also a function of the many responsible parents that have vaccinated their children (Herd immunity). Sadly as people stop vaccinating, herd immunity will start to fail and we’ll begin to see the true damage of a drop in vaccinations in the most vulnerable population; children. Fortunately, there are some blogs out there such as ‘Voices for Vaccines – Parents speaking up for immunization’ that reflect the wants and needs of the parents that choose to vaccinate. A great read is called ‘Growing up Unvaccinated’, a piece written by a young lady who was never vaccinated (her parents’ choice) and then fell victim to every scary illness we try to prevent, including measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough, and yearly tonsillitis, the outcome of which lead to extensive antibiotic treatment and resulted in penicillin-resistant quinsy at the age of 21, it’s not surprising that she is now a full supporter of vaccination. In the midst of the backlash against anti-vaxxers, it has recently been suggested that if you choose not to vaccinate, your child shouldn’t be able to attend school, where they pose a potential health risk to others. Fair? Feasible? Well the jury is still out on that one!