Debunk’d – Vaccines

The need to protect your children is something that is universally understood by parents. With the exception of a few unstable people actively harming your children is unfathomable. This is why I completely understand the mentality of people who have the knee jerk reactions to people who claim that vaccines cause mental harm to your child by causing autism. When you see the list of ingredients for vaccines it is definitely somewhat intimidating and jaw dropping. Unfortunately this is where my understanding stops. When you look deeper you will find out that there is literally no link between vaccines and what is seen as an upswing in autism in children. So let’s take a look at where the misinformation is coming from.

To look at where this entire debacle started we need to take a look at the study that kicked off the whole anti-vaccine movement. A man by the name of Andrew Wakefield published a study in 1998 wherein he claimed that there was a definitive link between autism and the MMR vaccine [1]. Note that the study has been retracted. This is because numerous other studies into the methodology and conclusions of Mr. Wakefield have proven the study to be flawed to the point of the scientific community retracting the study. Studies such as those conducted here and here. So if the study has already been Debunk’d so to speak, why is this such an issue?

The reason the Anti-Vaccine movement is gaining momentum is because of very famous, very vocal proponents such as Jenny McCarthy. The former Playboy model came out as vocal against vaccines after her son was reportedly diagnosed with autism [2]. This has recently been called into question, especially in an interview in 2007, she basically claimed that she cured her son of autism [3]. She has repeatedly called for people to not vaccinate due to the “toxins” in a vaccine [4]. Not only Jenny McCarthy, but NFL players such as Bears QB Jay Cutler have not vaccinated his children [5]. With such large personalities and platforms, it’s no wonder that people tend to believe the link between vaccines and autism.

Let’s address the main concern that people who are against vaccines have with them: toxins. This is the main hang up with a lot of people and vaccines which is a fair concern as we have to be careful what we are giving our children. It’s not difficult to access the ingredients of many vaccines, so let’s take a look at DTaP which stands for Diptheria, Tetanus and Pertussis (Whooping Cough). Listed in the ingredients for this vaccine include aluminum phosphate and formaldehyde [6]. These two are the biggest toxins that anti vaccine advocates want to change in order to protect their children. The anti vaccine advocates seem to misunderstand that these ingredients serve a purpose.

According to the CDC, “… gels or salts of aluminum which are added as adjuvants to help the vaccine stimulate a better response. Adjuvants help promote an earlier, more potent response, and more persistent immune response to the vaccine.” [7]. This means that Aluminum makes sure the immune response is achieved with enough intensity to ensure immunity, which is the goal of vaccines in the first place. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Aluminum is found in common items such as antacids, flour and even baking powder [8]. Not only this, but aluminum is found in breastmilk as well as formula which means that infants consume more aluminum simply by eating than by vaccination which makes this point about aluminum entirely moot.

Formaldehyde is used in vaccines to, ” …inactivate bacterial products for toxoid vaccines, (these are vaccines that use an inactive bacterial toxin to produce immunity.) It is also used to kill unwanted viruses and bacteria that might contaminate the vaccine during production. Most formaldehyde is removed from the vaccine before it is packaged.” So basically it keeps anything extra from entering the vaccine and causing unintended sickness in the child receiving the vaccine. Again looking to ASTDR you an see that there is again a prevalence of formaldehyde in food and small amounts are even produced by the human body [9]. The main exposure to formaldehyde is breathing so a small dose of formaldehyde in a vaccine isn’t going to harm a child anymore than breathing air or eating breastmilk from a mother who eats food and drinks water.

The effect of these ingredients on infants is simply to facilitate the vaccine and help it do it’s job properly. As a parent I completely understand the hesitance to intentionally put something harmful into my daughter’s body. At the same time I did further research to see that vaccines have no correlation with autism. In fact, the effect of not vaccinating is having devastating effects and diseases that are easily controllable through preventative vaccines are making a comeback. A measles outbreak in early 2015 and late 2014 shows that without vaccines these diseases will come back [10]. The mortality rate for measles isn’t high but it’s bad. In 1920 there were 7,575 out of 469,924 reported cases [11]. This is a mortality rate of 2% which might not seem high, but this doesn’t take into account the suffering and pain of measles.

The greatest harm that not vaccinating does is the disabling of herd immunity. There might be some people who refuse to be vaccinated and they are protected from those diseases simply by virtue of being around those who are. Herd immunity also protects those who are unable to be vaccinated such as those infants who cannot or have not had vaccinations for certain diseases yet. The concept of herd immunity is best explained by this video here.

In the end, it’s not just your own children you are harming by not vaccinating them, but others. There is no link between vaccines and autism and the study that shows there is has been repeatedly refuted and retracted from public eye. The one remaining question that needs to be answered is why has there been an uptick in autism diagnoses? The answer is we have a better understanding of autism. Autism exists on a spectrum now and doctors have more tools than ever to diagnose varying degrees of autism [11]. With these new tools more people are being diagnosed on the autism spectrum which causes people to think that autism is on the rise, when in fact we are simply getting better at diagnosing it. So before you decide to not vaccinate your children, think about what you are willing to put your child through based on bad science and false claims.

 

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