Riley Murdock ‘15 – Disease has killed more humans than anything else in history. Whether it’s the plague, smallpox, tuberculosis, or any other multitude of epidemics, pathological affliction is even the primary cause of death in most wars. One of modern society’s greatest achievements is a way to defeat disease before it has a chance to strike: the vaccine, a small injection of a disease that will safely build the body’s resistance to an illness. An estimated 732,000 children’s lives have been saved by vaccines since 1994, and another 322 million cases of childhood disease have been prevented. Not including any statistics on adults, or averted epidemics.

In 1998, however, a research paper surfaced that correlated vaccine use to risk of children developing autism, a neurodevelopmental disorder marked by hindered communicative and social development. Since then, this study has been debunked on several different occasions, contradicted by the scientific community at large, and Andrew Wakefield, the doctor who organized the study, had his medical license revoked in 2010 for his fraudulent writings.

Despite all of this, many people have acted based on these incorrect findings; the Anti-Vaccination movement has grown in popularity in the last year, citing this disproven study as reasoning to endanger their children and those of others.

The movement has gained popularity due to the patronship of actress Jenny McCarthy. McCarthy, despite not having nor citing any scientific credibility to make these claims, was seen as a reasonable source by many, leading to the spread and adoption of these unfounded ideals.

“I feel like if the disease is severe enough and you need it to save your life, you should be vaccinated,” Gabriella Morici ‘15 said. “But if it’s curable in an organic and natural way, you should take that route.”

Through not providing their children with the MMR (Mixed Measles and Rubella) vaccine, the anti-vaccination movement is solely responsible for the reintroduction of Measles in America. The movement is also directly responsible for over 6,000 deaths and 145,000 illnesses since 2007, all of which were entirely preventable. Yet, people still argue for this cause, despite their arguments constantly changing and their “evidence” constantly being proven false.

“I think there’s a lot of inaccurate information floating around the internet that people assume if it’s posted on Facebook, it’s true,” biology teacher Kelly Roulo said. “People assume these articles are legitimate, even though there’s no scientific backing to these claims.”

Let’s look at some common arguments used by this movement:

  • The MMR vaccine has been linked to increased autism risk.

As previously mentioned, the research cited for this argument has been proven fraudulent, as well as being thoroughly and consistently discredited by several correctly conducted studies in years since. Even Autism Speaks, a leading organization for autism research and awareness, has issued an official statement saying that vaccines do not cause autism. This argument no longer has any basis in science or fact.

  • Autism rates have skyrocketed, from 1 in 2000 to 1 in 150 in the last 20+ years.

While this is true, this increase can be partially explained by increased awareness of the condition, as well as more diseases being added to the Autism Spectrum, such as Asperger’s syndrome and pervasive development disorder. While further research may be needed to confirm this, it’s been proven there is no link between vaccinations and developing these conditions.

  • Vaccines often contain Thimerosal, a mercury-based compound that the movement believes has harmful effects.

A study has found that there is no link between vaccines containing Thimerosal and development of autism spectrum disorders. Thimerosal content in vaccines has also been dramatically reduced by the FDA over time, with the only vaccine for ages 6 and under still containing more than trace amounts being the inactivated influenza vaccine. Even then, there are different variants of this vaccine available without the mercurial content. In addition to the lack of it’s presence in current vaccines, Thimerosal contains ethylmercury, which is entirely safe in comparison to methylmercury. For comparison, a can of tuna is more toxic, in terms of mercurial content, than the influenza vaccine.

  • Parents should be allowed to choose whether or not to vaccinate their kids; it’s their decision and nobody else’s business.

This is an incredibly selfish outlook on the safety of others. Many unable to be vaccinated due to medical reasons, as well as those more susceptible to preventable diseases, are protected by a phenomenon called herd immunity. Herd immunity appears when a large percentage of the population has developed resistance to a disease. This resistance acts like a barrier, breaking “chains” of infection against immune individuals rather than continuing to spread through those vulnerable.Weakened herd immunity due to unvaccinated children has led to the reintroduction of measles in America, an entirely preventable disease once eradicated from the country. Vaccinating IS everyone’s business; weakened herd immunity puts not only your children at risk, but the rest of the population as well.

The anti-vaccination movement’s arguments are unfounded and dangerous in implication, while any scientific credibility they might’ve had having been long disproved. By refusing to vaccinate your children, you are not only endangering your child, but the lives of others as well. If you hold an anti-vaccination opinion, please read the facts and reconsider.

Sources:

http://www.autismspeaks.org/science/policy-statements/information-about-vaccines-and-autism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MMR_vaccine_controversy

http://www.livescience.com/45111-national-vaccination-effects.html

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0264410X14016892

http://www.reddit.com/r/science/comments/2ux6nn/vaccines_containing_thimerosal_containing_mercury/

http://jennymccarthybodycount.com/Anti-Vaccine_Body_Count/Home.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_causes_of_death_by_rate

http://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/searching-for-answers/autism-rise

http://www.historyofvaccines.org/content/timelines/measles

http://www.fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/SafetyAvailability/VaccineSafety/UCM096228

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethylmercury#Toxicity

http://www.fairfaxpediatrics.com/Vaccine-Myths.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herd_immunity

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