To Vaccinate – or Not

To vaccinate – or not. Actually please do because it must be obvious that the death of any child is a tragedy. It certainly is for the families and as a society if we cannot prevent such deaths. As a police officer I have seen the destruction such deaths cause. The sense of blame and guilt overwhelm some parents even if they are blameless. To put things into some prospective though. In 2016 the estimated deaths of children under the age of 5 ranged from 112 to 1.9 per 1,000 live births. 112 in Afghanistan which, as it has been a war zone for decades, is partially to be expected, 1.9 in Monaco. Most countries come in under 10. 10 deaths for every 1,000 live births. A percentage of 0.1%. These figures are for all child deaths and are caused by myriad factors. War, famine, poverty and disease.

Pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria together are the cause of 3 out of every 10 child deaths before the age of 5 and nearly half of under-five deaths globally are attributable to malnutrition (UN Data). These are things that are slowly being addressed and in time will hopefully change. A lot of time, effort and money is being put into numerous solutions for the above but in the meantime diseases that caused tens of thousands of deaths in the past are making a comeback. Anti-vaxxers are gaining more and more of a foothold, their flat-earth conspiracy theories are gaining traction in the weak willed and gullible and need to be confronted.

I believe in choice and in the right of people to have and share an opinion so I would not simply ban or try to shout down these people who are being hoodwinked by nothing more than rhetoric and empty words, bad science and charlatans.

The only way to combat these views is with science and common sense, maybe even the big stick approach when governments have to step in and announce ‘no jab, no play’ rules. But doesn’t that go against a person’s right to hold a contrary view? Of course it does but governments also have a duty to their populations and sometimes it is an unfortunate reality that the health of the many is more important than the views of the few.

Most vaccines have been developed over the passed 60 years or so but the knowledge of the causes of the infections have been known about for centuries and it has taken us this long to develop vaccines. There is a lot of argument from anti-vaxxers about vaccines and most of it it either wrong or based on a misunderstanding or misapplication or the facts.

Vaccines contain mercury:

We’re talking about childhood vaccines and they do not contain mercury and never have. Some adult and multi use vaccines do contain mercury (actually thimerosal, a mercury-containing organic compound) in concentrations of 1 part in 10,000). There is a lot more naturally occurring mercury in a tuna sandwich.

Why do any vaccines contain mercury, isn’t it dangerous?

Thimersol is added during the manufacturing process to multi-dose vials of vaccine to prevent growth of germs, like bacteria and fungi which may be introduce when a syringe needle enters a vial as a vaccine is being prepared. Contamination of a vaccine could cause severe local reactions, serious illness or death. This is a non-issue for childhood vaccines but even so thimerosal does not stay in the body a long time so it does not build up and reach harmful levels. When thimerosal enters the body, it breaks down to ethylmercury and thiosalicylate, which are readily eliminated.

Why is this an issue?

Autism.

Anti-vaxxers are increasingly making links between thimerosal and autism. Unfortunately for them the basis of their argument is a completely discredited 1998 research paper by a British doctor, Andrew Wakefield who was struck off the UK Medical Register for his fraudulent paper. It wasn’t that the paper was wrong or reached the wrong conclusions it was fraudulent because key facts were altered to support the autism link.

— Clear evidence of falsification of data should now close the door on this damaging vaccine scare

The Lancet, which printed the paper, withdrew it unreservedly.

There’s no proof that vaccines don’t cause autism!

It is difficult to prove a negative but there is ample evidence to show that there is no link between thimerosal (which is the main villain in the anti-vax narrative) and autism. This is at the centre of the non scientific argument. Science exists to prove something, an existence or a link, a cause and effect. This is what the researchers were looking for, and couldn’t find. Given the figures below on how many deaths are prevented by vaccinations it would be seen as grossly irresponsible to not vaccinate if your intention is indeed to prevent unnecessary illness and death

Why do we need vaccines anyway as these diseases have been virtually eliminated?

The diseases still exist and can still infect people who are not protected and, there are a small number of people who cannot be vaccinated because of allergies or that they don’t respond to vaccines and their protection is that the disease cannot be passed onto them by others.

It is called a societal responsibility, just as you may look out for your elderly neighbour or attend meetings to get a local park developed. There is a group responsibility to help each other and try to keep each other safe. Mary Mallon was an apparently healthy woman who was locked up in Riverside Hospital on North Brother Island, New York for almost thirty years until she died in 1938. Her crime being that she was an asymptomatic carrier of typhoid fever. She infected dozens of people and a number died before the authorities acted and isolated her for the good of society. Mary killed a few, anti-vaxxers could kill thousands.

Natural immunity is better than the immunity that comes from vaccination!

I agree, it is. I would just like to be among the people that survive the disease and be able to have this natural immunity. Where is the value of natural immunity if you’re potentially going to die an avoidable death or by not being vaccinated, cause one?

There is no ‘natural’ immunity to death and these childhood diseases are often fatal.

The diseases prevented by these vaccinations are mild and not dangerous!

A few facts about the mild and not dangerous common childhood diseases (US statistics).

Measles: a highly contagious viral infection. A viable vaccination for measles was developed and introduced in 1963. In 1952 there were 683 infant deaths from measles, in 2013 there were none.

Mumps: also a viral disease and the complications of which can cause meningitis, (15 percent), pancreatitis (four percent), permanent deafness, and infertility. Symptoms in adults are more severe than in children. A vaccination was introduced in 1967. In 1961 there were 53 reported deaths, in 2010 there were 2.

German Measles / Rubella: A viral infection which seems to affect woman more than men in so much as a pregnant woman contracting the disease can suffer a miscarriage or a child born suffering from permanent deafness, blindness, heart defects and autism – the very thing the anti-vaxxers claim to be fighting against. A vaccine was developed in 1969. In 1964 there were 53 deaths and in 2010 there were 2.

Polio: A highly contagious viral infection causing muscle wastage and paralysis. A vaccine was introduced in 1955. In 1952 there were 3,200 deaths from polio in the US alone, since 1964 the death rate has been zero.

Diphtheria: A highly contagious airborne, bacterial infection causing a sore throat and fever. A vaccine for diphtheria was first introduced in 1914 but even so deaths from the disease in 1950 were 410. Since 1975 as vaccination rates increased the death rate has been virtually zero.

All these results are just for reported deaths, in the case of Polio for example there were almost 60,000 people infected in 1952. Many people suffered ongoing issues relating to these infections.

No vaccine is 100% safe!

Also true, no vaccine is 100% safe. I have read pages of lists of side effects to vaccines and they usually come down to those side effects like a low-grade fever, skin rash, itching, swelling, reddening of skin, hives, and fatigue. I haven’t seen so many lists from anti-vaxxers saying that the side affects of not vaccinating include brain damage, miscarriages, autism, disfigurement, physical disability, infertility and death.

The conclusion to all of this is that anti-vaxxers tend to be biased, paranoid, conspiracy theorists who accept unreferenced blogs than the multitude of scientific papers that are out there on the net if they could only be bothered to look. The arguments they put forward are very easy to counter by simple research and the intelligence to consider the evidence.

— “Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.” ―Robert A. Heinlein

I am fully supportive of them holding their view until the weight of science makes that view look ridiculous and in a very real sense they are putting potentially tens of thousands of lives at risk because of their intransigence.

By all means people, have an opinion, do the research but be honest with the results. Don’t just trust any blog (including mine as I have no expertise or medical background in this field), find the real facts and then go and have your kids vaccinated, for all our sakes.

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