Thesis: The varying options with the administration of vaccination safety are very controversial among healthcare professionals and the general public because of a small percentage of adverse reactions. Little attention has been given to the decrease in childhood epidemic outbreaks and the opposition has been silent in regard to the benefits of immunizations versus adverse reactions risks.
In recent years, issues in vaccine administration have been noted, with anti-vaccine advocates (anti-vaxxers) claiming that vaccines have adverse effects which make them unsafe for children (NHS Choices, 2015). However, a larger majority of health experts as well as parents have not been swayed by these adverse effects, claiming that these are only isolated cases and as in all other medical procedures also carry inherent risks. These adverse effects however should not stop people from having their children vaccinated, they further claim (NHS Choices, 2015). This is the current debate in the vaccine controversy, a debate made even more controversial following the claims by celebrities like Jenny McCarthy that vaccines caused their child’s autism (NHS Choices, 2015). A study done in 1998 by Dr. Andrew Wakefield claimed that there was a link between autism and the MMR vaccine. However, his work was later discredited, mostly because of his use of false data (NHS Choices, 2015). Despite the debunking of his work however, anti-vaxxers are still citing and using Dr. Wakefield’s work to support their stance against vaccinating their children.
In 2015, a measles epidemic broke out in some parts of the US, and a visit to Disneyland for the affected children was pinpointed as the possible common thread to the children (Kluger, 2015). It was later pinpointed that one of the affected children took a recent trip to the Philippines at a time when the latter had a measles epidemic (Kluger, 2015). The child likely contracted the measles there and went back to the US and later visited Disneyland as the full-blown impact of measles was now affecting his body (Kluger, 2015). It may take up to 10 days from the time an individual is exposed to measles before symptoms appear and affected patients are contagious about 4 days before and after rashes appear (Kluger, 2015). Other children not vaccinated with measles were likely to have been infected by the disease during their visit to Disneyland (Kluger, 2015). In fact the numbers do indicate that out of 20 children affected by measles following their Disneyland visit, 15 were not vaccinated (Kluger, 2015). As they went back to their homes and their communities, these children also affected other children, especially the unvaccinated ones. This helps explains why different areas in the US experienced the measles outbreak in 2015.
For a while, during the measles outbreak, the anti-vaxxers were not as vocal in their stance. However, some of them argue that they are not anti-vaccine per se, but they are only against the combination of vaccines into one injection; some even claim that they are against some types of vaccines only. Still, the message has been conveyed to those who believed the message of the anti-vaxxers as their hesitation to vaccinate was based on concerns and fears which anti-vaxxers claimed they should have towards vaccines.
While anti-vaxxers have also been quick to point out the adverse effects of vaccines and vaccination, they have failed to acknowledge the benefits of vaccines and of vaccinating children (Kluger, 2015). From the time the first small pox vaccine was deemed an efficient means of fighting the disease, many more vaccines have been developed and have successfully helped in eradicating other diseases (Kluger, 2015). Since its eradication, there have been no cases in the world of this disease since 1977 (Kluger, 2015). In different parts of the world, especially developed countries, diseases like tuberculosis and poliomyelitis have been eradicated. However, it remains endemic in some regions of the world, especially developing countries in Asia and Africa. Through vaccination however, infant and child mortality has been greatly reduced (Kluger, 2015). More and more countries are starting to declare the complete eradication of some vaccine-preventable diseases, with the 100% eradication percentage goal for these diseases (Kluger, 2015). There are also other benefits for vaccination including the prevention of complications from vaccine-preventable diseases, including brain damage, hearing loss, paralysis of limbs, and amputation of limbs (Kluger, 2015). More than anything, vaccines help prevent deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases.
Vaccines and immunizations also help protect not just the individual getting the vaccine, but also those who are vulnerable to infection from vaccine-preventable diseases (Schreier, 2015). These include infants who have not yet reached the age for receiving certain vaccines (Schreier, 2015). For instance, the MMR vaccine is recommended only when the infant reaches at least 6 months and the polio vaccine is recommended only for infants at the age of 12 months (Schreier, 2015). Before such time, they are vulnerable to infection from these diseases (Schreier, 2015). A fully immunized general population would also help prevent infections for those whose immune system is compromised, for instance, elderly individuals, HIV-AIDS patients, those who are malnourished, and those who have congenital conditions which have compromised their immune systems (B-cell defects, T-cell defects, etc) (Schreier, 2015). The fully immunized population forms a chain of protection against infections which prevent them from getting sick and prevent these vulnerable individuals from also getting sick.
The anti-vaxxers also fail to acknowledge the general benefits of vaccination to health care costs in general (NHS Choices, 2015). Vaccines cost much cheaper when compared to the actual treatment of the disease (NHS Choices, 2015). The cost of an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease is significantly higher than the costs incurred in implementing a vaccine program (NHS Choices, 2015). It requires fewer medical resources and less manpower to implement a vaccination program. Treating measles for instance translates to higher costs as it requires drugs and medical personnel to provide care (NHS Choices, 2015). It also opens the patient to the possibility of incurring complications of the disease which in the case of measles include ear infections, diarrhea, and in severe instances blindness and encephalitis (NHS Choices, 2015).
Taken as a whole, these benefits far outweigh the possible complications which vaccines can sometimes bring to the patient. This is what the anti-vaxxers have failed to consider in their persistent campaign against vaccines and immunizations. Unfortunately, they have managed to convince some parents to not have their children vaccinated because of the adverse effects of vaccines as claimed by these anti-vaxxers. As a result, there have been incidents of increase in cases related to vaccine-preventable diseases. Still, the general population is more likely to have their child vaccinated because these anti-vaxxers have failed to prove that adverse effects should outweigh the benefits of vaccines.
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- Kluger, J. (2015). Disneyland: The Latest Victim of the Anti-Vaxxers.
- NHS Choices (2015a). Immunization.
- NHS Choices (2015b). Measles Complications.
- Schreier, R. (2015). Infections in the Immunocompromised Host. eMedicine.