Vaccination – the Case FOR and the Case AGAINST

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The vaccine debate has reared its ugly head in the U.S. with the reappearance of measles, a disease virtually eliminated a decade ago.

The Case Against

Vaccines don’t work – partially correct, in about 5 percent of cases some vaccines aren’t effective. This is only in reference to those vaccines such as measles which involve a “fixed” disease mechanism – that is, one which doesn’t mutate every year the way the common cold and influenza do.

In some small percentage of cases, seat belts don’t work either, and cigarettes don’t ALWAYS cause poor health, but flying through a windshield and hitting your head hard is very often fatal and cigarettes do cause lung cancer in many people, as well as COPD and other life threatening medical complications – such as the fact that if you smoke you won’t get that lung transplant you desperately need – the transplant committee will automatically reject smokers as a poor risk.

Vaccines are sometimes relatively ineffective (such as is the case this year for influenza) not because vaccines don’t work but because the virus changes every year, even every few months and therefore the vaccine, which takes months to produce in quantity, may be protective against a strain which isn’t widespread in a particular year.

Of course that doesn’t mean the original vaccine isn’t effective against the original flu strain, just that the virus mutated. Deniers use this half-truth to “prove” all vaccines are worthless.

Even then, the more times you have different flu varieties (or better yet the more vaccinations you have gotten over the years) the more likely your own immune system will be prepared for a new variety.

Vaccines Cause Autism, MS, Impotence, Hair Loss, Dropsy, Flopsy, Plague, etc

All of these concerns (including the mythical anecdotal claims by Rand Paul on February 3 – that he knows of many cases where vaccines destroyed young lives, a statement which he quickly retracted) stem from two things – first is simple human nature which causes people to want to find someone or something to blame for a tragedy in their lives (in the old days disasters, unexplained deaths, and simple bad luck were blamed on witchcraft and in earlier times on the gods being angry with people.

Yes, certainly, sometimes kids get sick after an inoculation.

Kids also get sick before inoculations.

Kids also get sick after drinking milk for several years.

Actually, sometimes kids get sick and we have no idea why it happens.

These days people with a smattering of science education – mostly knowledge of some scientific words they don’t really understand (but dangerously think they do understand even without the 10+ years of hard work it takes to really follow science) tend to blame things such as a bad doctor or poison in vaccines.

Most recently a major vaccine scare was caused by a British doctor named Wakefield who simply stated that mercury in vaccines (and apparently also vaccines which don’t contain mercury) are the cause of autism.

He did this in a 1998 Lancet article completely without evidence of any sort except for some data which he later admitted he simply made up to support his fanciful theory and bolster his finances.

So, if your child suffers through measles or some other easily preventable disease such as polio, you can blame Wakefield – I omit the “doctor” because he, in British terminology, has been struck off the books – in other words, he is no longer licensed to practice medicine.

So the case against vaccines boils down to a defrocked con-man who simply made up the threat, and the very human need to explain just why it is “not my fault that my child is autistic.” True, it isn’t the parent’s fault, but that doesn’t make it the fault of vaccines, it just means the cause is unknown.

More appropriately, you can compare mandatory vaccination to mandatory schooling – one mostly protects against a disease, the other, when properly applied, may help inoculate the next generation against ignorance – of course that depends somewhat on what courses are required – it is notable that science is not mandatory and there are almost no public schools that even offer a course in logic.

The Case For Vaccines

They work. A simple enough reason to use them, you might think.

Religious fanatics in central Africa claim that U.N. and other medical groups that try to vaccinate children against dread disease are actually sterilizing them so they won’t have more Muslim children. In the West, people see this as ridiculous and manipulative of ignorant people but some of the same people fail to see that they believe equally silly things when told by a politician in a suit.

In Africa, they do this to recruit the ignorant as cannon fodder in their quest to force their religion on the rest of the world, either to give themselves power and control over others, gain political influence, or to raise money – the precise same reasons seem to motivate the head “political” deniers in developed countries. The parents are usually sincere in their beliefs.

Just why some “scientists” agree with the vaccine deniers is easy to explain but unnecessary if you watched the parade of tobacco executives swear before a Congressional hearing that nicotine isn’t addictive.

Some people will do anything for money.

Vaccines not only work for the person injected, they also help reduce the incidence of the disease in the general population and stop epidemics such as the one we now see emanating from Disney World in the U.S.

That is the reason civilized people who want the other benefits of living in a society must get their own children vaccinated even if they personally don’t mind seeing them suffer through a potentially serious disease such as measles.

It is perfectly OK with many people if those who don’t believe in science refuse vaccines, as long as they move to some isolated place or some third world country where others aren’t exposed to their antisocial behavior and they can live with the personal consequences without harming others who would normally be safe.

This is critical to civilization, just as obeying speed laws and stop signs – although you may get away with breaking the traffic laws, you endanger perfectly innocent people. That is why people get upset with drunk drivers – virtually no one cares if they kill themselves, but they tend to kill that nice young mother and three kids which the drunk runs into or runs off the road.

Children too young to get vaccinations as well as those who are too ill with other diseases to survive vaccination or with such weak immune systems that they can’t benefit from the vaccine, depend on the healthy portion of the populace to take the vaccine and eliminate the disease entirely.

HPV vaccine, the one that protects girls and women from cervical cancer, is a good example of this threat. Many religious people say they believe (contrary to all available evidence of the past 10,000 years) that their daughters will never have sex until they marry, therefore they are insulted at the suggestion that all young girls get HPV protection when they enter puberty. This not only exposes the rare non-virgins in society to cancer but also helps spread the infection, even to married women.

This belief is prevalent in the African-American community as well as the bible belt.

Perhaps not surprising to anyone who knows how stubborn human beings can be, a study published in Pediatrics (NBC reference) shows that explaining, even proving to parents that vaccines are both safe and effective, actually has no beneficial effect on whether they will let their children be vaccinated.

In fact, well educated, socially conscious people who opposed vaccinations because of the mercury/autism scare can be convinced that the claims were complete fabrications but then they just turn to other reasons to reject vaccination for their kids (despite the fact the parents had almost universally been vaccinated as kids).

Actually educating people about the true safety of vaccines has been shown to actually make the parents LESS likely to vaccinate.

Similarly, showing images of suffering children also caused more fear of vaccines.

Such is the stubbornness of human beings.

Given the fact that in this instance the truth doesn’t set people free, it seems that the only way to protect the majority of society is to force un-vaccinated children to stay away from public events and ban them from attending public schools.

Fortunately there is excellent online schooling available.

John McCormick is a reporter, /science/medical columnist and finance and social commentator, with 17,000+ bylined stories. He is a 38-year member of the National Press Club, retired emergency management coordinator, physicist, and member of the AAAS. He is a senior NewsBlaze writer who writes incisive, investigative stories.