Child Vaccinations: Benefits Outweigh the Costs

Up until 1998, vaccinating children was the norm. Almost every doctor’s visit would include the baby receiving three to four shots that would eventually protect the baby from 14 infectious diseases, including chickenpox, hepatitis A and B, and the flu.

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However, in 1998, Andrew Wakefield, a British doctor and researcher, published a study that suggested that there was a link between autism and the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. The United Kingdom’s MMR inoculation dropped from about 92% to below 80%. Consequentially, the UK faced more and more cases of measles outbreaks. Other studies were conducted to prove this same connection, but failed. Ten of the twelve co-authors of Wakefield’s study renounced the conclusions and the paper was eventually retracted. This was even followed by a judicial decision that concluded that there was no proof for a causal link between vaccine and autism. It is important to understand the many different ways in which the results of this study were proven to be false to the public because even after everything, the public had this persisting mindset that vaccinations would lead to autism.

In the United States, we see an increasing number of parents who refuse to get their children vaccinated. Besides the potential link to autism, parents do not want their child to be vaccinated because it may have side effects, contain harmful ingredients, and that the targeted diseases no longer exist. This post will discuss each of these arguments against child vaccinations and explain why the benefits of getting vaccinated as a child outweighs the costs.

With every vaccination, there is a risk of anaphylaxis, which is a severe allergic reaction, but this only occurs in about one per million vaccinations. In fact, you are 100 times more likely to be struck by lightning than to have anaphylaxis! Similarly, the flu vaccine can be associated with Guillain-Barré syndrome where a person’s immune system attacks parts of their peripheral nervous system, but this also only occurs in about one per million people vaccinated. By not getting the vaccination, you are less likely to experience one of these rare side effects, but are extremely likely to contract a disease like measles and 90% of the people around you who are not immune will also become infected. In this situation, the benefits most definitely outweigh the costs to both an individual and society.

Vaccines do contain harmful ingredients such as thimerosal, aluminum and formaldehyde. However, vaccines do not contain high enough dosages of these ingredients for them to be harmful. Children are actually exposed to more antigens and harmful substances through their everyday activities than through vaccinations. Thimerosal has also either been reduced or removed completely from several vaccinations, which shows that vaccines are improving in terms of safety. Furthermore, the FDA requires at least ten years of testing for all vaccines before being officially licensed and like with thimerosal, are consistently monitored and improved. The CDC also offers guides to vaccinations that include a schedule and a list of potential side effects on their site!

It is not entirely true that the diseases targeted by vaccines no longer exist. Many diseases still exist in the US and globally, which because of how easy it is to travel from one place to another today, can easily spread from anywhere in the world to the US if people are not properly vaccinated. Just four years ago, there were 16 measles outbreaks in the US. It is also important to keep herd immunity in mind, which is when a large portion of the population, usually around 95%, have to be vaccinated to protect the community from a disease outbreak. This allows for those children and adults who cannot be vaccinated because of medical reasons, like that they are undergoing chemotherapy, to be protected from contracting a potentially fatal disease. Vaccinations also save money in the long run as getting a vaccination as a child is much cheaper than paying for extensive care for an adult with a vaccine-preventable disease.

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