Let’s get straight to the point:
1. Myth: Vaccines cause autism
Fact: The scientific evidence is clear as day: vaccines are safe and they DO NOT CAUSE AUTISM. This is the story how people thought it did:
In 1998, an esteemed medical journal published a paper with a shocking conclusion; the measles, rubella (MMR), and mumps vaccine could cause autism. The study led by now discredited researcher, Andrew Wakefield, is where it all these ridiculousness started. But later, when it was thoroughly debunked, The Lancet retracted the paper, investigators described the research as an “elaborate fraud,” and Wakefield lost his medical license.
However, the damage was done and Wakefield’s debunked study began the anti-vaccine movement that, despite all actual scientific evidence, sees itself as uncovering the ‘real science’ of vaccines. The study was bad science with one of the reasons being that only had 12 subjects, and later, investigations found that researchers had manipulated ALL of their medical records. What could be worse? Well, when the General Medical Council (UK’s medical regular) began to investigate Wakefield, they discovered that he had paid children at his son’s 10th birthday party to donate blood for his research… that was far removed from a controlled and ethical setting.
Study after study since then has proved no connection between vaccines and autism. In a 2011 analysis, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded that vaccines are not linked with autism or other serious medical problems (like type 1 diabetes). The study also looked at various vaccines for different types of diseases (e.g MMR, HPV, Hepatitis A) and found no side effects amongst people with healthy immune systems. Another 2009 analysis in the Oxford Journal came to conclusion that vaccines with thimerosal (a mercury-containing compound found in some vaccines) do not cause autism. A 2010 research in Pediatrics also found that timely vaccination produced no adverse effects on neuropsychological outsomes 7-10 years after the vaccines were administered.
However, like all forms of medicine, there are some rare and typically minor side-effects such as fever, allergic reactions and fainting. And just to be factual, there is that 1 in a million chance that it might be fatal, particularly in people with weakened immune systems. But think about this. I’m pretty sure there is a higher chance of us getting hurt and dying just by leaving the house. Does that stop us from leaving the house?
2. Myth: Adults don’t need to get vaccines
Fact: It is just as important for adults to get vaccinated as children or the elderly. Adults should get their annual flu shot and also get the necessary boosters and other vaccines they may have missed as a kid, for both themselves and the rest of the community.
And if you’re not sure about whether you’re immunized, then you can ask your doctor for a simple blood test that will give you the answer in a few days.
3. Myth: Vaccine skeptics are fundamentally anti-science
Fact: It is normal to see vaccine-skeptics to be fundamentally anti-science. But that is an oversimplification. Vaccine skeptics can cite dozens of cases and usually think that they’re following the actual evidence and those who believe in vaccines to be blindly trusting authority and fooled by big pharma.
However, in a February 2015 interview with Dan Olmsted, editor of Age of Autism and a vaccine skeptic, didn’t say all the research is wrong and instead cited faulty interpretations of various studies as evidence. He earnestly believes that he’s on the correct side and that the current studies are just broader cover-ups. When asked to provide evidence for the link between autism and vaccines, he responded with:
“I don’t know if you’re familiar with William Thompson, who recently acknowledged that in fact researchers have found a link between autism and the MMR vaccine — and then it was suppressed by his colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s a pretty big bombshell that’s gotten very little attention.”
But it’s clear. When you dig into the studies of vaccine skeptics, the evidence just doesn’t hold up as it is usually misinterpreted, selectively reported or refracted through conspiracy theories. For example, the study Olmsted stated found no actual link between vaccines and autism but many have cherry-picked the results of a tiny subgroup (black males) in the research to make it seem like a connection was found even though there’s no reason to believe black young makes were more susceptible to vaccine injuries.
The truth is that behind their skepticism is a mistrust of the data; they frequently believe that studies are manipulated or suppressed by ‘big pharma’ who wants to just keep profiting off vaccines. To those who only consume anti-vaccine ‘evidence’, it just looks like the truth, with the media’s dismissal of it looking corrupt and the victims of it seeming very real, regardless of the scientific consensus that vaccines are safe and effective. Fundamentally, the anti-vaxxers aren’t anti-science. Inherently, we are very biased creatures, and breaking an idea that we’ve believed in for a very long time is difficult, but all it takes is a lot of patience to debunk each cherry-picked, falsely-cited study, and we’ll slowly get to actual scientific evidence.
4. Myth: Vaccine skepticism is only about autism
Fact: Though many people don’t believe in vaccines because it causes autism, some just don’t want to follow the federal government schedules. Vaccine delayers can be just as much as a public health risk as outright deniers. The Centers for Disease Control And Prevention’s schedule is based on when people are most susceptible to the disease. Many of these delayers believe that the schedule could ‘overload’ a child’s weak immune system. The idea follows a belief, pushed by Bob Sears’ The Vaccine Book, that a child’s immune system are underdeveloped and can’t take the ‘stress’ of vaccines which forces their tiny bodies’ defences into action to fight a weakened version of an illness.
The fact is that children’s immune systems aren’t actually weak. Researchers from the Oxford Journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases explained that although an infan’ts immune system may seem relatively naïve, it is capable of generating a vast array of protective responses. A published Pediatrics study also found that timely vaccinations resulted in no adverse effects on neuropsychological outcomes 7-10 years after the vaccines were given. I mean it’s fairly logical as, from what we know about babies’ immune systems, once babies come out of their relatively sterile environment (the womb), they’re assaulted by all sorts of bacteria and viruses, forcing their immune systems to protect them. These vaccines with weakened diseases are way more nonthreatening as compared to the live ones kids encounter every day.
Other delayers see inoculation as unnecessary because some vaccines are to protect from diseases that are no longer common in the US. But this is circular reasoning; without vaccines, those diseases would be common in the US, by not vaccinating, parents risk letting these diseases come back – as with measles.
Modern vaccine doubters aside, the anti-vaccine idea actually date way back to the late 18th century with the advent of the smallpox vaccine (way before autism was a thing). There were come Christian clergy stating that the vaccine violated religious principles because it used parts from an animal, whilst others voiced a lingering distrust for medicine, and some objected because they believe it’s a violation of personal liberties. But the World Health Organization in 1979 said smallpox had been wiped out worldwide mainly because of widespread vaccination. However, these kinds of victories are only possible if almost everyone gets vaccinated at the right time. By refusing to get vaccinated in a timely manner, it would be harder to eradicate diseases like measles and mumps.
5. Myth: Getting vaccinated is only about protecting yourself
Fact: Vaccines are mostly about keeping diseases from spreading, especially to those who don’t have strong enough immune systems to get vaccinated themselves. There’s a concept called “herd immunity” and if you haven’t heard of it, the buckle up.
Those vaccinated are basically barriers to outbreaks since diseases can’t pass through them and infect others. If enough people in the ‘herd’ are immune, then the disease will not be able to spread to enough people to thrive.
This barrier helps protect the vulnerable such as : infants under 12 months of age, who can’t get vaccinated and are more susceptible to infection; the elderly, who have a higher risk of death if they contract vaccine-treatable illnesses; and people with compromised immune systems, who can’t get vaccines and are more likely to die from the diseases vaccines protect people against.
In a nutshell, vaccines only work when almost everyone gets vaccinated because even if there are only a coupon of people who are unvaccinated, it can make it much easier for disease to spread. Vaccination is not just an individual goal, but a communal one.
6. Myth: Scientists aren’t sure that vaccines are safe
Fact: The American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, National Academy of Sciences, and World Health Organization encourage vaccination and has deemed it safe.
Though there are some rare and typically minor complications, these small side effects are nothing compared to the diseases vaccines protects us against such as smallpox, polio and measles, which have ravaged entire communities and killed millions before vaccines came about. Vaccines has also eradicated diseases like polio, smallpox, tetanus, measles, mumps and whooping cough, and the CDC has estimated that it has prevented 21 million hospitalisations and millions of death in children born between 1993 and 2014, which also saved a tonne of direct and society costs.
A Pew Research Center survey in 2014 also found that 86% of scientists with the American Association for the Advancement of Science believe that childhood vaccinations should be mandatory. So there you go.
Header image source from here.