Your Choice or the Government’s?
Earlier this year, controversy erupted over mandatory vaccines. A measles outbreak at Disneyland drove the mainstream media to portray “anti-vaxxers” (those opposed to forced vaccinations) as ignorant, paranoid, menaces to society.
Which side is right? There are two issues that deserve careful consideration: whether vaccines can potentially be harmful. And, if so, whether the government should require adults or children to receive potentially harmful vaccines in the name of public health.
As to the issue of safety, vaccines can in fact go wrong. In some cases they can cause extremely adverse side effects. You don’t have to accept any of the arguments made by opponents of forced vaccinations to recognize the risks. The government itself admits that vaccines carry serious health risks.
Beware of Vaccines With These Ingredients
The following “injuries/conditions that are presumed to be caused by vaccines” come directly from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Vaccine Injury Table:
• Vaccine containing tetanus toxoid: Anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock, brachial neuritis.
• Measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine: Anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock, encephalopathy, chronic arthritis, thrombocytopenic purpura, vaccine-strain measles viral infection.
• Hepatitis B. vaccine: Anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock.
Other vaccines also carry risks, including an annual flu shot. For example, for people with egg allergies, a flu shot can trigger an allergic reaction.
From potential allergic reactions, to mercury exposure, to contracting an infection, to confusing and weakening the immune system … vaccines are not perfectly safe. They must be understood in terms of costs and benefits. The benefits may not be as great as most people think. Getting a vaccine is not the same thing as becoming immunized.
Fact: Flu Shots Usually Aren’t Effective
When you get a flu shot, you inject an artificial version of the flu virus into your body. In response, your body rapidly produces antibodies against the flu. These antibodies can protect you from the real virus’ effects down the road. But flu shots aren’t always effective.
This year’s flu vaccine was effective for only 23% of the people who got it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Worse, the vaccine was even less effective for those who typically need it most: the elderly.
The vaccine’s poor success rate is due to influenza’s ability to mutate into genetically different strains. The virus is always at least one step ahead of the vaccine – and this year the vaccine lagged way behind.
Nevertheless, the medical community continues to recommend flu shots to everyone, especially people over age 60. The shingles vaccine is also widely recommended for people over age 60.
Children and Vaccines: A Special Concern
Many doctors and researchers have raised legitimate concerns about the safety of vaccines, especially when used in children. The typical child receives an average of 22 vaccines before he turns 18. Some researchers have tied the increased use of vaccines to neurological conditions in children, such as ADHD.
The American Academy of Pediatrics frowns upon doctors who do not march in lockstep with their list of “best practices” regarding vaccines. So even if a pediatrician has doubts about certain vaccines, he may not be willing to risk his career by voicing them. For example, thimerosal (mercury used as a preservative) in the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine may pose health risks that a doctor won’t mention.
It is up to patients and parents to insist on nonmercury based vaccines.
Vaccines World Travelers May Need
When you travel abroad to exotic places, you may be exposed to exotic diseases. Certain diseases that are practically unheard of in the States, are common in regions of Asia, Africa, or South America. Advise your doctor of your travel plans and she may suggest getting one or more vaccines before you go.
Routine shots may include measles/mumps/rubella (MMR), diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT), and polio vaccines. Doctors will recommend a Hepatitis B shot to those who might have any “foreign” sexual contact abroad! Other inoculations will vary depending on your destination.
• For eastern Asian nations, you may want to get a shot for Japanese encephalitis, a little-known disease that kills 20-30% of those it afflicts.
• Malaria is prevalent throughout the Third World. Even in countries close by, such as Mexico. This disease causes one million deaths per year, so you should consider ways of reducing your risk.
• Rabies shots are recommended in Africa and Central and South America where canine rabies is a severe problem. Rabies is almost always fatal if not treated.
• Typhoid, yellow fever, and cholera vaccines are worth considering if you’re traveling to Africa, South America, or certain parts of Asia.
• Many countries in central Africa are afflicted by meningitis. You may need to get the applicable vaccine if venturing into this region of the world.
Check with the Centers for Disease Control for the latest health concerns affecting your destination(s) in the days before you depart. And always consult your doctor to get her medical opinion on any inoculations that you may (or may not) need.
Toward Clear Thinking on the Vaccine Controversy
Despite their drawbacks, vaccines have saved millions of lives worldwide. Most side effects are minor. But whenever foreign substances are injected into your body, there is always a risk, however slight, that something could go majorly wrong. Vaccines-gone-wrong can lead to infections and, in rare instances, paralysis or even death. Moreover, the long-term effects of vaccines on the immune system are not fully known.
While there may be legitimate public health concerns in allowing people to refuse vaccinations for contagious diseases, forced vaccinations carry risks of their own to both health and liberty. Beware of people who come at you with a one-sided agenda – either pro-vaccination or anti-vaccination.
Because when it comes to your health, you need to carefully consider both the advantages and disadvantages before making a decision on which vaccines, if any, to get.