Vaccines: The Real Risk vs. The Real Benefit

Most Americans today have no concept of the terror generated by polio throughout the first half of the 20th century. During epidemics, newspapers and magazines displayed adorable children struggling to walk in braces or entombed in iron lungs, but the disease mostly fell off the national radar after it was eliminated from the country in 1979. In the past few years, however, polio has begun creeping back into headlines.

Research has soundly disproved the alleged connection, yet fears about vaccines continue to be a major risk to public health.

A new wave of fear is currently based on a documentary, “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe”. The premise of the film is that the mandatory measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine – when given to children under age 2 – may be leading to an epidemic of autism diagnoses.

Many well-intentioned, but misguided voices are shouting “to the highest mountaintop”, sounding the alarm, and cautioning some parents to refuse to vaccinate their children.

What seems to be conveniently left out is that the Director of the film is none other than Andrew Wakefield. That name doesn’t ring a bell?

The original study that raised the issue on the connection between vaccines and autism was Wakefield, who at the time was a medical doctor. He published a study in 1998, in the journal the Lancet, and involved only 12 patients who, after receiving the MMR vaccine, suffered ill effects that appeared ( not diagnosed) to be autism. Not only was it found that he was “hired” by a law firm that was planning to sue a pharmaceutical company, but in an unprecedented move in the 100-year history of the Lancet, the article was retracted, with a formal apology. Needless to say, Wakefield lost his license to practice medicine. Guess he needed to find a way to make a living, so why not become a filmmaker?

I could go on, but the unfortunate truth is that, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on”.

But, as I stated earlier, most people don’t know what happens to a child that is stricken with one of the diseases that vaccinations prevent.

Diphtheria is a disease that attacks the throat and heart. It can lead to heart failure and death. Tetanus is also called “lockjaw.” It can lead to severe muscle spasms and death. Pertussis (also called “whooping cough”) causes severe coughing that makes it hard to breathe, eat, and drink. It can lead to pneumonia, convulsions, brain damage, and death. The measles cause fever, rash, cough, runny nose, and watery eyes. It can also cause ear infections and pneumonia. Measles can also lead to more serious problems, such as brain swelling and even death. The mumps cause fever, headache, and painful swelling of one or both major saliva glands. Mumps can lead to meningitis (infection of the coverings of the brain and spinal cord) and, very rarely, to brain swelling. In some rare cases, it can cause the testicles of boys or men to swell, which can make them unable to have children.

There is simply no scientific evidence that links vaccines to autism. Many, many, many studies have confirmed this. Since 2003, there have been nine CDC-funded or conducted studies that have found no link between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism, as well as no link between the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism in children. The most recent Cochrane systematic review of research on the MMR vaccine included six self-controlled case series studies, two ecological studies, one case crossover trial, five-time series trials, 17 case-control studies, 27 cohort studies and five randomized controlled trials. More than 15 million children took part in this research. No one could find evidence that vaccines are associated with autism.

Many parents object to vaccines because they believe so many vaccines to an immature immune system can cause harm. All the major health organizations currently recommend that infants and children be vaccinated against 14 communicable diseases. For children who fall into a high-risk category, there are even more vaccines available. What this means is, starting at birth; most children will receive about 29 vaccines by the age of 6. By the age of 2, most children will receive approximately 24.

In the journal, Pediatrics in 2002, Dr. Paul Offit and his colleagues estimated that infants could respond to about 10,000 vaccines at any one time. The vaccine we get could never “use up” the immune system. It is thought that 11 vaccines at once might put about 0.1 percent of the immune system into action. A child most likely fights off 2,000 to 6,000 antigens every day from the environment.

Yes, we’re giving more shots, but a child’s immune system has to do far less work to respond to them than in the past.

There is one undisputed fact regarding vaccines. Vaccines are drugs and no drug available on earth is considered 100% safe. However, most childhood vaccines are 90% to 99% effective in preventing disease.

Parents, ultimately, have the freedom of choice, in most cases, to decline vaccinations for their children.

It all boils down to RISK vs. BENEFIT…

Remember, I’m not a doctor. I just sound like one. Take good care of yourself and live the best life possible!

The information included in this column is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. Glenn Ellis is a Health Advocacy/Communications Specialist. He is the author of Which Doctor?, and Information is the Best Medicine. A health columnist and radio commentator who lectures, nationally and internationally on health related topics, Ellis is an active media contributor on Health Equity and Medical Ethics. Listen to Glenn, every Saturday at 9:00am (EST) on www.900amwurd.com, and Sundays at 8:30am (EST) on www.wdasfm.com. For more good health information, visit: www.glennellis.commost