The anti-vaccination (anti-vax) angle recommends rejecting vaccinations against illnesses. An anti-vax person may elect not to accept one vaccine or may reject all vaccinations.
An anti-vax parent may as well choose not to allow vaccination of their child.
The related term “vaccine hesitancy” depicts an individual who is hesitant to administer vaccines but is eager to consider the benefits and risks and may eventually decide to vaccinate after all.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recognized vaccine resistance or reluctance as one of the top ten threats to worldwide health in 2019.
Vaccines at the moment prevent an estimated 3 million deaths worldwide per year, according to the WHO, mostly among children.
If vaccination becomes universally accepted, WHO estimates an additional 1.5 million deaths could be prevented annually.
There has been resistance to vaccination since the treatment method was discovered in the eighteenth century.
The first vaccine is credited to Edward Jenner in the early 1800s, although he was not the first to suggest the concept of vaccination.
Jenner, an English physician, and scientist, effectively created the first smallpox vaccine after he noticed milkmaids who were exposed to cowpox (a virus related to smallpox typically seen in cows) did not contract smallpox.
Smallpox survivors were also known to be immune to the disease, so Jenner exposed non-immune people to cowpox rather than the potentially deadly smallpox to induce immunity to smallpox.
People opposed smallpox vaccination for a variety of reasons, including fear about the process (putting lymph from someone who is sick into an open wound of an infected person),
the belief that the vaccine is “unchristian” because it came from an animal, distrust in medicine and incorrect assumptions about how disease spreads (some believed that smallpox was caused by decaying matter in the atmosphere), and belief that vaccination violated their liberty.
In 1853, the Vaccination Act required mandatory smallpox vaccination for infants up to 3 months old and was extended to children up to 14 years old in 1867.
People immediately protested the laws and demanded the right to control their bodies and those of their children.
As a direct result, the Anti-Vaccination League and Anti-Compulsory Vaccination League formed.
Vaccine opposition led to the formation of a commission to study vaccination. In 1896, the commission ruled that vaccination did protect against smallpox, but it suggested removing the failure to vaccinate penalties.
This led to the Vaccination Act of 1898, which removed penalties for not vaccinating and added a clause about the conscientious objector, which allowed individuals who did not believe in vaccination to get an exemption certificate.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, smallpox outbreaks led to vaccination campaigns and anti-vaccine protests, and more anti-vaccination groups are forming.
More information about the history of vaccines can be found at https://www.historyofvaccines.org.
The anti-vax movement gained a lot of momentum in the last 20 years due to a study conducted by Andrew Wakefield and published in The Lancet in 1998.
This now-retracted and debunked paper became infamous for suggesting that the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccination is linked to autism in children.
The article was retracted because Wakefield, who had his medical license revoked, falsified his data.
Many subsequent studies involving hundreds of thousands of children have found no link between the MMR vaccine and the occurrence of autism.
HOW VACCINES AND HERD IMMUNITY WORK
Vaccines expose you to a dead, weakened, partial, synthesized, or recombinant virus or bacteria, so your immune system may learn to recognize it and prepare defenses against it before you are exposed to the actual, potentially dangerous virus or bacteria.
This helps prevent you from getting sick because if you are exposed to a virus or bacteria after getting vaccinated, your immune system will recognize and destroy it.
Although it is less likely, you may still get sick after being vaccinated, but the sickness should be less severe than if you weren’t vaccinated.
Getting vaccinated protects not only yourself but also protects everyone around you and the community in general, which is why vaccination is an effective public health measure.
By protecting yourself from getting sick, you have a decreased chance of getting the disease and spreading it to others around you.
If enough people in the general population get vaccinated, then the likelihood of an infection spreading through the community is significantly lowered.
This is called “herd immunity,” where most of the population gets vaccinated and protects the people who cannot get vaccinated due to illness or a compromised immune system.
To have a certain percentage of the population vaccinated is the only way to protect the vulnerable people who cannot get vaccinated.
Without sufficient herd immunity, diseases can quickly spread through the people and cause outbreaks.
ANTI-VACCINATION AND DISEASE OUTBREAKS
The reduction in vaccination rates caused by the anti-vax movement has led to outbreaks of preventable diseases because of insufficient herd immunity.
This has been seen many times throughout the world. It has been making news headlines recently in the United States as the largest measles outbreak in 25 years is currently ongoing.
As of August 15, 2019, there have been 1,203 measles cases reported in the United States, according to the CDC.
There has also been a recent mumps outbreak in the United States, which began in 2015.
According to the CDC, over 6,000 mumps cases were reported during 2016 and 2017, dropping to 2,250 cases reported in 2018 in the United States.
As of July 19, 2019, there have been 1,799 reported mumps cases in the United States, according to the CDC.
These outbreaks are directly related to the fear caused by Wakefield’s 1998 paper.
ARGUMENTS AGAINST VACCINATION
Although each person has their point of view, there are a few common misconceptions held by people who choose not to vaccinate:
- Vaccines cause autism: This belief comes directly from the fraudulent Wakefield paper and has sparked multitudes of large-scale clinical studies into the potential link between the MMR vaccine and autism. There is no evidence that vaccines may cause autism.
- Vaccines contain dangerous chemicals: While some vaccines contain aluminum salts, most vaccines do not contain mercury-based preservatives (such as thimerosal). Only the multi-dose flu vaccine contains thimerosal. Aluminum salts are in vaccines because they are needed to boost the body’s response, making the vaccine more effective and giving you better protection against disease. The amount of aluminum in vaccines is small, and you likely ingest aluminum salts daily from things such as drinking water, antiperspirants, or medicines (like antacids or buffered aspirin). Other vaccine contents include stabilizers (sugars, which are found in many foods and is naturally made in your body, and gelatin, which is located in certain foods like Jello), residual cell culture materials from production (egg protein, which is also found in eggs and foods containing eggs), and residual inactivating ingredients from production (formaldehyde, which is located in trace amounts in vaccines and is a natural byproduct of metabolism in your body).
- Insufficient research has been done on vaccines: This idea shows a misunderstanding of the drug-approval process. There have to be lots of rigorous testing to get a drug to market, first in laboratories on cells and animals (pre-clinical testing), then there are numerous human tests (Phase 1, 2, and 3 clinical trials). After this, the drug has to be approved by the FDA, which scrutinizes the data and establishes if the drug is sufficiently safe and effective. Vaccines must be licensed for use in the United States before they can be given to US patients. Even if it is approved for use in other countries, it must go through an acceptance process before it is available in the United States.
- The extra vaccines at once can overwhelm a child’s immune system: Combination vaccines (such as the MMR vaccine) were once three separate vaccines because they were developed at different times. They were combined into one vaccine because it reduced the number of necessary injections, reduced costs, and increased vaccination rates (by making it easier to get vaccinated) while maintaining the safety and efficacy of each vaccine. Every day, your immune system is exposed to many different types of viruses and bacteria through the air, the surfaces you touch, the food you eat, etc. Research has shown that giving a combination vaccine or giving multiple vaccines simultaneously does not overwhelm your immune system. It is done to make vaccination easier and more convenient.
- Vaccine injury is common: Like any drug or medicine, vaccines have risks and possible side effects. While vaccine injury does occur, it is sporadic—about one serious problem per million vaccines given.
- You can’t sue vaccine manufacturers for making kids sick: the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, passed in 1986, made it much easier to report and compensate children who have suffered from vaccine injuries. This act also established the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) through the US Department of Health and Human Services, where people are encouraged to report any adverse events significant side effects) That happens in children and adults after vaccination, even if you are unsure if the vaccine caused the adverse event. Overwhelmingly, the most common reactions from injected vaccines include pain or tenderness, swelling, or redness at the injection site, which usually doesn’t last longer than two days.
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