The vaccine controversy is the dispute over the morality, ethics, effectiveness, and /or safety of vaccinations. The medical and scientific evidence is that the benefits of preventing suffering and death from infectious diseases outweigh rare adverse effects of immunization. Since vaccination began in the late 18th century, opponents have claimed that vaccines do not work, that they are or may be dangerous, that individuals should rely on personal hygiene instead, or that mandatory vaccinations violate individual rights or religious principles.
And since then, successful campaigns against vaccinations have resulted in unnecessary injuries and mass death. Vaccines may cause side effects, and the success of immunization programs depend on public confidence for their safety. Concerns about immunization safety often follow a pattern: some investigators suggest that a medical condition in an adverse effect of vaccination; a premature announcement is made of the alleged side effect; the initial study is not reproduced by other groups; and finally, it takes several years to regain public confidence in the vaccine.
In this paper I will be explaining several areas of the vaccine controversy: 1. The history of vaccinations and effectiveness 2. Why some parents are against immunizations 3. What are the findings Vaccination became widespread in the United Kingdom in the early 1800’s. Before that, religious arguments against inoculation (the placement of something that will grow or reproduce) were advanced. In a 1772 a sermon entitled “The Dangerous and Sinful Practice of Inoculation”, the English theologian Rev.
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Edmund Massey argued that diseases are sent by God to punish sin and that any attempt to prevent small pox via inoculation is a “diabolical operation”. Some anti – vaccinationists still base their stance against vaccination with reference to their religious beliefs. Public policy and successive Vaccination Acts first encouraged vaccination and then made it mandatory for all infants in 1853, with the highest penalty for refusal being a prison sentence. This was a significant change in the relationship between the British state and its citizens causing public backlash.
After an 1867 law extended the requirement age to fourteen years, its opponents focused concern on infringement of individual freedom, and eventually a law in 1898 allowed for objection to vaccination. In the United States, President Thomas Jefferson took a close interest in vaccination, alongside Dr. Waterhouse, chief physician at Boston. Jefferson encouraged the development of ways to transport vaccine material through the Southern states, which included measures to avoid damage by heat, a leading cause of ineffective batches.
Smallpox outbreaks were contained by a latter half of the 19th century, a development widely attributed to vaccination of a large portion of the population. Vaccinations rates after this decline in smallpox cases, and the disease again became epidemic in late 19th century. At this point in the 19th century, anti-vaccination activity increased in the U. S. Mass vaccination helped eradicate smallpox, which once killed as many as one in every seventh child in Europe. Vaccination has almost eradicated polio.
As a more modest example, incidence of invasive disease with Haemophilus influenzae, a major cause of bacterial meningitis, and other serious disease in children has decreased by over 99% in the U. S. since the introduction of a vaccine in 1988. Fully vaccinating all U. S. children born in a given year from birth to adolescence saves an estimated 14 million infections. Some vaccine critics claim that there have never been any benefits to public health from vaccination.
They argue that all the reduction of communicable diseases which were rampant in conditions where overcrowding, poor sanitation, almost non-existent hygiene, and a yearly period of very restricted diet existed are reduced because of changes in conditions excepting vaccination. Other critics argue that immunity given by vaccines is only temporarily and requires boosters, whereas those who survive the disease become permanently immune. Lack of complete vaccine coverage increases the risk of disease for the entire population, including those who have been vaccinated, because it reduces herd immunity.
For example, measles targets children between the ages of 9 and 12 months, and the short window between the disappearance of maternal antibody (before which the vaccine often fails to seroconvert) and natural infection means that vaccinated children frequently are still vulnerable. Herd immunity lessens this vulnerability, if all the children are vaccinated. Increasing herd immunity during an outbreak or threatened outbreak is the most widely accepted justification for mass vaccination. Mass vaccination also helps to increase coverage rapidly, thus obtaining herd immunity, when a new vaccine is introduced.
Commonly used vaccines are a cost – effective and preventive way of promoting good health, compared to the cost of treatment of acute or chronic diseases. In the U. S. during the year 2001, routine childhood immunizations against seven diseases were estimated to save over $40 billion per year, overall social costs including $10 billion in direct health costs, and the societal benefit – cost ratio for these vaccinations was estimated to be $16. 5 billion. In several countries reductions in the use of some vaccines was followed by increases in the diseases morbidity and morality.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, continued high levels of vaccine coverage are necessary to prevent resurgence of disease which had been eliminated. Few deny the vast improvements vaccination has made to the public health. They are more concerned with the safety of vaccines. All vaccines may cause side effects, and immunization safety is a huge concern. Controversies in this area revolve around the question of whether the risks of perceived adverse effects following immunization outweigh the benefit of preventing adverse effects of common diseases.
There is scientific evidence that in rare cases immunizations can cause adverse effects, such as oral polio vaccine causing paralysis however, current scientific evidence does not support the hypothesis of causation for more common disorders such as autism. Although the hypotheses that vaccines cause autism are biologically implausible, it would be hard to study scientifically whether autism is less common in children who do not follow recommended vaccination schedules, because an experiment based on withholding vaccines from children would be unethical.
Another concern of parents regarding the safety of vaccines is the thought that vaccine overload will weaken a child’s immune system and can lead to adverse side effects. Although scientific evidence does not support and even contradicts this idea, many parent especially parents of autistic children, firmly believe that vaccine overload causes autism. However, the idea of vaccine overload does not stand for several reasons. First of all, vaccines do not overwhelm the immune system. In fact, scientists believe that the immune system can respond to thousands of viruses simultaneously.
Also, despite the number of increase in the number of vaccines over recent decades, improvements in vaccine design have reduced the immunologic load from vaccines, such that the number of immunological components in the fourteen vaccines administered in the U. S. to children is less than 10% of what it was in the seven vaccines given in 1980. Vaccines constitutes only a tiny fraction of the pathogens naturally encountered by a child in a typical year and common childhood conditions such as fevers and middle ear infections pose a much greater challenge to the immune system than vaccines do.
Second, studies have shown that vaccinations, and even multiple concurrent vaccinations, do not weaken the immune system, or compromise overall immunity. Other safety concerns about vaccines have been published on the Internet, in informal meetings, in books, and at symposia. These include hypotheses that vaccination can cause sudden infant death syndrome, epileptic seizures, allergies, multiple sclerosis, and autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, as well as hypotheses that vaccination can transmit bovine spongiform encephalopathy, Hepatitis C, and HIV.
These hypotheses have all been investigated with the conclusions that currently used vaccines meet high safety standards, and that the criticism of vaccine safety in the popular press are not justified. Finally, there is no evidence of an immune-system role in autism. The lack of evidence supporting the vaccine overload hypotheses, combined with these findings directly contradicting it, have led to the conclusion that currently recommended vaccines programs do not overload or weaken the immune systems and are a greater benefit than a risk to children.
I am a mother of 2 healthy boys, as a parent I have made the choice to have my children vaccinated against all diseases except H1N1. I did not have my children vaccinated against H1N1 for personal reasons. However, from the time of both of their births they have been vaccinated with all the immunizations as directed by their doctor and I have never had any issues with their health. I am a true believer that the benefits of immunizations out weigh the risks.
The research I found while writing this paper backs up and supports everything I have ever believed about immunizations since the birth of my first child fifteen years ago. I would recommend to all new parents to vaccinate their children. Of course I do understand that there are side effects of immunizations shots, the most common one I have dealt with my children is a mild fever and maybe mild bruising in the area of the injection however, I would much rather deal with a mild fever for a day than the thought of my child catching a deadly disease.
Adams, M (2003). Health Library The Immunization Controversy: Should Your Child Be Immunized? http://www.healthlibrary.epnet.com
Salive, ME (1997). Healing Arts Children’s Vaccines: Research on Risks for Children from Vaccine http://www.healing-arts.org/children/vaccines
Gervais, Roger (2007). Natural Life Magazine Understanding the Vaccine Controversy http://www.naturallifemagazine.com/naturalparenting/vaccines
Center for Disease Control and Prevention Possible Side Effects from Vaccines http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/side-effects
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