I was mistakenly under the impression that, at least in my social circles, the whole vaccination issue had been put completely to rest, but based on the number of serious questions that I’ve been asked recently, this unfortunately does not seem to be the case.
For those of you who don’t have time, I’ll cut to the chase immediately:
Yes, you simply must vaccinate your children. This is the best and safest choice, for both your child and your fellow humans.
No, there is no link between vaccination and autism. No, spreading out the (MMR) vaccinations is not safer, it is in fact more dangerous. Also, the “vaccine overload” hypothesis is flawed.
For those of you with a bit more time or those of you who are not willing to take me on my word, I’ll go into some more detail on each of the points mentioned above. Most of what I write here is based on articles in the Wikipedia. I’ve deliberately done this, because these articles are accessible and readable to everyone, and they do link to the original scientific articles that they are based on. Feel free to jump to any section. Also, each section ends with a short summary of its contents to make it easier for you to skip.
This section is based on the Wikipedia article on the MMR vaccine controversy.
In 1998, Andre Wakefield and co-authors published a paper in the Lancet where, based on 12 case reports, they speculated on a possible link between the MMR vaccination and autism, and also speculated that it might be better to space out the vaccinations. Of course the press and media picked this up and went completely wild, causing a health scare in the UK. It is important to note that both of these claims were highly speculative.
It later turned out that Wakefield had received 55000 (fifty-five thousand) UK pounds from Legal Aid Board solicitors who were gathering evidence to use in a case against vaccine manufacturers, and that a number of parents of the children taking part in Wakefield’s study were directly involved in the law-suit. Wakefield did not mention any of this at the time of publication. Ten of his 12 co-authors have since completely retracted their interpretation of the paper.
In short, the author of the paper that started most of the modern vaccination-autism scare was completely corrupt, and his corruption directly affected this specific research.
He did manage to cause such a scare in the UK, that measles (one of the diseases that MMR vaccinates against) is for the first time in decades at almost epidemic levels. Since then, there have been cases of measles killing children, something which would most probably not have happened had the vaccination compliance not been at an all-time low. Isn’t that absolutely crazy when one considers that measles was all but eradicated?
In the years between 1998 and the present, there have been numerous extremely well-designed and large studies, none of which have been able to find any kind of link between vaccination and autism.
To summarise this section: The research that the vaccination scare is based on, was deeply flawed and based on corruption, not science.
Spreading out of vaccines
This section is based on the Wikipedia article on the general Vaccine Controversy.
In some cases, parents opt for spreading out the vaccinations, because they mistakenly think that this is safer than not doing so. The flawed idea that administering all these vaccines together could be dangerous is called the “vaccine overload hypothesis”. It is flawed for the reasons:
- Common childhood ilnesses represent a much heavier load on the infant immune system.
- The vaccination cocktail given currently represents less than 10% of the immunological load of the vaccinations given to children in the 80s.
- Numerous studies have shown that the combination of vaccinations does NOT damage the infant immune system.
Importantly, if you spread out vaccines, you increase the time during which your child is susceptible to the diseases that are being vaccinated again, thus greatly increasing the health risk to your child and all other children it comes into contact with. You are a bad parent if you do this.
To summarise this section: Administering the vaccinations together does not damage your child’s immune system. Spreading out vaccines is dangerous for both your child and all children it comes into contact with.
Celebrities campaigning against vaccination
Recently, a number of celebrities, most prominent of which Jenny McCarthy and her partner Jim Carrey, supported by Oprah, have been campaigning against vaccination. You have to remember that these are actors and entertainers, with almost ZERO medical or scientific background or training. McCarthy dropped out of nursing school to become a Playboy Bunny: There’s nothing wrong with that, but you really cannot base important medical decisions, concerning the health and survival of your child (!!), on the opinions of an erstwhile nude model!
To summarise: Think carefully about the scientific and medical backgrounds of actors telling you how to care for the health and well-being of your child, even more so when it concerns life and death issues such as vaccination.
The logical conclusion
To the best of our scientific knowledge, vaccinations as they are administered today are safe and do not cause autism. In spite of this, research continues day and night to make sure of this observation.
On the other hand, if you don’t vaccinate, the risk of your child getting ill and dying is significantly higher. If a large enough number of you don’t vaccinate, we lose our herd immunity and then there is a very real risk that many more of our children will get ill and die due to your inaction. Do you seriously want to take this very real risk with your and my children’s lives?
I hope that this has helped. If there are any issues that are not clear, or missing, or you are not convinced, please let me know so that we can discuss and so that I can improve this article.
- Brilliant comic explaining how the corrupt Andrew Wakefield managed to cause this whole debacle.
- Article in Slate criticising Oprah’s support of Jenny McCarthy.
- Popular article in the Guardian’s Observer about spreading out vaccines.
- Clear statement by the NHS on why there is no reason to offer MMR vaccine in a spaced / spread out fashion, and that spreading out is in fact dangerous.
- July 25, 2012: Whooping Cough incidence in Washington State is up by 1300% in 2012 relative to 2011, most probably due to the anti-vaccination movement.