By KRISTEN GOLEMBIEWSKI, Opinions Editor
Over the break, I attended a party where somehow, the topic turned to vaccines. Many of those in attendance seemed to hold the idea that vaccines were not only dangerous, but they were unnecessary.
“I mean honestly, how often do you hear of people getting rubella?” one guest asked, laughing. “Nobody gets that anymore!” Others nodded in agreement, and it seemed that the attitude was that because they had not heard of anyone in 21st century America contracting an “outdated” disease, that they did not need to vaccinate their children because the chance of that child catching something was slim to none.
It was hard for me not to laugh.
Other general sentiments expressed included that vaccines caused autism/brain damage/mental illness, the idea that vaccines were the government’s way of controlling the people (this one might have been the alcohol talking), and that because you don’t know what is in a vaccine, you should not put it in your body.
I found all of these opinions ignorant. I’m always extremely skeptical when someone produces a conspiracy theory that something gives you a certain disease, because just about anything can kill you. Secondly, if the government wanted to control the “sheeple,” they would do something that would affect everyone. Not everyone gets vaccines because not everyone can afford to take their child to the doctor. So they’d be missing a significant part of the population. And thirdly, while people freak out about ingredients or aluminum, I like to direct them to the label of their antiperspirant, whose active ingredient is aluminum. Not to mention that we eat things on a daily basis with ingredients so long and complex few of us ever read the label. So really, none of these arguments were holding up for me.
But, in order to truly know thine enemy, I did quick Google search on why people do not believe in vaccines.
I came across a Q&A from TIME with Dr. Paul Offit, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. In 2011, he published a book titled “Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All.”
I learned that the anti-vaccination movement is growing, and because of communities where the idea is especially prevalent, you do have communities where outbreaks happen. For example, the article mentions a whooping-cough epidemic in California that was the “largest in more than 40 years.” He goes on to explain that part of why people distrust vaccines so much is that they are mandatory. People tend to rebel against being told they must do something, especially when it comes from the government. But is that a good enough reason to endanger yourself and others?
I certainly don’t think so.
The article also mentions that Andrew Wakefield, “who published a study linking the measles mumps rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism in 1998 — has not only been disgraced for bad science; he was also convicted of fraud and of accepting a large sum of money from a personal-injury firm.” Not only that, but he was wrong.
Unfortunately, the damage has been done. Based on just this one article, I see two motivators for the anti-vaccine movement: childlike rebelliousness, and ignorance.
So I then moved on to looking for what is actually in vaccines.
The Center for Disease control website (www.cdc.gov) features a handy chart which lists every ingredient in just about every vaccine you can think of. They preface all of this by explaining the basics of what those multi-syllable ingredients mean, and it boils down to “a suspending fluid (sterile water, saline, or fluids containing protein); preservatives and stabilizers (for example, albumin, phenols, and glycine); and adjuvants or enhancers that help improve the effectiveness of the vaccine. Vaccines also may contain very small amounts of the culture material used to grow the virus or bacteria used in the vaccine, such as chicken egg protein.”
Considering how many vaccines are administered per year, yeah, you’re going to want to make sure that they are sterile and safe. Everything that is in a vaccine is in there for a reason. Not only that, but the amount of chemical additives is pretty small because the amount of vaccination fluid you receive is very small. Although I could not find how many ounces of fluid is in the shot, it cannot possibly be that much.
Ultimately, that Google search helped confirm the ideas I had before looking for more information. One, people who chose not to vaccinate themselves or their children are selfish. Vaccinations are required for a reason, and it is simply selfish to endanger others because you are afraid. Two, most of these fears are unfounded and quite honestly, a bit ignorant. And three, you can easily find out what is in those vaccines, and since the amounts of preservatives and chemicals are so small, you are probably more likely to get Alzheimer’s or something from the aluminum in your deodorant.
Of course, you do not have to believe me and it’s incredibly likely that this article did not change anyone’s mind. That’s fine. Just don’t come cryin’ to me when your child has whooping cough, or rubella, or polio, or some other “outdated” disease you were too ignorant to vaccinate against.