Vaccines cause Adults
Amid this coronavirus pandemic , it was hugely disappointing to read last week that the multi-talented (and usually super intelligent political lyricist) M.I.A has essentially declared herself an ‘anti-vaxxer’. At a time when hundreds of scientists are working all hours of the day and night to create a vaccine that could save billions of lives around the world, anti-vaccine posts on a platform of millions of followers is not only a kick in the teeth, but plain irresponsible.
However, the parent side of me can understand the confusion regarding vaccines, given the wealth of contradictory information available at our fingertips and the growing group of 'anti-vaxxers' on social media.
'You only see your doctor a few times a year, but you can spend all day online''
Read on for all you need to know about vaccines and why they are important not only for yourselves / your children, but society as a whole.
How do vaccines work? Back to basics..
“Vaccines are a like a wanted poster, they just show your body what the bad guys look like, so when faced with them for real you are ready, prepared, and able to stop them before they cause harm.”
A vaccine introduces to the body a weakened or inactive form of the disease. This stimulates the body’s immune system to produce antibodies specific to the disease, in order to attack it. If the body is then exposed to this disease in the future, it remembers this and has antibodies prepared to fight it; avoiding the illness and its complications. Simple? You would think.
Why are people against vaccines?
Unfortunately, aided by social media, there is debate from various groups surrounding the safety and efficacy of vaccines, resulting in some parents deciding not to vaccinate themselves or their children. The World Health Organisation has listed vaccine hesitancy as one of the top threats to global health.
Lets explore some of these concerns and myths that surround vaccination :
1. 'Vaccines cause autism'
This is something you may have heard specifically related to the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella ) vaccine.
Sometimes you have groups of people whose opinions you can easily ignore ( I see you Flat Earth Society. 👀 I mean...really guys? We have PHOTOS) . Sometimes strong opinions come from 'credible' sources, causing almost irreparable damage.
In 1998, a study published in the Lancet by British gastroenterologist Dr Andrew Wakefield suggested a link between autism and the MMR vaccine. On further inspection, it was found that Dr Wakefield had falsified his data for financial gain, and his co authors withdrew their support of his findings. The article was retracted and he was later struck off and barred from practising medicine in the UK. Sadly, the damage was done. The study caused an international decline in vaccination rates, resulting in serious illness and death. Although there have since been multiple, much larger studies disproving the link between MMR and austism, this myth is still perpetuated online with the support of celebrity anti-vaxxers. In 2019, the Western World once again saw a Measles outbreak, a serious disease which had been eliminated by the vaccine. Parents accessing wrong information online and not vaccinating their children was found to be one of the main reasons behind this.
The development of a vaccine undergoes vigorous research and clinical trials before it is available for use. Although there can be side effects, these are usually rare and mild. In the UK, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) monitor for these side effects on a continuous basis.
2. 'Some of these diseases don't exist anymore, so I don't need to vaccinate my child against them '
Another reason for last year's measles outbreak. The reason these disease don't show themselves anymore is BECAUSE of the vaccines. If less and less people are immune to it due to not vaccinating, these diseases can spread again and cause an outbreak. (Google 'Polio' images to see for yourself life before vaccines).
Herd Immunity : You may have heard this phrase due to the current pandemic. This is the concept that when the majority of people in a society are immune, the disease is unlikely to spread and infect those that are not able to get vaccinated due to underlying health conditions/ allergies. So by being vaccinated you are not only protecting yourself, but also the vulnerable members of society who cannot protect themselves.
3. 'Vaccines are not natural'
Whilst this is essentially true, it does not make them harmful. Acquiring natural immunity by getting the actual disease, as opposed to a weak or dead form via a vaccine, can cause serious complications or death.
4. 'Vaccines cause disease'
It has been proven in clinical trials that the dose and weakened/inactivated form of ingredients used in vaccines do not cause serious illness, and it is much safer to get vaccinated than not.
5. 'Too many vaccines in one go can overwhelm the immune system'
Studies have shown that multiple vaccines do not overwhelm or weaken the immune system and can be safely given in one go. By grouping vaccines in one go, it causes less distress to the patient (compared to multiple injections ) and protects the patient sooner rather than later.
6. 'This is all a big ploy by 'Big Pharma''
This is the notion that vaccines are nothing but a profit making exercise for the big pharmaceutical companies. This is up there with 'vaccines cause autism' as the most frequently sprouted reason by anti-vaxxers. And who can blame them? Pharmaceutical companies have been known for their questionable practices and ruthless profit chasing. But the fact remains that vaccines work, and we literally can't live without them. They know this, we know this. Let's just accept it, focus on our health and let them enjoy the wealth. After all, nothing worth having comes for free.
My take ...
Before I became a mother, I was always on the science side. Has it been researched and found to be safe? Sure, hit me with it. However, despite knowledge and experience , there can be something slightly anxiety-inducing as a new mum to be taking your tiny baby into a doctor's clinic and having them injected with 'chemicals', knowing they will likely feel unwell afterwards (albeit for a few days). This is coming from someone who spends the majority of their time inside one of these clinics, so I can only imagine what non medical parents go through. Plus that thing babies do when they cry whilst making eye contact with you...who taught them that? Guilt level 💯
However, you have to look at the bigger picture when it comes to your health/ the health of a child/ the vulnerable in our society. If it's between trusting experts that dedicate their lives to scientific research or tweets from discredited doctors, influencer mums and rappers, I'm choosing the former. You?