Unless you live under a rock, you've most likely heard of this debate that seems to be sweeping the nation in recent years – the debate about whether or not to vaccinate your children against once-common diseases like the chicken pox and measles. When vaccines were first invented they were hailed as a glorious way of avoiding many common ailments that can be very dangerous and even cost people their lives.
Apparently, the anti-vaccine movement first rose up in response to a study in the late 1990s that linked the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine, with autism. Now it seems to be a fact that everyone's heard of, even if they don't know the study – don't vaccinate your children because they'll get autism. But is it accurate? Supposedly, follow-up found that this study was rife with inaccuracies and false data, but it spawned an age of more research and more studies revealing all the harms of vaccines. The anti-vaccine movement isn't just limited to the MMR vaccine anymore, and opponents of the disease prevention technique call out the consequences of everything from the flu to chicken pox to HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccines. So what are these people saying?
- Vaccines have toxins. The movement claims that vaccines carry toxins and carcinogens like thimerosal and aluminum, formaldehyde, and polysorbate 80, which are linked to a number of health consequences and can affect children's immune systems and neurological functioning.
- They don't go through enough testing. Some people say that some of the ingredients in these vaccines (such as the toxins) aren't studied enough for their consequences and that the safety and effectiveness for certain populations (such as pregnant women and nursing mothers) have not been established.
- They are unnecessary. In some cases and for some vaccines, opponents insist that it's ok for children to get sick with diseases like the chicken pox or measles and that they can just "wait it out" at home as if they had a less serious illness. After all, that's what people did before vaccines were invented. The benefit is that after the children get better, they'll have immunity to the disease and won't be able to get sick again.
- They don't work. Many in the anti-vaccine movement cite studies that say that rates of diseases like the flu, the measles, and the chicken pox are on the rise and it's because the vaccines aren't doing their job.
Most doctors do not belong to the anti-vaccine movement, and it's because they have seen rates of these diseases drop thanks to vaccines that they say are very well studied and thoroughly researched before they ever make it onto the market. They say that "waiting it out" doesn't always work and that children could easily die from these illnesses if they are not protected against them early on in life. They also point out that the reason rates of these diseases are on the rise is not because of their ineffectiveness but rather because of the vocalization of the anti-vaccine movement from "fear mongers" who have insisted that parents not vaccinate their children.
Whether you choose to vaccinate your children is up to you. But before you take your friends' word for it, or even your doctor's, do your own research. And look at your sources. Are you reading from reliable websites? What are these articles' sources? Try reading the actual studies that were published by the scientific community so you know that whatever decision you come up with is an intelligent one. You can get started by clicking on the links under "sources" below to get two very different, comprehensive opinions.
About the Author:
Iris Stone has worked as a freelance writer since 2011. Her writing has included content on medicine, healthcare, and education, although her interests are wide and varied. Prior to breaking into the freelance biz, Iris worked in sales for a health company and prior to that as an assistant in a chiropractic office. She is currently attending George Mason University and is majoring in Political Science. Check out her Google+ profile.