Parents only want the best for their child, be it as general as a good environment to grow up in or as specific as health. I grew up knowing that quite a number of deadly diseases could easily be cured through vaccination. Granted the means of delivering the vaccine are scary (children always cringe at the sight of a syringe), even then I knew that these medicines would prevent me from getting sick later on. Obviously I couldn’t remember it back then, but when I was an infant I received vaccines against rubella, diptheria, measles, mumps, tuberculosis and polio. Even today I still save a significant amount of my cash for an annual flu shot, and I recently completed a series of vaccines that would protect me against tetanus. Since I consider myself an athletic individual, given the occasional cheeseburger and chips, I don’t want to take big risks when it comes to my physical well-being.
So imagine my surprise when a certain cable company in Baguio, where I live, started airing dangerous commercials about the so-called “evils” of vaccines. They air at least once every two hours on four channels, spreading the message that vaccines are loaded with certain “dangerous ingredients” that could destroy a person’s central nervous system, or could even cause death. Their solution? Stop taking vaccines and go all-natural instead. These “Anti-Vaxxers” cite sources from a website called “Natural News” that offers homeopathic/chiropractic remedies that claim to reliable substitute vaccines and get parents and their children away from “Big Pharma,” their term for multinational drug companies. The Anti-Vaxxers even have a popular video called “Define Better,” a rap anthem that, while certainly catchy, fails to provide adequate information to pull people to their side.
I’ll lay it straight: Anti-Vaxxers are misinformed. Unconsciously or not, they spread lies to keep your children from getting healthy.
The main argument that Anti-Vaxxers emphasize is a 1998 study by Dr. Andrew Wakefield, published in The Lancet in 1998. It put forward a hypothesis of an alleged link between the measles vaccine and autism from a very small small sample size of twelve children. Anti-vaccination hysteria caught on in 2002 when British media caught hold of this finding and published it for all the world to see. However, Dr. Wakefield’s finding could not be replicated in further tests, and it was eventually found that he used unethical means to get his result. Furthermore, Dr. Wakefield was discredited due to his involvement with anti-vaccination groups prior to his study, and it was eventually discovered that he had fabricated information and even ignored certain data, such as the pre-existing medical conditions of his test subjects. Eventually, due to the fraudulent and unethical nature of the study, The Lancet retracted Dr. Wakefield’s findings.
This, of course, does not deter the Anti-Vaxxers, who think that “Big Pharma” is “silencing the truth” in some sort of global conspiracy akin to the Illuminati or the 9/11 Truthers. This kind of stubborn thinking, regardless of the proven facts, has led me to conclude that people who refuse vaccinations for their children are gambling with their lives. The anti-vaccination crowd would cite all kinds of studies about vaccines and the chemicals that they contain, and fear is often their greatest tool for recruitment.
For example, although the claim that vaccines contain formaldehyde is real, Anti-Vaxxers tend to forget (often times deliberately) that the body naturally produces formaldehyde. Pears actually contain a lot more formaldehyde than a single vaccine syringe.
Another, more disturbing, accusation that Anti-Vaxxers claim is that vaccines cause autism. This has scared so many people that even Jenny McCarthy now claims that vaccines were the cause of her child’s supposedly autistic behavior. First of all, autism is a neural development disorder that has a string genetic basis (original author’s correction to own notes), not a disease. There is no scientific proof that a person can retroactively gain autism from the environment, let alone a vaccine. Anti-Vaxxers turn to homeopathy and folk medicine for curable diseases, but common-sense science has proven that homeopathic cures do not have any active ingredients to boost the human body’s immune system against diseases.
There are many other claims that the Anti-Vaxxers want to push, and I find it appalling that they’ve finally found a foothold to spread misinformation in the Philippines. Despite this, and despite the numerous inadequacies of the government today, I’m still very grateful that the Philippine Department of Health (DOH) offers a comprehensive immunization and inoculation program to eliminate childhood diseases. I also do not need to enumerate the perhaps hundreds of websites out there that help debunk the bad science that Anti-Vaxxers continue to disseminate. Although factual science does admit that a small amount of children do have adverse effects when given vaccines (due perhaps to allergic reactions or pre-existing conditions such as congenital defects), no amount of homeopathic or “natural” cures can rid children of what could potentially kill them. When in doubt, your doctor is the final authority on what is best for your child, and only his or her medical expertise will tell you what vaccines you should take and shouldn’t.
Children should never be allowed to become martyrs for a misinformed “fight against Big Pharma.” Have your children vaccinated, whatever blogs, celebrities or so-called “experts” tell you.
(The Facebook group “Refutations to Anti-Vaccine Memes” is a convenient social network portal for those who want more information on how to intelligently refute Anti-Vaxxer claims.)