Anti-Vaxxer movement continues to endanger children despite evidence
This time of year rolls around quickly. It is finally beginning to feel like fall, and as the weather cools down and sweaters and boots become our go-to look, let’s not permit our fellow Houstonians to forgo their flu shot.
Vaccinations are needed, especially those that protect us from life-altering and sometimes deadly diseases. Over the past twenty or so years people, specifically mothers, have flocked to a movement, refusing to vaccinate their babies and school aged children.
They’re anti-vaxxers. What they’re doing is dangerous. By refusing to vaccinate their children these parents have the potential to reap serious consequences for our communities.
Their intentions are good, and their concerns are understandable. All parents want their kids to have a “normal” life, desiring to shield them from any unnecessary pain. However, the action they refuse to take part in is risky for the health of others, and, in addition, is extremely scientifically flawed.
To give some background of this movement, in 1998 gastroenterologist Dr. Andrew Wakefield published a study in British health journal, The Lancet. His findings showed that the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine was the cause of increased rates of autism in children.
That was the birth of the anti-vaxxer movement.
Dr. Wakefield’s results are beyond off. Not only are they statistically unfounded, but no current scientific evidence supports his accusations.
For one, he did not study enough children — his sample size consisted of only 12. Studies by other doctors and scientists have included easily 100 children or more as their sample size, thus giving them a sample that greater reflects the population as a whole.
Since the ’90s, there have been countless studies showing there is no causation, let alone a correlation between early-infant vaccinations, such as MMR and Varicella, and autism. A 2010 study done by Charles R. Woods, MD and Michael Smith, MD, studied 1,047 children between the ages of 7-10.
The study compared how early children were vaccinated as infants, what vaccines they received and their performance on neuropsychological tests.
Their results showed that children who received vaccines later in life did not outperform children who were vaccinated earlier. In a nutshell, delaying vaccinations or refusing to vaccinate your child is your choice, but science doesn’t support the notion that vaccines are the root of delayed learning or autism.
In 2010, the General Medical Council stripped Wakefield of his right to practice medicine. That very year, The Lancet retracted his work. Still, his research has staunch followers.
Autism is caused by numerous factors, none of which include vaccinations. Furthermore, autism is not a death sentence, nor is the severity the same in every case. There are varying degrees of the condition. Plenty of individuals living with autism lead normal, healthy and productive lives.
At the end of the day, vaccinations prevent painful and debilitating diseases from mushrooming into epidemics like they were in the past. Polio, measles and mumps which were once serious problems in America have now become drastically reduced occurrences.
The sole cause for these results are vaccinations that have been continuously tested and scrutinized before they are released in order to protect the masses.
Despite our unprecedented access to information, it is easy for parents and our generation to turn our backs on research. We are ignorant and callow to what our ancestors experienced and saw before us; in this country, we are blessed not to see these diseases affect people’s lives like they did in the past. We should not permit time to erase the truth and severity such diseases contain.
Alana N. Miller is an integrated communications junior and can be reached at [email protected].