Despite a court ruling last week that dismissed the bogus link between vaccination and autism, I continue to receive comments from so-called “non-vaccinators” about a post that I published last week about New Jersey’s dismal vaccinations rates. Most of the comments are anecdotal and suggest that childhood vaccination was the likely culprit for their children’s autism, brain damage or other ailments. While I feel their pain, the notion that children should not continue to be vaccinated is misguided and has serious negative public health implications.
There is ample public health and scientific information that suggests that childhood vaccination has worked well to reduce the incidence of morbidity and mortality in Western nations. Ironically, if it wasn’t for mandatory childhood vaccinations, the death and lasting physical or neurological damage caused by many preventable diseases like smallpox, measles, mumps, diphtheria and whooping cough would be much higher. Unfortunately, we Americans have been lead to believe —intentionally or not—that there should be no side effects associated with drugs, vaccines and other medicines. The bottom line is that all drugs, vaccines and medicines have side effects; some more serious or noticeable than others! Further, the decision to develop new drugs and vaccines is always based on a risk to benefit ratio. Pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies will only develop products to address unmet medical needs when the benefits of these products clearly outweigh the potential risks. However, in some cases, most notably cancer drugs, the risk to benefit ratio becomes less obvious. There is no question that most cancer drugs have serious and potential life threatening side effects. Nevertheless, the benefit—survival and not death—far outweighs potential downstream risks!
Like it or not, the medical benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks associated with them. As many of you may know, there is currently a whooping cough epidemic in California. California health officials assert that the epidemic likely started among unvaccinated individuals and then spread to the larger population. The observation that many of the patients with whooping cough were previously vaccinated against the disease in childhood suggests that either their immunity to whooping has declined over the years or that the causative bacterium, Bordetella pertussis has become more virulent.
The former hypothesis is more likely than the later mainly because Bordetella infections were almost non-existent until increased immigration and the non-vaccination movement began in earnest about 15 years ago! Students of infectious diseases will tell you that virulence of infectious agents tends to increase as they are passed from one infected individual to the next. Consequently, the lack of any significant B pertussis outbreaks (until very recently) suggests that changes in the underlying virulence mechanism of the bacterium are not responsible for the current outbreaks.
Again, as a parent, I understand the pain and suffering of those whose children may have experienced debilitating effects coincident with childhood vaccination regimens. However, as more parents continue to eschew vaccination against childhood disease, the incidence of death and children with serious life long debilitating effects associated with many common childhood diseases is certain to rise. With this in mind, I will continue to write and post articles that support childhood vaccinations. I will gladly stop posting these articles when someone can provide me with scientifically accurate and valid data that suggest that vaccination does more harm than good!
Until next time…
Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!