Returning to your lives seems tough at first, but with a new sense of optimism, your lives take on a new shine. Two weeks later, you get a call at work. Your child has been pulled out of school for being sick. The prognosis does not even seem real. Measles. A disease your child had been vaccinated for. A call home to your significant other reveals worse news. Your other child, the one too young to vaccinate has it too. Both of your children have a disease that had been considered eradicated in the United States since the year 2000. Then, you find out that your children caught it at Disneyland, and that they were a part of an epidemic that started with over a dozen kids that has grown to over 87 cases in several states and Mexico.
If all factors work as intended, childhood vaccines have a 90% to 98% effective rate, which makes it among the most effective medical procedures in the western world. That being said, there are a few things to consider. For one, sometimes it takes more than a single dose during a certain portion of a child’s life. This is to ensure that a certain level of immunity is acquired. In some cases, a booster is required every ten years. Even with these considerations, not all kids can receive vaccines. Sometimes they are allergic to one of the ingredients. Other times they are too young to get a vaccine. Finally, they may not have an immune system that can handle the task of creating antigens, such as children on chemotherapy. Luckily, the occurrences of these children are so rare, that the risk of disease is low due to almost everyone else’s gained immunity. This concept is known as herd immunity. Essentially, if enough people in a group are immune to a disease, then the disease cannot spread and there is no likelihood of an outbreak. However, if enough people aren’t immune then the chance of the outbreak occurring is increased. The herd immunity rate for measles is between 85 to 94%.
So how do over 80 cases of the Measles occur after a visit to the most popular theme park on the West Coast? In a country that had eradicated the disease over a decade ago, how is it possible for such an outbreak? What shifted the herd immunity balance? To anybody who has paid attention to vaccine news lately, the reason is already clear. Several of the children who caught and transmitted the illness in those weeks had not been vaccinated despite falling within the reasonable criteria for receiving the shots. It turns out that these children’s parents had willingly elected to forgo vaccination due to the belief that vaccines are dangerous and possibly cause autism, or other vaccine related maladies in children. Therefore, the next logical question is, Why do people believe that vaccines are dangerous or that they cause autism? The answer is surprisingly traceable.
In Great Britain, the effects were immediate. Within the matter of a couple of years, British doctors seemed to have lost all faith in the MMR vaccine, with only 2 of 5 willing to recommend the procedures to their patients. The public was in a panic. Despite that, studies in other countries began that spanned long periods of time, and they covered over 15 million children. The studies were proper medical studies, backed with proper procedure and techniques, and the results were encouraging from the beginning. Over the millions of children in the control group saw only a 10% increase in MMR inoculations, but over the same range saw over a 400% increase in Autism diagnoses. In order for there to be any link between the MMR vaccine and Autism, the rate of increase for both would have to be closer. 10% to 400% pretty much proves that there is no correlation between the MMR vaccine and the onset of Autism. In the decade since the initial study, most doctors of the world and especially Great Britain have come back to the benefits of the vaccines.
These people always fall back on the ingredient argument, and how each of the individual ingredients may be the cause of autism. There is usually specific list they go through, with the same three or four ingredients heading up the list, with the remainder of the ingredient list spoken about in whatever order the speaker can remember. What is interesting about this is, that these folks will make claims about how any of these ingredients are the one that causes the autism, and they hope that you do not know enough about their claims, or the ingredients, to refute them.
The other ingredients are almost as funny to speak of, but they still create fear to those who are un-aware of the facts. The second ingredient named is usually formaldehyde, a chemical used to store organic material. Besides the fact that the human body actually makes formaldehyde, it is also necessary to help preserve the vaccines. Finally, those folks like to fall back on aluminum, which is found in trace amounts if virtually everything, and anti-freeze, which is practically a complete lie. The only reason why these people can claim that anti-freeze is present, is because vaccines and anti-freeze contain some common chemical ingredients. That being said, there is no anti-freeze in vaccines despite the numerous times Jenny McCarthy has claimed there is.
Now, no one could blame her, especially for wanting to help her son, but the question needs to be asked. How much money has Jenny McCarthy made from being the spokesperson for several Autism groups, the books she wrote, or other various fundraisers and appearances she has taken part in? This decade, Ms. McCarthy states that she was never anti-vaccine, only that she was a proponent of vaccine research, and against the number of vaccines and their regiment of administration. She still also claims that her son had autism but that she had gotten him clear of the symptoms. She also said that he still deals with some of the communication difficulties and brain damage due to the seizures, but otherwise a happy child. Perhaps what’s most interesting about Jenny McCarthy’s case is that it could have been a miss-diagnosis. Many experts believe that her son could have had Landau–Kleffner syndrome, which is known to have Autism like symptoms, but closer to what young Evan McCarthy experienced. In addition to that, many of the treatments McCarthy is believed to have tried would have made Evan better, if he did indeed have Landau-Kleffner syndrome. Despite every fact contrary to her beliefs, McCarthy has continued to support Andrew Wakefield, who she knows personally, and even wrote the forward for one of his books. Again, one has to question if she has a profit motive.
The final group of people trying to spread anti-vaccine views in the U.S. are not really related to each other is origin or goals, but they still manage to impact the conversation anyway. The far end of the conspiracy theory group have taken this anti-vaccine controversy to hilarious heights. For instance, on his popular internet show, known conspiracy expert, Alex Jones, seems to have started the rumor that different, more effective vaccines are available, but only to the richest, most affluent citizens. Other contributors try other methods to create needless fear on this subject. Noted anti-vaccine website, Vaccine Impact released an article, that to one who didn’t think about it, would have new reason to fear vaccines. The article boasts the lengthy title ZERO U.S. Measles Deaths in 10 Years, but Over 100 Measles Vaccine Deaths Reported. This may be a dead giveaway for an article designed as propaganda. If the title of your article is actually a summary of the article, then you can be sure that the purpose is to spread the entire message of fear to someone who doesn’t want to read the whole article.
The author explains how they poured over pages of data, that can be found by anyone at any time, to find that 108 children have died because of receiving the MMR vaccine, due to allergic reactions or side effects. On the surface, that sounds horrible, but the article fails to point out some facts that not only changes the perspective of the argument, but it actually validates the other side. If 108 children die over a 10-year period from the MMR vaccine, how many is that out of, and how many survived the shots? For a low, conservative estimate, let us say that 10 million children took the MMR vaccine in that period, of which 108 died. That would be a mortality rate of less than 0.000011%. If that’s the case, and the shot has an efficacy rate of over 98%, then we aren’t talking about a dangerous shot, as the article indicates. We are talking about one of the safest medical procedures of all time.
So if that is a proper assessment of the safety of vaccines, and despite countless legitimate studies and tests that prove that there is no link between vaccines and autism, then why, on average, are 5% of parents electing not to vaccinate their children? In some places, like parts of Northern California, that total easily reaches 20%, which shatters the safety of herd immunity. Are parents wrong for asking these questions? Does the safety of their children provide motivation to seek irrational lines of thinking, and pandering to a needless scare? Well, actually no, at least not yet.
The reality is, there are good questions about this subject that still need to be asked, without autism in the narrative. Even Jenny McCarthy makes these points first, when she still has control of these conversations. The number of vaccines recommended for children has grown substantially over the years. Due to the new immunization schedule guidelines, some days require multiple vaccines, at the same time. That can be scary for a new parent, and in one particular case, it can be quite serious.
Again, it needs to be emphasized, the MMR vaccine, or any other vaccine does not seem to cause autism. The statistics speak for themselves, and with the exception of very rare cases, vaccines are safe for everybody. Extensive medical testing has been done, studies have been conducted and the reports have been written. So why are parents still asking questions, acting with hesitation? Why was there a measles outbreak at Disneyland, in a country that had gotten rid of the disease since the early part of the millennium.
Jenny McCarthy asks, while defending herself against a large public outcry, "Since when is repeating the words of parents and recommending further investigation a crime?” For now in this country, asking questions is not a crime. I hope that for Mrs. McCarthy it never will be. When she, or many others in the anti-vaccine movement, starts asking these questions, one starts to get the feeling that they are not asking to get answers. Perhaps getting answers was never the goal. Instead, the use of rhetorical manipulation intended to lead the recipient to a belief without critical thinking is the common trick. In the midst of the twitter generation, that seems plausible. This practice is wrong, and makes the inquiry a form of propaganda. However, assuming instead Mrs. McCarthy, that you at least choose to acknowledge that the questions you ask are receiving answers anyways, perhaps then when the answers are coming from a large majority of educated people, then you might want to stop asking long enough to believe the answers. After all, some of those people might know more about this then you do, or at the very least, the proper questions to ask. It is a surprisingly easy line of thinking.
Perhaps one more quote from Mrs. McCarthy. “I do believe sadly it's going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe.” Depending on the diseases she is referring too, whether it’s Measles, Mumps, Polio, Smallpox, or even Hepatitis, it becomes obvious how far the anti-vaccine crowd will go to be heard. Perhaps it is time to start yelling back, after you are done asking questions.