5 things to remember when considering vaccines

The measles outbreak from Disneyland is a potent reminder of a) how infectious measles actually is; and, b) what happens when people don’t vaccinate.

However, despite a mountain of evidence that vaccination is safe and does not cause autism or immune dysfunction or really anything terrible at all people still refuse. I live in a county that is on the leading edge of this scientific ignorance, but we are not alone in Marin as there are several “very special” Bay Area counties when it comes to vaccines. Personal exemptions appeal to people here. After all, vaccines might be fine for your children, *sniff,* but mine are special. That people in these counties likely hold more post-graduate degrees per capita than elsewhere even makes it worse because the science that proves vaccine safety is not challenging. So it can’t be about the science, unless, of course, all the “research” came from Dr. Bob Sears.

It’s pretty easy to break down

1. Andrew Wakefield who started the whole mess with his case series was funded by a personal injury lawyer looking to make money suing vaccine manufacturers. Wakefield also hoped to patent a test to help identify which children were at risk of getting “colitis” from vaccines, and the data in his case series was altered. So the idea of the MMR being dangerous comes from a liar with motives that involved a massive amount of financial gain. Make no mistake about it, this published pack of lies funded by personal greed (the opposite of science) started the ball rolling. Before this “paper” was published, vaccine exemptions were in the 0.7 percent range in the United States.

2. There are no credible studies showing any links between MMR vaccine and any chronic illness. None. It’s not like 80 percent of the literature says vaccines are safe, and 20 percent raises doubts; 100 percent of the literature says vaccines are safe. In fact, a new 12-year study done by Kaiser Permanente (so, not the vaccine manufacturers) indicates the only sequelae of the MMR vaccine appears to be a 1 in 1000 risk of a febrile seizure (a well-known risk of vaccines) a scary thing but nothing with any long term repercussions.

3. But it’s too many shots at once, it overwhelms the immune system! Nope. While we now give children more vaccines than twenty years ago, the antigenic load (what interacts with the immune system) is actually far less because the science of vaccines has progressed. The smallpox vaccine contained 200 proteins and the 11 childhood vaccines combined contain 130 proteins. So all of these concerned parents in Marin likely themselves received the smallpox vaccine and grew and thrived and made enough money to live in Marin. Getting multiple vaccines at once does not weaken the immune system or affect a child negatively in any way.

antigenicload
4. Thimerosal, the whipping post of the anti-vaccine movement has been removed from the MMR vaccine and autism rates have not fallen. The thimerosal timeline and several supporting safety studies are listed here.

5. A significant part of the increase in autism rates is not a true increase, rather a change in how we diagnose autism. Changes in reporting practices account for 60 percent (at least) of the increased observed prevalence of autism in children.

The studies supporting vaccine safety are overwhelming.

The “science” questioning vaccine safety is nonsensical.

The premise of the MMR vaccine being unsafe was concocted by a man who wanted to profit from a medical lie.

Ignoring the evidence is the exact opposite of science, and it certainly isn’t thoughtful.

Jennifer Gunter is an obstetrician-gynecologist and author of The Preemie Primer. She blogs at her self-titled site, Dr. Jen Gunter.

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