Anti-vax arguments are heavy on the fear factor, light on the fact factor.
The most unhinged anti-vaxxers assume some sort of plot between the government, pharmaceutical executives, and Bohemian Grove. Or they insist that vaccines don’t prevent diseases, but rather cause them owing to the shedding done by the vaccinated. This point fails to address how these diseases could have existed before the advent of vaccines and the subsequent nefarious shedding. Or why those injected with the dangerous vaccine are not suffering from the disease that is being pumped into them.
But we will look today at some seemingly more reasonable arguments, usually made by those who are 90 percent anti-vax. These folks would probably would not vaccinate themselves or their children, but still paint themselves as advocates for choice while tossing out reasons why their choice would be to not vaccinate.
One of the more frequent arguments in this category is that children are receiving too many vaccines. While it is true that the number of VACCINES has increased, the number of vaccine INGREDIENTS has gone down. During World War I, children were vaccinated for smallpox, that’s it. Today, they are vaccinated against 14 diseases, which can include 26 inoculations before they turn 7. Getting three to five vaccines at once is common.
Anti-vaxxers trumpet these numbers, along with the unstated assumption that this means children today are injected with between 14 and 26 times more scary stuff than they did a century ago. Leaving aside the issue of vaccine safety, which has been addressed in other posts, let’s address the accuracy of the more scary stuff claim.
Dr. Paul Offit has noted: “Immunological challenges from today’s 14 vaccines are less than the challenge from that one vaccine given a hundred years ago. The smallpox vaccine contained about 200 viral proteins. The number of viral proteins, bacterial proteins, and complex sugars on the surface of bacteria contained in the 14 vaccines given today adds up to about 150.”
So despite receiving 13 more vaccines than what children did 100 years ago, youngsters today are receiving fewer immunological components than they did then. Plus, those additional vaccines mean no more iron lungs, no more instances of first-graders attending the funeral of their classmate who died a miserable death from measles, and far fewer toddlers doubled over with whooping cough.
Note that Dr. Offit spoke of the smallpox vaccine in the past tense. This is because it may be vaccination’s greatest success story, completely eradicating a disease that had killed 30 percent of those contracting it.
The elimination of smallpox and its relevance to Offit is important for another reason. Offit, who co-discovered a rotavirus vaccine that has saved millions of lives, is one of the most frequent anti-vaxxer targets. They are unable to challenge his science, so they are left with ad hominem attacks that include claiming he is a Big Pharma stooge. However, following the 9/11 and anthrax attacks, there were concerns that terrorists may get ahold of the smallpox virus and unleash it as a weapon. There were calls to reintroduce the vaccine.
Offit was the only member of the CDC’s advisory panel to encourage caution on this and who voted against reintroduction. He felt the risks outweighed the rewards since there had been no new smallpox cases. Had he been the Big Pharma whore that anti-vaxxers portray him as, he would have used his position to help the industry makes hundreds of millions of dollars selling superfluous inoculations.
Another anti-vaxxer claim is that children are too young to be vaccinated. But Offit noted that babies are bombarded with bacteria the second they enter the delivery room.
“People have about 100 trillion bacteria living on their skin as well as on the lining of their nose, throat, and intestines,” he said. “Each of these bacteria contain between 2,000 and 6,000 immunological components, to which children make an immune response. They make large quantities of immunoglobulins every day to prevent these colonizing bacteria from causing harm. Vaccines are a drop in the ocean of what children encounter and manage every day. The proof that young children can respond to these vaccines is that many of the diseases that commonly crippled or killed young children have been virtually eliminated.”
Which brings us to the final argument, that some vaccines are unnecessary.
This argument is an example of vaccines being a victim of their success. Rubella, diphtheria, and polio are almost unheard of in the United States, so some wonder why we are still vaccinating for them.
We do so because these diseases exist elsewhere, and were a person to experience exposure to them overseas, they could return and spread the disease. This is especially true if the exposed person entered an area where there was a cluster of unvaccinated persons fondly recalling the golden era when children received just one shot.