The average South African child can expect at least 23 vaccinations before the age of 10, with the first doses routinely given soon after birth. Whether or not these vaccines deliver the potentially lifesaving medication they claim to, vaccines are a normal part of life for most of the world’s population.
There is a lot of controversy surrounding vaccines, something that was once regarded as an essential part of childhood medical care. What’s all the controversy about then? Aren’t vaccines an essential part of healthcare for babies and children? Do parents really have a choice when it comes to vaccinating their children? Isn’t it compulsory to have your child vaccinated?
Not necessarily, say a growing number of parents and healthcare professionals, who list a surprising number of possible risks associated with vaccines. If you’ve spent any time reading about the pros and cons of childhood vaccines, you’re probably inundated with facts and figures revealing all kinds of frightening potential side effects, horror stories and potentially disastrous consequences of following through on standard vaccines. Worst of all, the facts and studies seem to contradict each other at every turn.
Let’s look at some of the facts on either side of the debateâ€¦
Pros: Why you should vaccinate
1) Every major health authority in the world recommends regular immunizations. From the World Health Organization to the American Academy of Paediatrics, the CDC, and the majority of healthcare professionals around the world, including the South African Health Department, all advocate regular vaccinations according to the most recent schedule. Consider also that proper vaccination is a requirement for attending some schools and even travelling across borders.
2) Vaccinations are a powerful preventative tool: Vaccinations work by exposing your immune system to an agent that resembles the disease. The body’s own immune system responds and is able to build up some form of immunity that would protect you in the case of infection by a live virus. The effectiveness of vaccines is proved by the fact that smallpox has been completely eradicated, and the incidence of other serious illnesses (that vaccines protect against) has decreased dramatically since the introduction of the vaccines.
3) If everyone followed the vaccination schedules diseases could be eradicated: Vaccinations are one of the most effective developments in the field of disease control. And, thanks to a phenomenon known as -herd immunity’, if the majority of a population is vaccinated, the rest are protected as well! You could consider having vaccinations as part of doing your bit for the community around you as well.
4) The benefits outweigh the risks: Consider the risks vs. the benefits of immunizing. Official figures put the risk of an adverse vaccine related reaction around 1 in a million, whereas the threat of contracting hepatitis or measles is significantly greater. Also consider the costs of treating a serious illness like whooping cough or rubella with the relative inconvenience of finding a free clinic to administer the immunizations.
Cons: Why you might want to think twice about vaccinating
1) We might not understand the impact of all the ingredients: There are some grotesque and startling facts in circulation about the ingredients in vaccines. For example, some vaccines contain wild pathogens, including pieces from aborted foetuses. Aside from the grotesque, there are the even more disturbing facts about the neurotoxic chemicals found in the typical vaccination. Anything from mercury to phenol (a strong corrosive acid) to formaldehyde can be found in vaccines. Not exactly the kind of stuff you want to be injecting into your one day old baby! It’s tricky to isolate and prove the long-term effects that these ingredients are having on the children that receive them, but more on that later.
2) There are all kinds of adverse effects that are routinely linked to vaccinations:
- Autism: Although not conclusively proven, there is believed to be a correlation between the reported 900% increase in autism and the increased vaccinations that children in the US receive. The initial concern was over the MMR vaccine that all children receive, which was followed by several studies with the ultimate official conclusion that there is no link.
- SIDS: The link between Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and vaccinations has been well documented. Although it’s difficult to prove conclusively, there are far too many stories of infants dying shortly after receiving vaccinations.
- Other: Vaccines have been linked to numerous other after-effects: anything from fainting to contracting polio or permanent brain damage or even paralysis have all been attributed to vaccinations. The list of potential adverse reactions is pretty scary. Another aspect of adverse vaccination reactions is the smaller, more subtle effects that the vaccinations may have, and until the long-term effects have been properly studied in double blind clinical trials, nobody can say for sure whether the vaccinations are to blame.
3) There is a lack of objective, long-term studies: The problem is the lack of conclusive, double-blind scientific testing. More importantly, there are no long-term studies of this nature. While it may be unethical or downright impossible to create a truly objective test, everyone is left guessing. Anti-vaccination proponents are quick to point out that vaccinations are a multi-billion dollar international goldmine and that this explains why most studies eventually conclude that vaccinations are safe. It’s interesting to note that many of the oft-quoted studies have been commercially funded, if not directly then by scientists and researchers who receive kick-backs from drug companies.
When it comes to vaccinating your baby, you have a responsibility to ask questions and draw your own conclusions. There are powerful facts and arguments supporting either choice; it’s up to you to decide what you believe and whether or not to immunize your child.
– Kahea Rusch