Over the past few years anti-vaccine narratives have become commonplace in western culture. Do such claims have a factual basis or are they simply publicity stunts?
The most publicized anti-vaccine campaign was centered around Vaccines causing autism. It turns out that these claims were not supported by fact as has been shown by more than ten scientific studies. The reason that some people originally believed in this is that Autism becomes apparent in children around the same time that children receive their childhood vaccines. This is a perfect example of people assuming causation from correlation.
However, this does not mean that Vaccines are entirely safe. According to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System’s (VAERS) data, Vaccines caused 120 deaths, 359 life-threatening injuries, and 3871 ER visits in the United States in 2017. These dangerous reactions are simply one’s body having an allergic reaction to the allergens present in the vaccines, just as someone may have an allergic reation to peanuts.
So let’s compare the number of lives saved by vaccines to the number of deaths. The measles vaccination, for instance, has saved an estimated 17.1 million lives since 2000 according to the World Health Organization. It would be incorrect to directly compare these numbers as this is a statistic for the whole world, nevertheless, it is easy to see the difference in scale.
It does not only help you to get vaccinated it also helps your community. A small percentage of the population is unable to get immunized due to factors such as a weak immune system. By getting vaccinated and encouraging others in your community to as well you are creating something called Herd immunity. This helps protect those who are vulnerable in your community and saves lives.
I am a strong supporter of vaccines, however, I have found that many in my community do not share this belief. With the flu shot, for instance, they believe that as they have never gotten the flu nor the flu shot, it is not needed. This is flawed reasoning. There were 80,000 deaths from the flu last year in the US. Just because you have never been sick before, does not mean that you are immune. Everyone is born never having had the flu before, yet 80,000 of those people died from it.
Vaccines are one of sciences greatest inventions, they have saved millions of lives. Just because there is risk involved does not mean that you should not vaccinate yourself. There is risk everywhere in life, over 5000 people died from choking in the US alone in 2015. This does not mean that we should not eat, it simply means that we must be careful.