Ever since a child’s birth, parents have been told and taught by medical professionals that vaccinations are necessary or recommended throughout the growth of the child. There are certain vaccinations that are even required before a child enters a certain grade or enrolls in school. We have the perception that a vaccination is beneficial to our well-being and can cause us no harm. But there are concerning information regarding vaccinations that have influenced many parents to refuse certain or all vaccines for their child(ren). By looking at how and why vaccines were created to the concerns surrounding vaccines and the safety of them, we can better understand: what types of risks vaccines pose, why people are refusing vaccines, the consequences or effectiveness of vaccines, and whether vaccines are safe. With the number of risks involved, we can comprehend how the risks will outweigh the potential benefits of vaccinations and how vaccines are not safe for young children.
The amount of vaccines received today have increased dramatically since 1990. As new diseases arise, medical professionals create vaccines that can help treat or prevent those diseases. The first vaccine was created by Edward Jenner in 1796 which eventually eradicated smallpox. The next vaccine was for rabies which was created by Louis Pasteur in 1885, and more vaccines followed which were created against tetanus, tuberculosis, cholera, typhoid and so on. Vaccine research and development were prominent in the middle of the 20th century which led to the creation of vaccines for common childhood diseases such as mumps, measles, and rubella. The creation of vaccines greatly benefited people back then, as the mortality rate was high due to no available medicine or vaccine to prevent or treat diseases. But as time went on more vaccines became available and with that, the need for an immunization schedule was necessary to keep the recommended vaccines in order.
The official vaccination schedule didn’t appear until 1995. According to the recommended childhood immunization schedule by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for that year, by 2 years of age a child will have received 15 doses of 5 vaccines. Since 1995, the vaccination schedule has been revised yearly with a new amount of vaccines added. This is an alarming concern to parents since the recommended childhood schedule for 2017, 22 years later, by 2 years of age a child will have received about 26 doses of 11 vaccines; which is nearly double the amount received from 1995. With so many recommended doses for a child of only 2 years of age, sometimes it is hard to determine the effect of the vaccines. By 2 years of age a child’s development is not complete, and the effect of vaccines can sometimes be delayed. But then there are times when it can be detected sooner and by then it would have been too late; as the effect has already caused damage to the child’s mental and physical growth.
According to an article by Neil Miller and Gary Goldman, the United States has the most vaccine doses and infant mortality rate (IMR) for infants aged less than 1 year in the world. The IMR depends on many factors but the US has seen little improvement to its IMR since the year 2000. “In 2009, five of the 34 nations with the best IMR’s required 12 vaccine doses, the least amount, while the United States required 26 vaccine doses, the most of any nation.” (Miller & Goldman) This tells us that most vaccines are not necessary in the US and we should evaluate what is in vaccinations and why is it necessary when other countries with less vaccines have lower IMR’s.
Vaccinations essentially contain harmful ingredients. According to the CDC the common substances found in vaccines are: aluminum, antibiotics, egg protein, formaldehyde, monosodium glutamate (msg), and thimerosal. One of the substances which is more concerning than others is thimerosal. Thimerosal is a mercury-based preservative that has been used in vaccinations for decades but around year 2000 it was agreed to be reduced or eliminated in vaccines. This was brought on by an amendment in 1997 by Frank Pallone, a U.S. Congressman from New Jersey, to an FDA reauthorization bill. The bill passed, and the FDA Modernization Act of 1997 was signed into law November 21, 1997. In 1999 the FDA found that by 6 months of age infants receive as much as 187.5 micrograms of mercury from 9 doses of 3 vaccines. A meeting was held to discuss these findings and according to an article by Paul Offit titled “Thimerosal and Vaccines—A Cautionary Tale”, he wrote, “Although they were largely reassured by studies of children who had ingested large quantities of mercury from fish in their diet, they couldn’t find a single study that compared neurologic outcomes in children who had received thimerosal-containing vaccines with those in children who had not.” In the end they decided to pull thimerosal for precautionary measures since they were unable to justify the outcome.
There are concerns of the side effects of vaccinations, which are worse than the actual disease. There is debate over whether vaccinations cause Autism. After thimerosal was removed or reduced from vaccines, advocacy groups started forming under the belief that thimerosal had caused their child’s autism. This controversial topic had occurred shortly before the removal/reduction of thimerosal in vaccines. But what really boosted the theory was Andrew Wakefield’s article in the British journal the Lancet, Wakefield suggested that the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine may be the cause of autism. This set the public into a frenzy, and shortly after it was published it was retracted as Wakefield’s claim turned out to be fraudulent. It was found that Wakefield subjected children in the study to medical procedures that included colonoscopies and MRI scans. He also paid children at his son’s birthday party to have blood drawn for research purposes. The Lancet retracted the study and released this statement. “It has become clear that several elements of the 1998 paper by Wakefield et al. are incorrect, contrary to the finding of an earlier investigation. In particular, the claims in the original paper that children were ‘consecutively referred’ and that investigations were ‘approved’ by the local ethics committee have been proven to be false. Therefore we fully retract this paper from the published record.” (Park)
Although the link between MMR and autism has been discredited and other research has found no relation between the two, this just made the public become more concerned about the side effects of immunizations. These side effects of vaccines can result in physical or mental impairment or even fatality. Autism was one of the highly speculated effects as 1 in 63 children have autism. Another is sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) where an infant death occurs during the time they begin their vaccinations, and it’s unexplainable on how they died since they are undeveloped, and their immune systems were not stable yet. Although there is no way to accurately determine the outcome of a side effect of vaccines, there are symptoms that can be recognized for a vaccine reaction, some being: swelling or redness at the site of injection, body rash, screaming or persistent crying for hours, long periods of unresponsiveness, high fever, head banging or repetitive movements, loss of ability to roll over, sit up or stand up, or breathing problems. Essentially, if your child is acting differently than they normally do it warrants a call to a medical professional.
When a symptom or side effect occurs it needs to be reported to VAERS, Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. VAERS and the CDC Wonder online search tool contains a database of information on reports of adverse events following immunizations with US-licensed vaccines. According to the CDC Wonder search, based on my searches, children between 1-2 years of age there are 2,548 Autism related symptoms reported between 85 different vaccines of different brands from 1980 to September 2018. Since 1980 to September 2018, ages birth to 2 years of age, there are 16 deaths due to different vaccines and 3 physical disabilities reported as well. For mental disorders or impairments from 1980 to September 2018 for ages birth to 17 years of age, there are 165 reported events for numerous different vaccines. Although these symptoms aren’t proven, just reported, these numbers are proof that vaccines can cause serious and sometimes fatal side effects that can explain why many are refusing vaccines or just picking which ones they want to receive.
The risks of vaccines effect the personal choices of whether a parent should vaccinate their children. Their choices should not be used against them as their decision is based on their beliefs. Many parents have been looked down upon, faced with financial penalties or turned away from medical assistance for their stance on immunizations. Children are now required to receive immunizations in order to be enrolled in school or even daycare. This puts a strain on parents who choose not to vaccinate their children and are not able to homeschool them. Some doctors are also dismissing patients due to refusing vaccines. According to an article on Forbes.com by Tara Haelle “one in eight pediatricians reported in 2013 that they always dismiss patients who continue to refuse vaccines—twice as many as in 2006”. A great resource to help families that have been affected by vaccine reactions or to be better informed on vaccination laws, is the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC). The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) is an educational (501c3) organization founded in 1982. Their mission is to “prevent vaccine injuries and deaths through public education and to secure informed consent protections in vaccine policies and laws.” (NVIC) The NVIC supports informed decision-making and encourages everyone to be fully informed on diseases and complications of vaccines before making a decision about vaccination.
After doing the research I am even more alarmed at what types of information can be found regarding vaccines and the types of resources that are out there for parents. I was not given these resources when I expressed concern about my child’s developmental delays. My oldest son was born in 2001 and was not diagnosed until 2005 with Autism. I don’t know if vaccines were a possible cause of his autism, but I had a healthy pregnancy and a natural birth and neither my husband’s side or my side of the family had any members who were physically or mentally delayed; the only other possible reason for his delay could be vaccines. My son was developing normally, we started noticing something was off when he was about 2 years of age. He wasn’t answering when we called his name or when he got upset he would throw tantrums and hit his head on the ground. He speech was also delayed and spoke jargon/gibberish, which we didn’t think too much of until we saw a new pediatrician when he was 4 years old to get his physical done for Pre-school. It wasn’t until Kindergarten where he eventually started forming 2-3-word sentences from the help of the speech therapist. He had a great memory, he could say his ABC’s and count 1-10 before he spoke other words. With the help of his school and the specialists he has worked with, he has come a long way and today he is currently a Junior in High School. Although his mental capability is at an elementary level, his physical traits are of a 17-year-old. If I had known then what I know now, or if my son’s pediatrician provided better answers to my concerns, I know that his diagnosis and treatment would have started much earlier. With early detection it can be extremely beneficial to the mental and developmental growth as the sooner support is provided the better chances for improvement. This coincides with vaccine reactions, as the sooner reactions are detected the earlier it can be treated.
Through research and from personal experience, it can be explained how vaccinations can cause more harm than good. The number of side effects from vaccines are alarming as well as the fact that the IMR for the US is higher than other countries that require lesser doses of vaccines. According to the NVIC, “By 2018, the U.S. Court of Claims had awarded nearly $4 billion dollars to vaccine victims for their catastrophic vaccine injuries, although two out of three applicants have been denied compensation.” (NVIC.org) With this alarming figure vaccination’s need to be further studied and tested. We must do more about vaccines and the safety it is supposed to provide to society. I personally follow the immunization schedule for my children and only one of three of my children have autism. I am concerned that there is a possibility that a vaccine reaction occurred, but with no knowledge of what to expect of reactions, I am only able to rely on my beliefs on what occurred with my oldest son. Also, with proper resources I could have known that I was able to opt out of a vaccine, or I could waive an immunization requirement by providing an exemption (philosophical, religious, or medical). We need to be better informed of vaccines and have resources for making an informed decision on what we are putting into our children’s bodies. We also need to make a change to reduce the IMR and the number of children being affected by vaccine reactions. Vaccines are not safe for young children until medical professionals address these concerns.