Children are given shots (vaccines) at a young age because this is when they are at highest risk of getting sick or dying if they get these diseases. Newborn babies are immune to some diseases because they have antibodies they get from their mothers, usually before they are born. However, this immunity lasts a
Most babies do not get protective antibodies against diphtheria, whooping cough, polio, tetanus, hepatitis B, or Hib from their mothers. This is why it’s important to vacci nate a child before she or he is exposed to a disease.
What is a vaccine? Why are they so important?
Vaccines are our best defense against infections that may have serious complications such as pneumonia, meningitis, cancer, and even death.
- The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends vaccinations before the age of two years to protect children against 14 infectious diseases: measles, mumps, rubella (German measles), varicella (chickenpox), hepatitis A, hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib), polio, influenza (flu), rotavirus, and pneumococcal disease (CDC, 2015).
- Vaccines contain weakened or killed versions of the germs that cause a disease. These elements of vaccines, and other molecules and micro-organisms that stimulate the immune system, are called “antigens.”
- Babies are exposed to thousands of germs and other antigens in the environment from the time they are born. When a baby is born, his or her immune system is ready to respond to the many antigens in the environment and the selected antigens in vaccines.
Vaccine Safety – Debunking the Myth
Vaccines are safe, effective and save lives (Knopf, 2017). Because vaccines are given to millions of healthy people, including children, to prevent serious diseases, they’re held to very high safety standards.
Many parents have common misconceptions about childhood vaccinations and believe they may cause serious side effects – like autism- and choose not to vaccinate their child. Others believe there are too many recommended vaccinations compared to 20, 30 years ago. Claims that vaccines are linked to autism, or are unsafe when administered according to the recommended schedule, have been disproven by a robust body of medical literature (Knopf, 2017).
Vaccinations save thousands of lives every year and have eradicated many diseases such as the measles, mumps, and rubella. However, because parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children, these diseases are making a comeback and claiming the lives of innocent children.
How are vaccines tested for safety?
Every licensed and recommended vaccine goes through years of safety testing including:
- Testing and evaluation of the vaccine before it’s licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and recommended for use by the CDC.
- Monitoring the vaccine’s safety after it is recommended for infants, children, or adults
Vaccines are tested before they’re given to the public
Before a vaccine is ever available for use, it’s tested in labs and this process can take several years. The FDA uses the information from these tests to decide whether to test the vaccine with people (Gould, 2017).
During a clinical trial, a vaccine is tested on people who volunteer to get vaccinated. Clinical trials start with 20 to 100 volunteers, but eventually include thousands of volunteers. These tests take several years and answer important questions like:
- Is the vaccine safe?
- What dose (amount) works best?
- How does the immune system react to it?
Throughout the process, FDA works closely with the company producing the vaccine to evaluate the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness. All safety concerns must be addressed before FDA licenses a vaccine.
Every batch of vaccines is tested for quality and safety
Once a vaccine is approved, it continues to be tested. The company that makes the vaccine tests batches to make sure the vaccine is:
- Potent (It works like it’s supposed to)
- Pure (Certain ingredients used during production have been removed)
- Sterile (It doesn’t have any outside germs)
FDA reviews the results of these tests and inspects the factories where the vaccine is made. This helps make sure the vaccines meet standards for both quality and safety.
Vaccines in the Media
In 1998, an article was published by Andrew Wakefield in the Lancet paper that stated that the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine contained toxic substances that went into the bloodstream, traveled to the brain, and caused children to develop autism (Gould, 2017). However, Wakefield had been paid by a company with a patent pending on a rival measles vaccine as well as acted unethically and participated in slander and fear mongering for to gain profit. This discovery was too late to reverse the public’s belief that vaccinations were unsafe.
Public figures like Jenny McCarthy and the President of the United States (POTUS) Donald Trump have vocalized their opinions regarding the correlation between childhood vaccinations and autism. Political figures and celebrities have created confusion and fueled inaccurate discussion on this topic for years (Gould, 2017).
In this video clip from CNN during the Republican Presidential candidate debate, Donald Trump, states he is in favor of vaccinations, but believes the doses are too big for children. He then tells a story about a two-year-old child who was perfectly healthy prior to receiving vaccinations, but then developed autism a week after receiving vaccinations.
- Even though evidence-based guidelines and professional recommendations have been published, the public still believes public figures and celebrities over proven data (Gould, 2017).
This video clip posted by CNN debates Jenny McCarthy’s beliefs that vaccinations cause autism. The narrator discusses how in this celebrity suffused culture, McCarthy’s claims could have a deadly impact on scaring parents away from vaccines. Jenny McCarthy is one of the first celebrities to publicly claim vaccinations cause autism after her son was diagnosed with developmental delays. In this video, she states vaccinations “triggered” her son’s autism.
Why is there an uprise in Autism today?
Prevalence of autism has changed because of advanced diagnostic fashions, changing diagnostic criteria, and more trained diagnosticians, a willingness to accept a particular diagnosis, earlier age diagnosis, and better recording systems (Taylor, 2009). Basically, it’s a big coincidence that there are more vaccinations recommended by the CDC and the uprise in autism diagnoses. The CDC supports the Institution of Medicine’s (IOM) conclusion that there is no relationship between vaccinations and autism (Taylor, 2009).
This video clip by CNN interviews two mothers and why they chose not to vaccinate their children. One mother claims there are too many vaccinations recommended by the CDC. Another claims she does not trust the MMR vaccination because she believes her children are healthy.
Anti-vaccination believers argue that autism has been increasingly more prevalent today compared to 20 years ago, and there are more required vaccinations children need today than there were back then (Knopf, 2017). Vaccinations against infectious diseases has been advancing with the increase of available technology, which explains why there are more vaccinations required for children to receive compared to 20 years ago.
Don’t wait, vaccinate!
The CDC website provides an excellent venue for curious citizens inquiring about vaccination safety and how they work. It also has the most up to date schedule recommended for children to receive certain vaccinations. Vaccinations are safe, effective, and they protect the public from deadly diseases.
Gould, K. (2017). Vaccine safety: evidence-based research must prevail. Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing, 36(3), 145-147.
Knopf, A. (2017). Vaccines do not cause autism: Pediatricians fight back against anti-science. Brown University Child & Adolescent Behavior Letter, 331-2.
Taylor, B. (2006). Vaccines and the changing epidemiology of autism. Child: Care, Health & Development, 32(5), 511-519.