Vaccinations should be mandatory for children to ensure the health of the general public regardless of religion or ethical concern because they have been proven safe and unharmful. However, vaccinations in children in recent years have become quite the controversy among parents and medical professionals. This controversy is that vaccinations cause a variety of health issues including immune dysfunction, ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), and Autism. Although the controversy has been researched and proven to be false, people continue to fear childhood vaccines.
This controversy has been proven false by many healthcare organizations and professionals. Despite the reassurance of no less than eight safety review panels conducted by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) since 2001, many parents continue to fear that childhood vaccines can cause a host of adverse effects ranging from immune dysfunction to attention deficit disorder and autism. (Baker, 2011). Vaccinations are there to bolster the immune system so that it can repel diseases, viruses, and the illnesses caused by them, not to poison or cripple children.
The thought that vaccinations give children severe mental impairments or disabilities, has done nothing but incite public fear of the healthcare system. Public Fear Secondly, Much of the public fear of vaccines is derived from the use of a mercury-containing preservative called thimerosal being used as vaccine preservative, and the false links of vaccines to autism, It is not my intent to answer whether mercury in vaccines explains the increasing prevalence of autism; the IOM has already determined throughout two reviews that available evidence fails to support such a conclusion (Baker, 2011).
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has proven that there is no link between the increase in autism spectrum disorder and the use of mercury in certain childhood vaccinations. The myth controversy has also been debunked by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, MD. Although the myth has been debunked, it is causing people to not vaccinate their children, which is allowing viruses like measles and mumps to make a comeback. Thimerosal To begin with, what is thimerosal? “Thimerosal is a mercury-based preservative that has been used in the United States in multi-dose vials of medicines and vaccines.” (Centers for Disease Control, 2015). Thimerosal contains mercury which is found naturally in the ground, water, and air. However, there are two different types of mercury, ethylmercury, and methylmercury. Methylmercury is found in fish and can be toxic at high levels of exposure. Ethylmercury is the type of mercury that is used in vaccines as a preservative. The ethylmercury is also cleared out of the body much faster than methylmercury making it very hard to reach toxic levels, especially from the levels used in thimerosal. There are very few side-effects of thimerosal since it is rare to be allergic to thimerosal, as stated by the CDC “The most common side-effects are minor reactions like redness and swelling at the injection site. Although rare, some people may be allergic to thimerosal.” (Centers for Disease Control, 2015). Thimerosal is believed by some of the general public, to cause autism.
However, in a statement by the CDC, the idea of thimerosal causing autism is proved to not be true. Research does not show any link between thimerosal in vaccines and autism, a neurodevelopmental disorder. Many well-conducted studies have concluded that thimerosal in vaccines does not contribute to the development of autism. Even after thimerosal was removed from almost all childhood vaccines, autism rates continued to increase, which is the opposite of what would be expected if thimerosal caused autism (Centers for Disease Control, 2015). Since CDC research shows that there is no link between thimerosal in vaccines and autism, this would suggest that vaccines are not a cause of autism. Therefore, there is no valid reason to not vaccinate children, since there is no direct threat and only health benefits. The History of Vaccines To continue, we take a brief look at what a vaccine is and the extensive history of vaccines. First, a vaccine is a preparation of killed microorganisms, living attenuated organisms, or living fully virulent organisms that are administered to produce or artificially increase immunity to a particular disease. The first vaccine was made in 1796 by an English doctor named Edward Jenner. Jenner had noticed that milkmaids who have gotten cowpox usually are immune to the outbreaks of smallpox. Going off that knowledge, Jenner took some of the pus from a cowpox pustule, and transferred it to an 8-year-old apprentice, a couple of weeks later, Jenner attempted to infect that apprentice with smallpox, however, the apprentice remained immune. This experiment would serve as the basis of immunology and modern theories for developing vaccines for diseases and viruses today (Riedel, 2005). Since the creation of the smallpox vaccine, there have been vaccines made for mumps, measles, polio, influenza, and other viruses and diseases. However, smallpox remains the only officially eradicated disease worldwide, while viruses such as measles are making a comeback due to parents not vaccinating their children. Benefits of Vaccinations Furthermore, Thanks to vaccinations, over 3 million deaths are prevented each year and the number is only growing. In the 20th century alone, over 300 million people were infected with smallpox, which killed 30%-50% of infected adults and about 80% of all kids infected. Today the disease is completely eradicated. But the eradication status of a variety of diseases is threatened by parents who don’t want to vaccinate their children out of fear or other beliefs such as religion. The goal for most of these parents is to protect their children, but they are putting them at risk to catch a serious disease and possibly spread it to others. Many parents are not vaccinating their children because of the myth that vaccinations cause conditions like autism. Regardless, vaccinations have been proven to be safe and are used to bolster the immune system, so that it can fight off everyday bacteria and viruses. Problems So, what is the problem with vaccinations if they have been proven safe and effective?
The main problem that people are having with vaccinations is just the use of the mercury-based preservative, thimerosal. Too many people are stuck on the idea that vaccinations aren’t good, and they just get you sick or that the use of thimerosal will make your child autistic or cause them to get some other mental abnormality such as ADD. Others simply go against vaccinations for ethical or religious practices. A solution to this problem would be to attempt to educate the general public about vaccines to prove that they are safe as proposed by the CDC: Vaccination requirements that reach more children through a broad range of facilities, that have more requirements for receiving an exemption, that require parental documentation of exemption requests, and that are implemented with strong enforcement and monitoring may help promote higher rates of vaccination coverage, and in turn, lower rates of VPDs. Ongoing provider outreach and public education about vaccines and the diseases they prevent may also lead to such an increase (Centers for Disease Control, 2016) The federal government could also make it a law that makes vaccinations mandatory due to a national public health concern, or one that coincides with the current vaccination laws to make it harder to be considered exempt. As of today, the vaccination requirements are determined by the state and vary by state. In conclusion, after reading the article Responding to parental refusals of Immunizations of children by Douglas S. Diekema and the Committee on Bioethics, and the article “Mercury, Vaccines, and Autism, one controversy, three histories” by Jeffrey P. Baker MD and the American Journal of Public Health, I have come down to a relatively clear conclusion and summary. Through thorough research and studies conducted by medical professionals and organizations, it has been proven there are no links between vaccines and autism and that the mercury-containing vaccine preservative thimerosal is safe to be used in vaccines at proper dosing. Although it has been proven thimerosal is safe for use, in 1999, the FDA (Food and Drug Association) was mandated to remove thimerosal from most childhood vaccines such as measles, mumps, varicella, and the inactive polio virus (IPV) to minimize mercury exposure in children regardless, and act as a precautionary measure. However, the influenza vaccine still contains thimerosal, due to the vaccine needing to be dispersed in multi-dose bottles.