Vaccinations. They’re life-savers. But, they’re also at the heart of conspiracy theories galore. Yeah, that’s right – conspiracies go well beyond JFK or the moon landing. Plenty of parents are beyond confused when it comes to whether immunizations are safe or not.
Why is there an over-abundance of vaccine-driven confusion out there? After all, aren’t these every-so-often shots supposed to be mini medical miracles? Um, yeah. Definitely. They keep your child from getting sick – or worse. And what parent isn’t al in for anything that makes their child’s life better?
Take polio for example. There once was a time when parents were totally freaked out about the disease. Obviously. The disease mainly affects kiddos under age 5 and leads to irreversible paralysis in 1 out of every 200 cases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Super-scary, right? But, with the upswing in vaccinations worldwide, cases of the disease have dropped by an absolutely stunning 99 percent since 1988. Whoa!
So, if vaccines can stop our kids from getting sick (or, in the case of polio, possible paralysis) why would there ever be any controversy? It should be simple. Vaccines prevent disease, making them essential. Of course, it could never be that easy.
With conspiracy theories flowing, some parents may start thinking, “Should I really vaccinate my child?” Instead of disease preventer, immunizations are seen in some circles as the root cause of allergies, illnesses and overall life-altering badness. Hmm. Alternative facts? Well, that’s one way of putting it.
Before anyone buys into the hype and waves the danger flag at vaccinations, check out what these theories assert and how all of the misinformation may actually hurt children worldwide.
15 When Politicians Don’t Understand (Or Read) Scientific Studies
Ah, politics. Don’t you just love when they get into the middle of your healthcare (or your child’s healthcare). As if the great Obamacare debate, that’s making you more than nervous, wasn’t enough now you have what to deal with? Vaccinations? Well, yep. Kind of.
Environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. isn’t exactly afraid when it comes to speaking his mind about immunizations. Kennedy’s stance on these life-savers isn’t exactly in line with what science says. Not only does he believe in the conspiracy theories that vaccines can harm children, but he also opposes mandatory vaccination laws.
Back in 2005 Robert Kennedy Jr published a story about the dangers of thimerosal (a mercury based preservative) in flu shots. Part of his environmental activism has been against mercury toxicity, but Mr. Kennedy, like many others has failed to understand exactly what thimerosal is and why it’s added to vaccines.
14 Autism And The MMR Vaccine
The mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) vaccine protects children (and adults too) against three diseases. Obviously. That is what the M, M and R stand for. Children get two doses of the vaccine, the first between 12 and 15 months and the second between 4 and 6 years.
In 1998 then-doctor Andrew Wakefield published a study in the medical journal The Lancet. The research supposedly found a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. This set off alarms in parents worldwide. With the growing incidence of autism spectrum disorders (ASD), it’s no wonder that moms and dads across the globe were growing increasingly anxious over the condition.
Parents of autistic children were looking for answers, and parents of kids who didn’t have the condition were trying to find out how they could possibly prevent it.
Suddenly vaccines went from saving lives to dreaded disease-causers. In 2010 The Lancet retracted the article, noting that Wakefield’s research was less (much less) than ethical. The sample was selectively (not randomly) chosen and the researchers never got the necessary ethical clearances from the subjects/parents.
The British Medical Journal later published several articles on the supposed study, showing that it was actually fraudulent.
What does all of this mean?
There is not, and never was, a link found between the MMR vaccine and autism. Even though the medical community is in agreement that Wakefield’s research is unethical and untrue, the conspiracy persists.
13 Vaccines Contain Mercury
When reports of high mercury levels in vaccines came out, parents were none too happy. Of course. Who wants their child getting shot up with mercury? Um, no one.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) started assessing the amounts of mercury in all products that the government agency oversees way back in 1999, according to the CDC. Yep, that means ALL products – not just vaccines. Even though vaccines weren’t specifically targeted at this time, it was decided that as much mercury as possible should be taken out of vaccines.
If you’re wondering why mercury was ever in vaccines to begin with, the compound thimerosal (which contains mercury) was used to prevent microbial growth in vaccines. The controversy surrounding vaccination here stemmed primarily from the idea that the mercury in it somehow caused autism.
Even though mercury was removed as a vaccine ingredient in most children’s vaccines (some flu vaccines still contain small amounts of it), the link between it and autism has never been scientifically proven.
12 Asthma Issues
Glutaraldehyde. Sounds scary. It’s actually an organic compound that healthcare pros use to disinfect medical and dental equipment. So, what does this have to do with your child’s vaccinations? It’s also a preservative used in some vaccines.
One of the known side effects of this chemical is asthma. That made conspiracy theorists take a look (or a few) into the possibility that immunizations are actually causing asthma. The claim is that being given the vaccine puts a child at greater risk for being diagnosed with asthma. It was thought that the asthma-inducing ingredient was making kids sick, giving them breathing problems.
It’s not likely that this conspiracy is entirely true. Even though the theory lives on, several studies have looked into the connection between vaccines and asthma. And, what did they find? Mostly that children who receive vaccinations such as DTP, polio, MMR, hepatitis B and Hib were not more likely to develop asthma than those who didn’t get the shots.
11 Smallpox Debate
That’s right, smallpox. Okay, so the disease is pretty much gone. The World Health Assembly declared it eradicated way back in 1980. That’s vaccination at work for you. Even though you might not see smallpox or its vaccine as a threat, things weren’t always easy when it came to immunization against the variola virus.
The beginnings of the vaccine date back to Edward Jenner’s early experiments with the cowpox virus in nineteenth century England. Jenner found that infecting children with lymph from a cowpox blister could actually stop them from getting smallpox. And, a vaccine was born! Oh, but not without protest.
If you think that conspiracy theories about vaccination are new, they aren’t. We’re talking about the early 1800’s here. That’s when parents, and the public in general, started doubting Jenner’s ideas. Even though his vaccination experiment showed promise (and that the vaccine was effective), many thought that the cowpox immunization technique wasn’t Christian.
10 Promoting Intimacy Amongst Teens
You might have a tiny tot now. But, eventually you’ll have a full-fledged teenager. The CDC recommends started the two-dose HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12. Why is this such as controversy? Well, it’s not because parents think the vaccine will harm their children. This one is more about what the vaccine protects against.
HPV (human papillomavirus) is a sexually transmitted disease that can cause cervical cancer. Reducing the risk of developing or passing on the disease (in both boys and girls) is a major step in conquering this type of reproductive cancer.
Conspiracy theorists aren’t against a possible cancer reducer. What they are worried about is the sexual agenda that the vaccine might push. Some see vaccinating a tween against an STD as sending a message that promiscuity is okay – and at an extremely early age.
Obviously different families have different belief systems when it comes to teen and premarital sex. A vaccine isn’t going to change that. Giving a child the HPV vaccine isn’t saying, “Go ahead and do it!”, it’s protecting kids from a very real possibility.
9 DPT Vaccine Causes SIDS
So, this one does come with some validity. Before you scream, “Aha! I knew it!” Keep in mind, this validity is from a much older vaccine that isn’t used anymore.
Originally, the diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus vaccine used a whole-cell formula. This version was pretty controversial at the time. Why? It had side effects that included seizures and high fever. It was also linked to sudden infant death along with some other not-so-nice conditions. So many parents in the UK protested the vaccine that the government stopped giving it out.
After some serious outbreaks, the vaccine was reinstated – that is, a different version of it. The newer vaccine doesn’t come with as many severe side effects. It’s also been discovered (through research) that the vaccine does not cause, and has never caused, SIDS.
Even so, the controversy still remains high in some areas. Shutting down the old school conspiracy that the DPT vaccine causes serious illnesses isn’t exactly easy. Some parents don’t know that the original vaccine isn’t still in use and others still believe the rumors.
8 The Polio Vaccine Causes Polio
Yes, the polio vaccine has caused polio. In the past. But, do you know what else causes polio? That’s right – polio.
In 1955 there was a batch of the supposedly killed Salk vaccine (IPV) that mistakenly received the live virus. The horrific result was that 40,000 people who received the vaccine developed transient polio. There were five deaths and 51 cases of paralytic polio as well. The 1960s saw the introduction of the purposefully live vaccine (OPV).
This version causes about four to five cases of vaccine-associated paralytic polio a year. The combination of the tragic IPV mistake and the four to five annual cases of paralytic polio from the OPV vaccine gave the immunization a bad rap.
Scared that their children would develop polio, parents took the four to five children a year figure and ran with it. Yes, that’s four to five children who should never, ever have to deal with this disease. But, compare that to the 16,000 children a year who caught polio naturally before the vaccine was in use.
7 Naturally-Acquired Chicken Pox
The spots, the itching and the general icky feeling. No one likes having chicken pox. You probably had the dreaded childhood disease when you were little. And then the medical community developed a vaccine. Instead of having to suffer through the sickness, your kiddo can get vaccinated against chicken pox. Great! Right?
Maybe not in some circles. After hearing the negative hype about vaccines in the media (largely the MRR vaccine and it’s false ties to autism), some parents have come to believe that immunization is dangerous. In most cases, it’s not. How do we know it’s not? There’s plenty of research on the subject. Not just a study with a few kids, but major large-scale research projects.
Even though most medical pros will tell you that vaccines are safe, the rumors about its ‘scariness’ persist. This transfers onto every type of immunization – including the chicken box one. Given that chicken pox is a fairly common childhood illness and under many circumstances doesn’t cause lasting effects, some parents believe that gaining natural immunity (through exposure) is better.
Um, chicken pox party anyone? Yep, that’s how it goes. Your neighbor’s kids has chicken pox. So, she invites all the other kiddos over to get it too. Or, your child could just get the vaccine from the doctor. Hmm.
6 Immunizations Cause Allergies
Your kiddo has a nut allergy. Or, maybe she’s allergic to soy. Why does she have the allergy? Maybe it’s genetic. Maybe she’s unlucky. Maybe it’s a vaccine. What? Some parents believe that vaccines actually cause allergies, as well as other autoimmune diseases.
Okay, so scientists have debunked the idea that vaccines cause allergies. This is no way means that a child (or an adult, for that matter) can’t be allergic to a vaccine. There’s a major difference between an allergy to an immunization (or to an ingredient in it) and an immunization-induced allergy.
There’s little to no evidence saying that vaccines can actually cause a child to have a brand new allergy. But, because of the media coverage that the ill-effects of vaccines has gotten, parents may be swayed into believing immunizations equal allergies. This not-so-true belief often leads to delays in vaccination. Some parents may even chose not to immunize their children – out of fear that their kiddos will develop allergies.
5 Over-Vax Debate
If it seems like your child is getting a lot of vaccinations, you aren’t alone. Plenty of parents have had concerns about the number of immunizations that doctors recommend. The theory here is that the overall amount of vaccinations that children should get is on the rise. With a growing number of vaccines, upping the immunization schedule seems like not such as good idea to some people.
The question here is, are there more vaccines required now than in past generations? Actually, the question that seems to be worrying parents even more than the exact number of vaccines is something along the lines of, “Are all of these shots hurting my child?” Well, if you want to believe the CDC (and you probably should), the harm of ‘all of these vaccines’ is pretty much non-existent.
The CDC notes that getting multiple vaccines during one office visit isn’t such a bad thing. The research doesn’t show that it causes any serious problems, and it may cut down on your child’s traumatic experience times (getting a shot is never fun). That said, some combination vaccines (one shot that includes vaccines that protect against a few different illnesses) can cause high fevers and febrile seizures.
4 The Disease Is Long Gone
Some once-prevalent diseases are now long gone. Why? They didn’t just disappear on their own. And, they didn’t decide to just go away. Vaccinations have eradicated some of the most dreaded illnesses out there. Of course. That’s the whole point of immunization.
Obviously the individual doesn’t want to get the illnesses. But, vaccines aren’t just saving one life at a time. They’re helping us get rid of entire diseases. Hey, take a look at smallpox. You can’t. Why not? It doesn’t exist anymore.
The cases of smallpox went from in the millions to zero. And, it was all because of vaccinations. While not every disease that has a vaccine is completely gone, the dramatic reduction of cases shows just how efficient these little medical miracles are.
Even though it seems logical that you need to keep giving vaccines to keep the disease at bay, some people believe that if the illness seems like it’s gone, then you don’t need the vaccine. Roughly 86 percent of polio cases are prevented by vaccination. So, does that mean your kiddo doesn’t need the vaccine?
3 Babies Can’t Handle Vaccines
This plays off of the, “There are too many vaccines on the recommended schedule” debate. Not only do some conspiracy theories say that people in general are being over-vaccinated, but some get more specific – focusing only on newborns.
The theory here is that the new infant’s immune system is just way too immature to handle the vaccinations. Instead of protecting the baby, the would-be conspiracy holders believe that too many immunizations might hurt infants. At the heart of the matter is overwhelming the baby’s immune system.
What does the evidence say about this theory? There’s isn’t much to prove that a younger immune system is any less likely to handle vaccinations than an older one. Yes, it may seem like the pediatrician wants to constantly vaccinate your new baby. But, that doesn’t mean your baby is in danger.
2 Packed With Toxins
Vaccines aren’t exactly naturally occurring substances. They aren’t plants, they don’t grow in the ground and they don’t come from Mother Nature. But, that doesn’t mean these manmade shots are packed completely full with toxic compounds.
One of the biggest conspiracy theories about vaccination is that the immunizations contain illness-causing ingredients. Obviously some of them do. That is, they contain the disease that they’re trying to cure. That doesn’t mean they all include dozens of toxic chemicals though.
So, why would vaccines manufacturers add any chemicals at all? The ingredients in some vaccines help to inactivate the virus or the bacteria or help to keep it preserved. These are necessary to making sure that the vaccine works. Some of the most common added ingredients in vaccines include) but aren’t limited to) aluminum, antibiotics, egg protein, formaldehyde, MSG and thimerosal.
1 The Risks Outweigh The Benefits
Whether you’re talking about the autism theory or mercury-containing products, some conspiracies center on the idea that the overall risks of vaccinations outweigh the benefits. Parents (and other people) who subscribe to this theory may believe that becoming immune to a disease is never worth the potential problems.
Here’s the thing about this theory – the so-called risks have largely been debunked. Okay, it’s entirely true that your child could have an adverse reaction to an immunization. It happens. But, some kids also have majorly bad reactions to antibiotics and other medications that are supposed to be helpful.
That’s why you get a “possible side effects” notice with any meds you or your child takes. Sure, there are side effects that can happen with vaccines. The doc will give you a handy little handout that lists them. Of course, that doesn’t mean your child is at risk. The side effects are possible, not guaranteed.
Sources: WHO, CNN, CDC, pediatricsaapublications.org