Vaccines – Healthy or Harmful?
To build and strengthen the immune system, a body must be exposed to germs, viruses, or bacteria. However, rather than waiting to be exposed and take the risk of becoming ill, a vaccination creates the immunity necessary to ward off those illnesses. It rallies the bodys immune system to develop defenses against certain diseases and protect you from becoming seriously ill.
Do Vaccines Have Health Risks?
While most health care professionals point out that vaccinations have benefits that far outweigh any potential risk, some vaccines do have the potential for negative side effects. For example, the vaccine for pertussis, or whooping cough, has caused serious problems in very rare instances. Yet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that the potential for harm or death from the combined vaccine for diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DTaP) is very low. A serious reaction to the DTaP vaccine occurs on fewer than one in one million individuals. In addition, while the DTaP vaccines may be linked to extremely rare instances of brain damage and seizures, the incidence rate is so rare, it is difficult to determine if the vaccine was the causative factor.
Some parents expressed concern after a 1998 study suggested a connection between the MMR vaccine and the increase in autism. However, five years later, the CDC reported that many well-designed studies had been unable to link autism to the MMR vaccine. Moreover, in 2004, the researchers involved in the 1998 study retracted their findings. Other studies have concluded that the total body of evidence surrounding the controversy does not support a causative link between autism and the MMR vaccine.
The benefits from vaccinations are significant. Deaths from measles declined 60 percent from 1999 to 2005, from 873k to 345k, respectively. Much of this improvement can be attributed to the MMR vaccine. Yet, some parents choose to opt out of the MMR vaccination citing their concerns over side effects. In the wake of these decisions, the incidence of measles is increasing in some countries. A World Health Organization report estimated that 7,000 people died of measles in Western Europe in 2000.
Immunization for adults plays an important role in reducing deaths as well. The CDC recommends the flu vaccine for any adult over the age of 50, the elderly in long-term care facilities, individuals with chronic health issues, pregnant women, anyone with a weakened immune system, among others. In the United States alone, approximately 30,000 people die annually due to complications from influenza, such as pneumonia.
Is Natural Immunity Stronger than a Vaccination?
Generally, a natural infection will produce a more complete immunity than a vaccine; however, for many, serious diseases can lead to death, thus highlighting the importance of vaccines. For example, polio can lead to permanent paralysis. Chickenpox can cause pneumonia and death. Mumps can cause deafness. Thus, the question for parents concerned with the risks associated with vaccines centers is to consider the serious, and often life-threatening, complications from disease with the negligible risk of serious side effects from the injections. Vaccines have consistently been shown to prevent disease and the related complications.