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Being an argumentative sort of person, every once in a while* I find myself getting into a spot of witty repartee. It usually happens on twitter, the land of the 140-character he-said/she-said/THE-GOVERNMENT-IS-OUT-TO-GET-YOU banter, but occasionally I find myself getting into arguments in other places online, or even in real life.
Often these arguments are over the subject of vaccines. Because whilst vaccines have been accepted by public health organisations the world over as the most important medical innovation of the 20th century, and one of the most lifesaving interventions that we’ve ever come up with, there is a small minority of people who are convinced that vaccines are bad for their child’s health.
A small, very vocal, minority.
Now, I’m not here to criticize parents. It’s very important to note that most parents want the best for their kids. They are trying to look out for their children, and occasionally in this pursuit they get misled. And make no mistake, the people who sell vaccine fear are professionals in the art of deception. They know exactly how to convince a worried parent that the most dangerous thing in the world for their child is the vaccine, rather than, say, the measles.
It’s not the parents who are spreading vaccine denial. They are victims of professionals. If you are a parent who is worried about vaccination: don’t stress. You are a good parent. You have just been lied to. Have a read of this article, and maybe go have a chat with your doctor about why immunization is important and why it’s a good thing for your kids.
Whenever you talk vaccines, the anti-vax professionals come up with the same arguments time and again. Here are my top 8, and why they make no sense whatsoever:
8Vaccines Cause Autism. I’m not really going to go into this, because it has been refuted time and again. Virtually every study involving a) humans, b) more than 10 participants, and c) researchers who haven’t been convicted of fraud, has shown that there is no link between vaccines and autism. It was a valid concern in the early 90s, but we have 30 years of evidence showing that autism is in no way linked to vaccines.
VACCINES DO NOT CAUSE AUTISM ALL REPUTABLE STUDIES HAVE SHOWN THIS FOR DECADES
7There Hasn’t Been Much Research. This is always a bit of a weird one, because people are usually claiming that on the one hand there hasn’t been enough research done on vaccines to prove them safe, but on the other they know the truth because they’ve done their research and it shows vaccines to be basically poison.
It’s a strange argument to make, but it comes up all the time.
This is simply a lie told by vaccine-deniers to make parents scared. Vaccines are one of the most well-researched interventions of all time. We have data from literally millions of children across the world demonstrating their safety. There has been more research on vaccines than almost any other medical intervention.
The research has been done. Time and again. Vaccines are safe and effective.
6Vaccines Are Enormously Profitable. This is also a weird one, because…so what? So are any number of things. The international flour market is gigantic, but that doesn’t make every bread advert a missive from the devil. Flour millers have actually been influential in protecting babies worldwide by fortifying their products with macronutrients and preventing neural tube defects.
It’s also untrue. Pharma companies make far more money from so-called ‘blockbuster’ drugs than vaccines — for example, Astrazeneca’s Nexium, despite being no more effective than cheaper options for gastrointestinal problems, has made them more than $50 billion. The yearly earnings have been somewhere between 2 and 5 times as much as the flu vaccine. In fact, if you look at the top 20 earners for pharma companies, not one of them is a vaccine.
5Vaccines Cost Loads. Perhaps more importantly than this, however: vaccines don’t cost much at all. Take the whooping cough vaccine. A full 3 doses costs around 100 USD. That seems like quite a bit, until you remember that a single case of whooping cough can easily top $10,000 if it requires significant treatment.
Vaccines are actually cost-saving. What this means is that for every dollar you spend on vaccines, you get about seven dollars back because you stop people from getting sick and dying from their illnesses. Generally speaking, it would be much more profitable for the medical industry to not vaccinate, because disease tends to be really expensive.
4The CDC Is Lying. This is one of my favourite red herrings, because it is just so easy to disprove. Whenever someone brings up the CDC, my response is…so what? Let’s say the CDC is evil, awful, in the pocket of Big Pharma. It’s not — the people who work at the CDC are dedicated, honest, and usually incredibly good at public health — but for the sake of argument, let’s say the CDC is corrupt.
People who focus on the CDC ignore one glaring truth: the US isn’t the only country in the world. If the CDC is corrupt, what about every other public health organisation in the world that recommends vaccines. Australia. France. The UK. Japan. China. The list goes on. Forget about the CDC. Have a look at the Australian Department of Health on vaccines. Or the Japanese immunization schedule. Or one of hundreds of other countries that all choose to vaccinate. Either there’s a global conspiracy including countries that are literally at war with one another — a bit unlikely — or immunization is a good thing no matter what you think of the CDC.
3The US Is Special. This is another one that I love, because it’s so easily disprovable. No, the US doesn’t give a uniquely high number of immunizations. Much of the OECD has a virtually identical vaccine schedule to the US, bar a few minor differences. The US also has significantly less punitive laws in terms of vaccination than other countries — for example, in France you can go to jail for failing to vaccinate your kids.
So no. The US isn’t special. It’s just another country, trying to stop nasty diseases like polio, diptheria and measles from killing children.
2Vaccine Manufacturers Can’t Be Sued For Making Kids Sick. This is actually a very simple lie. You can sue whoever you want, even in the US. What the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act actually does is make it much easier to get compensation for children who have suffered vaccine injuries. If you can demonstrate that you had a vaccine and suffered a recognized issue — let’s say anaphylaxis — there is a reasonably simple method of gaining access to compensation in the US.
Elsewhere in the world, for example Australia, often all you can do is sue in civil courts. And even if you’ve suffered genuine harm from vaccination, proving this in a court of law is next to impossible, meaning that people who do suffer injuries are almost never compensated.
It’s also worth noting that saying “vaccine manufacturers can’t be sued” is again a uniquely American piece of nonsense. There are hundreds of other countries. Most of them allow anyone to try and sue anyone. And yet, the UK court system isn’t flooded with cases of vaccine manufacturers being successfully sued.
I wonder why?
1Vaccine Injury Is Common/People Are Getting Sicker. Last but not least, the most common one of the bunch. Forget the CDC, forget the pharmaceutical companies, this is the real evil.
Every year, people are getting sicker. And it’s all down to vaccines.
There are two parts to this story. Firstly, we aren’t getting sicker. Not even a little bit. Life expectancy is marching steadily upward, with some people predicting that we will be living past 100 in this century. Not only that, but infant and child mortality is at record lows, and is only heading swiftly down. This isn’t just true for wealthy countries mind you — the entire world is getting stubbornly healthier.
Secondly, vaccine injury is an amazingly well-researched field. We know the rate of injuries associated with vaccines all too well. It’s roughly 1 serious problem for every million vaccinations given. This is a number that has been replicated worldwide, from Japan to Thailand to Australia to Finland and yes, to the US.
There’s not really much more to say. These are common arguments, mostly just based on simple lies. Vaccines are safe and effective, not because pharmaceutical companies say it’s so or because the CDC has proclaimed it, but because thousands of dedicated researchers the world over have spent decades checking to make sure that they are.
So go and get your kids vaccinated. It’s good for society, it will save us all money, but most of all it might save their life.