Parents Need To Know Vaccines Are Safe

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Parents Need To Know Vaccines Are Safe
 

by Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

Too often these days the ridiculous is partnered with the thoughtful in debates with both given equal footing. It’s called a false equivalency. It is giving equal time and credence to a person who says the Earth is flat as to one who shows you the proof that the Earth, is in fact, round.

Creating false equivalencies, giving listeners or readers the idea that two points of view always have equal weight and value, is done out of a warped sense of “fairness” and certainly not out of any devotion to intellectual honesty.

Letting false equivalencies legitimatize otherwise wacky, bizarre, uninformed, points of view does a disservice to the public especially in moments of fear when false beliefs can endanger health and safety. Such is the case with the spread of measles in Minnesota this spring.

When we give those who say autism can be caused by childhood vaccinations the appearance of carrying equal weight to the medical experts who have soundly debunked the link we have failed as a press that is supposed to be giving society honest, accurate information.

Measles is a potentially deadly disease. It can cause brain damage in a child. It can lead to deafness or blindness. Yes, in most cases the measles is fought off by our immune systems and we are sick for only a few days – but why take the risk when there is a proven, effective vaccine. The measles vaccination is most often combined with mumps and rubella vaccinations in a MMR shot.

“Children should receive two doses of the MMR vaccine: the first at 12 to 15 months of age and the second at 4 to 6 years of age. During a measles outbreak, children may receive the second dose as soon as four weeks after the first dose, no matter how old they are,” the Minnesota Department of Health says.

Measles has been very rare in the United States since the early 1990s with the Centers for Disease Control even saying the disease had been eradicated in the United States in 2000.  But travelers coming to the U.S. infected with the disease began spreading it to a group of people who had come to believe that vaccines were the cause of autism and were refusing to get their children, or themselves, vaccinated against the disease.

Vaccine fears were introduced to the world by British doctor Andrew Wakefield who authored a report based on his supposed study of autism and vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella.  He reported in 1998 that he had found a direct link between vaccinations and a complex brain disorder that leaves its victims with communication and social interaction challenges.

But it wasn’t long before other researchers began to question his findings as no one could replicate his research. Finally, in 2010 it was found that Wakefield had fraudulently created his research and that vaccinations had nothing to do with autism. Wakefield was stripped of his doctor’s license for “serious professional misconduct.”

But by this time he had ardent supporters around the world. His research and the preaching of his anti-vaccine disciples are readily available on the internet and continue to win converts.

With 58 known cases, Minnesota’s current measles outbreak is the biggest since 1990. Among those cases, 55 are children. Back in 1990, 460 people were infected with the disease and three children died from it.

“In the decade before the measles vaccination program began, an estimated 3 to 4 million persons in the United States were infected each year, of whom 400 to 500 died, 48,000 were hospitalized, and another 1,000 developed chronic disability from measles encephalitis,” the Minnesota Department of Health says.

Minnesota’s current outbreak has been linked to the state’s Somali population which has a relatively high rate of people who are not vaccinated against the measles. But the spread of measles in the state isn’t just because some in the Somali population aren’t getting vaccinated. Others in Minnesota have chosen not to get vaccinated because of unfounded fears that vaccinations are linked to autism.
 

“There are a growing number of people who are choosing not to get their children immunized,” Countryside Public Health’s Gloria Tobias told the Monitor-News in an interview in 2015. “There are little pockets growing around our five-county area. These people have read stories, often on the Internet and not scientific articles, that make them worry about the possibility of side effects from the vaccine.”

Because measles has been rare in Minnesota for nearly 30 years, many young parents haven’t been exposed to it and know little about how devastating a childhood disease it can be. “All they hear about are the side effects from the vaccine and they think it is really bad. What they don’t know is that they have to weigh it against the devastation of the disease,” she said.

Those fears combined with today’s anti-science acceptance among some in America makes the challenge facing health officials in stopping measles and other diseases from spreading more challenging.

“It isn’t just a matter of not knowing what they are talking about, it is that a significant number of Americans simply reject the conclusions they (scientists) have reached through rigorous study,” a survey of the American Association for the Advancement of Science conducted by the Pew Research Center said. Rejection of science presents a very real threat to the health of Americans when it leads parents to not get their children vaccinated.

The Minnesota Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Countryside Public Health, and family medical providers all work to educate the public about the necessity of vaccinations. The public needs to know that those who reject vaccines aren’t talking with the science or medical facts to support their conjecture that these professionals bring to the debate through dedicated scientific research and testing.
 

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