Vaccines: Information is the Answer

Kaitlin Lanning advocates for vaccinations in the midst of the heated debate over their safety.

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Kaitlin Lanning , Writer

In the wake of the measles and whooping cough outbreak across the US, the false association of vaccinations with the rise of autism has reemerged in the media and our homes. Facts, figures, rumors and myths have been flung about across many media outlets. I do not pretend to be an expert on the subject of vaccination, nor on the science behind autism, but I do have a severely disabled brother with autism and deep roots in the autism community, which is the source of all this fear. I hope to explain a side of the story that will not only reaffirm support for vaccination, but will also increase awareness of propaganda and falsities.

Much of the propaganda that perpetuates the notion that vaccines cause autism stems from a man named Andrew Wakefield. In 1998, Wakefield published a small study — a study since retracted —  stating that he had found cases that showed many children who received the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) became autistic thereafter. After a lengthy investigation and several other studies lasting over a decade, Wakefield was found guilty of multiple ethical violations including: fudging data, collecting blood samples from his son’s friends at a birthday party, using samples he knew contained false positives, extorting money, patenting his own MMR vaccine according to his study in order to take in royalties, and concealing his intent to his ethics committee to perform experimental procedures on children.

Even though Wakefield’s study has been debunked, many still cling to this information as truth. The benefits of vaccines far outweigh the alleged disadvantages. For example, the CDC released the results of a study that showed vaccines saved over 732,000 lives alone and prevented 322 million cases of illness. People have seemingly forgotten the tragic consequences of measles. Measles is extremely dangerous, especially to young children. If a young child contracts measles, they are likely to have a weakened immune system, some for the rest of their lives, according to the CDC. Measles, in extreme cases, can even cause blindness and mental illness, the very thing most anti-vaccination advocates fear.

I know well how devastating autism can be. I dealt with it for nineteen years of my life while living with my brother. Autism is a growing epidemic, but now measles, a once nearly-eradicated disease, has returned to the forefront of concern. Autism is prevalent across the country and our best scientists tirelessly work to understand why. While one scientist may have turned out to be a man with ulterior motives and intentions, the vast majority of scientists are people who want to help mankind and prevent disease.

Given all this information, I sincerely hope that people will feel more informed and not make the tragic decision against vaccinating their children. Please, vaccinate your children. If you yourself have not yet been vaccinated, it is never too late to resolve it; there are hospitals and clinics around the country willing to vaccinate you, sometimes even for free. Depend on tested information, not on tales.

 

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