by Dr. Kevin Benson
As seen in the Odessa American Medical Matters:
Heard from a caller to a local radio call in show “vaccinations ruin kids immunity and there hasn’t been anyone who died from mumps in a really long time.”
Our insulated, vaccinated society.
Recently there has been a mumps “outbreak” in Texas. As of April 21, CNN reports Texas has 221 cases this year, (which) constitutes the highest incidence of mumps in the state in 22 years. (http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/14/health/mumps-texas/)
Maybe that doesn’t sound so bad. After all, in a state with upwards of 27 million people, the chance of your child being the one to get mumps is pretty low. And since other people vaccinate their kids, your kid will probably be protected. Probably. And even if they did get mumps, well, they wouldn’t die from it. Probably. And even if they did catch such a rare illness, modern medicine has other ways to cure people of those things, right?
Vaccinations have gotten a bad rap in the past few years with people claiming that they are the root cause of everything from autism to food allergies. For many, the fear of potential side effects of vaccinations has eclipsed the fear of being infected with these serious illnesses. Here in the first world, it is much easier to find someone who claims that their child’s condition was caused by a vaccination than to find someone whose child was affected by the illness the vaccine was designed to prevent. This has led many to doubt theses illnesses even exist anymore.
We are beyond fortunate to be living in our modern world. But our world of jet planes and cellphones has insulated us from diseases that had devastated humans in the last century, turning these severe illnesses into what many believe are mere fairy tales that doctors and vaccine companies tell us in order to make a buck. But it wasn’t so long ago that things were very different.
As a practitioner, I have never seen a child stricken with polio. But my eyes were opened to the realities of this disease when I visited the Smithsonian Institute Museum in Washington, D.C. a number of years ago. Between the dinosaur skeletons and the space capsules was an exhibit about polio. Surely not a big draw. Even though I had learned about polio during my training, I thought I might increase my knowledge a bit and walk through. There I saw pictures of countless children affected by this viral illness. Most striking were the pictures of warehouses where rows and rows of iron lungs had been set up to assist children as polio ravaged their nervous system and muscles, robbing them of the ability to breath on their own. If children were fortunate enough to survive, they would often have to use crutches and leg braces for mobility. People were understandably terrified of this illness, as it could strike anyone’s healthy child. And there was no cure. And there still is not.
When the vaccine came out in 1952, it was a godsend. Finally there was some protection from the up to 58,000 cases a year that the U.S. had previously experienced. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polio_vaccine). But the vaccine was not without side effects. Rarely, taking the oral vaccine could actually cause polio. (One in 2.7 million doses) (http://www.who.int/immunization/diseases/poliomyelitis/endgame_objective2/oral_polio_vaccine/VAPPandcVDPVFactSheet-Feb2015.pdf) However this risk did not sway many people from having the vaccine administered to their children. The benefits simply outweighed the risks.
There are many more vaccines available to us today. Most of us have been brought up in a society where the illnesses they prevent are something to read about in books. This is because countless people have researched the safest way to prevent these illnesses and countless parents have decided the benefits outweigh the risks. It is well known that vaccinations have well known, common side effects. They also have rare side effects or reactions. Many people claim that there are other side effects or we just don’t know what side effects these vaccines might have long term.
In science, it is always right to “question with boldness”, to quote Thomas Jefferson. It is right to ask questions about vaccines and discuss them with your child’s doctor. At this time, all credible evidence points to the fact that vaccines are extremely safe and prevent illness that without these vaccines, would creep right back into our lives with a short time. I believe the benefits still outweigh the risks, but I keep an open mind to parents asking legitimate questions affecting their child’s health.