Things at UCSB have been pretty tense recently. With all the meningitis and influenza outbreaks, it is no wonder — each year thousands die in the U.S. from diseases such as these. In uneasy times like this there is good news, though. We have a very good protection against these pathogens, a nearly foolproof method of fortifying the body: the process known as vaccination. However, thanks to a few outspoken, rather ignorant groups, misinformation has been spread about vaccines, namely the myth that they can cause autism.
First, the good news again: As a result of vaccination, smallpox, measles and polio are now almost entirely a thing of the past. Sure, there may a few negative aspects to getting vaccinated, such as a sore arm or a slight fever, but any of these are widely outweighed by the positive effects — go in, get a quick shot, and you have one less deadly thing to worry about in this world. They have been tested again and again to be effective and safe, with no adverse long-term effects.
Even so, some still clamor that vaccines cause autism spectrum disorders. Perhaps the reason for this is that the age in which a child gets vaccinated simply coincides with when they develop the symptoms of autism. Around two-or-three-years-old is when a child first starts to develop symptoms of autism and, as it just so happens, is also when they get many of their vaccines. At this age, regardless of whether or not children are vaccinated, they may develop symptoms of autism if they happen to be autistic — that is just how the body works.
Despite what any Playmate of the Year would say (I’m looking at you beautiful, but-oh-so misguided Jenny McCarthy), autism cannot be caused by vaccines. These people claim that certain chemicals in the shots, like mercury and aluminum, could cause adverse reactions in a child’s brain, possibly resulting in autism. But the fact is that nowadays, these chemicals have either been entirely removed from the vaccine, or are in such incredibly low amounts that there is no reaction to speak of. Furthermore, studies have shown that kids who get their MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine basically have the same rate of autism as kids who did not get the vaccine. What more proof would you need?
Epidemics are no joke. While sensationalized events like wars or disasters get headline news, diseases that we have preventative vaccines for continue to take the lives of millions all around the globe. Back in the early 20th century, the Spanish flu killed more people than all of World War I. Vaccines can stop epidemics like these from developing. Not only do they help the individual, but they protect the population as a whole. This is something called herd immunity: If most of the population is vaccinated, this makes it increasingly harder for a disease to hop from person to person, meaning that even people who are not vaccinated are safer — just one more reason to get vaccinated.
Some claim that the medical companies administer these supposed “dangerous” vaccines in the pursuit of raising their profit margins. If you think about it, you’ll realize how ridiculous that idea is. You get one shot, maybe a couple booster shots and basically for the next few years you are immune. Most of the time, insurance even covers the cost of the shot. If the companies really wanted the money, they would do all they could to make sure you do not get vaccinated. They would want you to get sick so they could wring every last penny out of you through expensive medicines and operations. Vaccines prevent diseases, meaning that you will actually have to visit the doctor less often.
Organizations like the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, the National Academy of Sciences and even Autism Speaks, have come out supporting the fact that vaccines do not cause autism. And even if vaccines could somehow “provoke” autism in some children — which I am saying there is absolutely no evidence for — the benefits would still outweigh the negatives. With the increasing number of disease outbreaks, we should be doing all we can to protect ourselves and our loved ones from them.
I’m not criticizing researchers looking into the vaccine-autism link, nor am I criticizing parents who are concerned about the health of their children. But the fact is every single study has shown again and again that there is no link between vaccination and the onset of autism. If parents really cared about the health of their children, they would vaccinate their kids and ignore the absurd claims of these fringe groups.
Jay Grafft ain’t afraid of no needles.