Anti-vaccination groups have put out many arguments against vaccines which have been rebutted by scientific and health organizations in many publications. I don’t want to cover all these arguments because I want to address the most important and irrefutable argument against vaccines, but before I do that, I want to mention some of the most salient of the lesser arguments.
Scientists and Clinicians have sold out to pharmaceutical companies which make a lot of money from unnecessary and dangerous vaccinations.
The vast majority of scientists and clinicians vaccinate their children. If these scientists and clinicians are dishonest people who sell out to pharmaceutical companies to peddle and support harmful vaccinations, why would they do that to their kids? Do you think all these people with doctorate degrees are evil, ignorant, or stupid? Also, pharmaceutical companies would make a lot more money from selling the medicines required to treat the onslaught of diseases that would roar back into our societies if we stopped vaccination than they make from vaccination itself.
Vaccines cause autism and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
No they don’t. Well-designed studies with large numbers of children have found that vaccines are not linked to autism or SIDS.
If a child is all right and develops autism after he gets his vaccines doesn’t that mean vaccines cause autism?
The age at which most children are diagnosed with autism coincides with the age at which many vaccines are administered. Considering that millions of children are vaccinated, it is very likely a vaccination and an autism diagnosis will take place sufficiently close together that a parent may be tempted to infer a causal relationship between them. But there is no such relationship.
Vaccines contain chemicals that cause health problems.
Vaccines contain small amounts of chemicals that fulfill different functions during the production of a vaccine or in the final product. Many of these chemicals are already present in other medicines, in the food we eat, and even around our houses. At the doses used in vaccines, none of these chemicals has been found to be harmful.
All the vaccines children receive can overwhelm their immune system.
From the moment a child is born they are exposed to the myriad of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms present in the environment. The challenge to a child’s immune system posed by vaccines is a small fraction of what the immune system normally handles and no studies have found that too many vaccines can overwhelm the immune system.
Vaccination is unnatural. It is better for children to get diseases and develop a natural immunity.
The process by which a child’s immune system responds to a vaccine or to an infection is the same. The difference is that with vaccines the child doesn’t have to get sick, or face the risk of dying or developing complications from the disease.
There are risks involved in getting vaccinated.
Yes, and there are also risks involved in driving a car. Everything has a risk associated with it, and vaccines are no exception. However, the risks of getting vaccinated are extremely small compared to the risks of not being vaccinated. The safety of vaccines and adverse effects due to vaccines are continuously monitored and compiled by government agencies, and they are the object of scientific research. There are individuals who should not get vaccinated if they, for example, are prone to strong allergic reactions or have weak immune systems.
So now that we have disposed of some of the lesser arguments against vaccination, let’s get down to the real argument against vaccines. This is in fact the most important argument of them all, and it permeates the whole of the anti-vaccine movement and the anti-vaccine literature, although it is seldom expressed in verbal or written form. This argument is the following:
Vaccines HAVE to cause disease. Vaccines HAVE to be dangerous. Vaccines ARE unnecessary. Doctors and scientists ARE lying to us. ACCEPTING ANYTHING DIFFERENT IS UNACCEPTABLE, period, end of the discussion.
In the majority of cases, this is the real argument against vaccines, and it is, of course, irrefutable. The truth is that by and large most of those vehemently opposed to vaccination are too emotionally invested in their cause to consider the evidence. The reasons for this are complex and may differ from one person to another, but they are probably related to the general reasons why human beings uncritically believe in conspiracy theories.
In any case, this argument creates a challenge for scientists and health professionals. But the challenge is not to convince those that are against vaccination, which are a minority. The real challenge is vaccine hesitancy. This involves many parents who are open to vaccinating their kids but have concerns because of things they have read or heard. These are the individuals that pose the real risk to society because of the possibility that they will delay the vaccination of their children or choose only to vaccinate them against some diseases, or not to vaccinate at all.
Health professionals must get to these parents before the anti-vaccination activists win their hearts and minds, and this cannot be achieved by coldly reciting the results of studies, or by pressuring or shaming them. In this modern era, not only have parents been exposed to a lot of alarmist misinformation regarding vaccines, but they also do not have the experience of earlier generations that lived at a time when many diseases such as polio ran rampant. When explaining to parents the need for vaccination, health professional must avoid judging and contradicting the parents. The parents’ concerns must be addressed sympathetically within the framework of a dialog that helps them examine their own uncertainties, and this must be done beginning at the time of a baby’s birth. Only in this way we will meet the challenge.
The vaccine photograph by the US army is in the public domain.