Pro- or anti-vax?

So what are you?  Are you pro- or anti-vaccination?

A hot topic at the moment; inviting a little bit of fundamentalism from both sides!

Why get vaccinated?

Well, the obvious answer is to prevent the disease from spreading, which certainly seems like a good idea.  But are there not alternatives?  For example, the “Leicester method”, using quarantine and good health practices, was a treatment reputed to have kept small pox at bay in Leicester, UK in the 1870s.

Also, are these diseases so serious?  Wouldn’t it be better to get the disease and recover from it? After all, this provides you with resistance (although you may infect others in the meantime).

Aren’t they dangerous?

Firstly, all medication is potentially dangerous.  You have to consider its risk: benefit ratio; i.e. am I more likely to come to harm if I take the drug or greater harm if I don’t?  (However, the US National Vaccination Injury Compensation Program is living proof that vaccination can indeed be harmful.)

It also has to be said that vaccinations are generally filled with material that is considered as possibly helpful (e.g. weakened forms of viruses, or proteins or toxins associated with them) with little testing beforehand – or even afterwards; and only some – but not a lot – of long-term studies available on the effectiveness of vaccines.

There are even some suggestions that they may cause other diseases, e.g. cancer, or be a danger in how they’re administered (e.g. MMR, by taking 3 at once; do they interact badly with each other?).

 

Well, do they work?

Hmm, it depends what you mean by ‘work’.  For example, do they:

  • Always “work” or does it depend on the disease you’re trying to avoid?
  • Prevent you from getting the disease, or just reduce your chances of doing so?
  • Minimise the effects of the disease, especially prevent deaths?
  • Prevent complications after contracting the disease; e.g. so you don’t catch measles encephalitis after contracting measles (as tragically happened to Roald Dahl’s daughter)
  • “Work” after 1 injection or are booster jabs required every few years?

The short answer is: all or some of the above are applicable.  So I think in the first place it would be a good idea to provide people with as much information as possible about each disease and how vaccination might affect it.

And unfortunately, it seems that governments and the medical systems they generally run are not very keen to provide that information; with a definite tendency to railroad the public into taking these jabs.  So much so, that forced vaccinations are again being discussed (as has happened on numerous occasions in the past).  Also, the US government has given immunity from prosecution (not disease, ha ha!) to vaccine companies, for fear that they might stop manufacturing their products if taken to court by an angry American public.

And are governments’ motives to be trusted?  Do they want to save themselves or insurance companies some money?  Are they keen to promote the interests of vaccine manufacturers and drug companies?

But disease graphs look pretty convincing

That may be true.  Looking at various graphs of disease incidence against time, it certainly looks to the untrained eye that vaccines do reduce incidence quite dramatically.  However, is this improvement down to the better nutrition, health and living conditions of the last 50-100 years and not in fact due to the effect of vaccines?

Or, assuming both have had an effect, how much improvement is due to vaccines and how much is due to better general living conditions?

Without extensive research (sadly lacking, as mentioned previously) or a parallel universe – of no vaccination but with improved living conditions – it’s hard to say for sure.

So can you force people to take them?

This is what a number of fundamentalist vax believers (and governments and vaccine companies) would like to do. But if vaccination is not as safe or effective as many people suggest, then surely the answer to this question would have to be ‘no’.

But what if they are entirely safe and marvellously effective; can you force people to take them even if they don’t want to?

Well let’s look at an obvious point here: if vaccination ‘works’, then getting vaccinated will protect you from the disease!  An infected person – perhaps some dangerous refusenik who stays unvaccinated and gets the disease – won’t then be able to pass it on to you.  So you don’t need to force other people to be vaccinated to protect yourself – just get yourself vaccinated.

But these infected people will be a burden to the health service!  There are a number of responses to that, but one is ‘so are people who practise dangerous sports, so are people who drink alcohol or smoke fags’.

So what is to be done?

Well, I think the short answer is let people choose for themselves and provide as much unbiased information as possible for the particular disease and vaccination combination.  Let them talk the situation over with their doctors or health advisers; and let these professionals be as free from government and vaccine company pressure as possible.

Give people as much good information and advice as possible; and let them decide for themselves and for their children if they want to be vaccinated or not.