The Healthy Dose: Vaccination Verified


By Parth Dwivedi

While dropping your children off to school you notice a small boy, their classmate. His eyes are red and rashes cover his skin. He has measles. This scenario should scare you and the solution is simple.

Vaccinate your children.

A small but significant number of people actively choose to avoid vaccination. As a direct result, Measles outbreaks have increased seven-fold in the United States, especially in the states of New York, Oregon, and California. This does not mean Texas is risk-free, though. In August last year, 21 people linked to the same mega church that encouraged people not to vaccinate came down with Measles simultaneously.

Immunizing, or vaccinating, people against disease is the basis of herd immunity. This means that when a large part of a group is immune to a disease, any rare occurrences of that disease do not spread far. When people stop immunizing themselves and their children herd immunity falls apart and disease outbreaks happen.

Some anit-vaccinators deny the very effectiveness of vaccination, while more are concerned with nonexistant side effects, like autism.

Vaccinations are overwhelmingly safe barring some exceptional and rare cases, according to a recent review of 67 different American studies. Published just a few days ago in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the most common vaccines were examined, namely for varicella (chickenpox and shingles), Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR), and rotavirus (stomach flu). This would also be a good chance to remind anyone out there who has not gotten their routine vaccinations to do just that!

An Australian study published in May examined data from 1.2 million children to show no link between different forms of vaccination and autism. More specifically, components of vaccines as well as multiple vaccines—like MMR—do not cause autism.

Vaccines have traditionally only been available for viral infections—like the flu—but vaccines for bacterial infections—like typhoid fever—have recently become available, too, as Peter Shahinian of Novartis Pharmaceuticals pointed out.

At this point it is fairly clear how vaccination can affect an entire community of people, but some still might not understand how it works.

Your body’s immune system works by identifying what is causing a disease then destroying it. In the same way that police take fingerprints when arresting a suspect, your body remembers what caused trouble the first time. While mounting an immune response is a large task, this “memory” makes recovering quicker if the disease comes back a second time.

Vaccines are just the fingerprints of a virus—the outer coat—without the part that causes trouble—the genetic material. They prepare your body to respond to the actual infection more efficiently.

For another great read, check out a piece written by The Verge titled, “Vaccine deniers: inside the dumb, dangerous new fad.“

Tune in next week when we discuss Diabetes.

Parth Dwivedi has a B.A. in Neuroscience and an M.S. in Biomedical Sciences. He likes reading non-fiction and still watches I Love Lucy.

Parth Dwivedi has a B.A. in Neuroscience and an M.S. in Biomedical Sciences. He likes reading non-fiction and still watches I Love Lucy.

Tune in next week when we discuss Diabetes.