By Trevor Shewfelt, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy
I grew up next to a nuclear research facility. Yes the Simpsons was originally a documentary called the Shewfelts. What I noticed growing up was the lame stream media (yes it does hurt to quote Sarah Palin), were horribly uneducated about science in general and nuclear energy in particular. The news paper and TV reporters always interviewed Dr. So-and-so who was the head of a concerned citizens group against nuclear energy. The problem was Dr. So-and-so had a PhD in statistics. He didn’t know anymore about a nuclear reactor than I did as a high school student. Yet the lame stream media gave him a lot of air time. No air time was given to the fact nuclear power is probably one the cleanest and most efficient ways we have to generate electricity.
As a pharmacist, there are some medications that I think the lame stream media gives a bad rap to as well. These drugs are very inexpensive, are very safe and have already saved thousands, if not millions of lives. The headlines should scream, “Diptheria reduced from 3000 case per year to 1-5 cases per year.” Or “Measles reduced from outbreaks of 300,000 to 400,000 every 2-3 years to an average of 12 cases per year.” The modern medical miracles that have made these advances possible are vaccinations.
I know there is a vocal minority out there that thinks vaccines are the root of all evil. Despite the fact the all the studies I’ve read that say vaccines are extraordinarily safe and effective, I probably won’t convince the die hard anti-vaccine people, and that’s okay. But if you are on the fence, lend me your ears for a little bit and I’ll see if I can give you something to think about.
Some of the objections to immunizations revolve around quantity. People say things like, “Babies today get too many shots”, or “Multiple injections will overwhelm the baby’s immune system.” New born babies come in contact with millions of germs shortly after birth and their immune systems can deal with them immediately. Why? Because babies are born with thousands of antibodies. If one or more shots are given to a baby, that antigen load is just a small part of what babies encounter every day. Multiple vaccines are safe to give at one time. The multiple vaccines only use a fraction of the immune system to generate the immune response. Babies can make over 1 billion antibodies, and could theoretically handle up to 10,000 shots at any one time. So all a multiple vaccine shot does is reduce the number of times the baby has to be poked. And back to vaccines somehow harming the baby’s immune system. Vaccines do not harm the immune system but prime and train it to defend, rapidly against vaccine-preventable diseases before illness can occur. This is important because babies are one of the most susceptible groups to the severe consequences of many vaccine-preventable diseases.
Vaccines cause autism. It is unfortunate this rumor is still circulating. Let’s look at what we know. One of the reasons this rumor started was timing. The beginning of regressive autism symptoms often happens at the same as childhood vaccines are given. The one that often gets blamed is the MMR or measles, mumps and rubellas vaccine. But one doesn’t cause the other. There have been many studies that refute the link of the MMR vaccine to autism. One of the most interesting observations has been the experiment many parents are performing on their children. Because of the MMR vaccine scare, fewer children are getting the MMR vaccine. However, autism rates have increased even though fewer children have been vaccinated with the MMR vaccine. The most important flaw with the MMR vaccine scare, in my opinion, was the original premise was a fraud.
Back in 1998 there was a study published in the Lancet by Dr. AJ Wakefield and colleagues. They looked at 12 children that had lost acquired skills like language. These children ranged in age from 3 to 10 years and 11of the 12 were boys. These children could have had Autism Spectrum Disorder, depending on how that condition is defined. Of these 12 children, eight of them had developed autism like symptoms after the MMR vaccine as determined by the parents. So the controversy began. But the popular media seemed to ignore that the study was only a study of 12 children, not the 1000’s of people that we usually like to see in a study. The celebrities who announced MMR causes autism seemed to ignore that since 1998 at least a dozen studies looked for a connection between MMR and autism and found none. In 2010 the original publisher, the Lancet, has actually retracted the original study. On February 2, 2010 the Lancet published a short retraction that said in part “Following the judgment of the UK General Medical Council’s Fitness to Practise Panel on Jan 28, 2010, it has become clear that several elements of the 1998 paper by Wakefield et al are incorrect…Therefore we fully retract this paper from the published record.” The whole Wakefield study was retracted! The Lancet basically said the whole Wakefield study was a fraud.
Vaccines cause more harm than the disease they are preventing. Let’s review what vaccines prevent. The number of mumps cases has dropped from 34,000 per year in the early 1950’s to an average of 87 cases reported annually between 2000 and 2004. Symptomatic meningitis occurs in about 15% of mumps cases. Swollen testicles is the most common symptom of post-pubesent boys with mumps. Mumps can cause deafness. The last major epidemic of polio occurred in 1959 with nearly 2000 cases of paralytic polio. With effective immunization, Canada was certified polio-free in 1994. In the 1950’s most people knew some child who was in an iron lung to breath for them. Now iron lungs are museum pieces and people have forgotten how devastating the disease was. Let’s look at the harm vaccines cause. Most people have no reaction to the vaccine at all. In someone gets a bad vaccine reaction, then fever, redness and tenderness where a shot was given and fussiness are the most common post-vaccination reactions. Serious adverse effects are uncommon and vaccines are one of the most monitored tools in modern medicine. The most serious reaction to a vaccine is anaphylaxis, and it can be life threatening. But anaphylaxis only occurs in 2 patients per 1,000,000 immunizations given.
Even with Chernobyl and 3-Mile Island, nuclear reactors still have a tiny environmental foot-print compared to all the stuff that comes out of the smoke stack of a coal fired power plant or all the land that is flooded by a hydro-electric dam. Nuclear reactors are many times more efficient than wind or solar power. Ever seen a wind or solar powered submarine? Vaccines too get a bad name in the lame stream media and should get more respect. And that should be the last time I ever quote Sarah Palin.
As always if you have any questions or concerns about these products, ask your pharmacist.
The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.
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Immunization Info from BC Health – http://immunizebc.ca/sites/default/files/docs/ImmunizationCommunicationToolFINAL.pdf
Immunization Myths – http://resources.cpha.ca/CCIAP/data/342e.pdf
Immunization facts – http://resources.cpha.ca/CCIAP/data/1688e.pdf
Immunization – can you trust what you read on the internet – http://resources.cpha.ca/CCIAP/data/0288e.pdf
Caring for Kids (Info from Canadian Paediatricians) – http://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/
Vaccine risk Awareness Network (Definitely an anti-vaccine group) – http://vran.org/