Vaccinations Debate

It is a trend that propagates with followers each day.
In a world where information is fed continuously to the average American, whether it be the media or social networks, some legends never die. A current example is the document that Andrew Wakefield published in the February 1998 issue of the Lancet, stating that vaccines cause autism and gastrointestinal issues. Although debunked in 2010, Wakefield’s legacy lives on, causing many parents around the globe to stop vaccinating their children. Now, in 2015, measles has returned, along with whooping cough and other diseases vaccines once kept at bay.

Brad Morse, a registered nurse in the community, said in order for diseases to be contained a herd immunity must be acquired.

“For vaccines to be effective, you need 95 percent of the population to be immunized,” Morse said. “Once you start getting below that, you start to have problems.”

According to, herd immunity is an indirect way the population protects the general public from contagious diseases. Vaccinations protect individuals by infecting them with a small dosage of the infection, giving them protection. Persons who do not have the natural immunity due to medical reasons, are protected by the herd immunity brought on by those who did get vaccinated. Eventually, if vaccinations are administered properly, the disease will become rare and sometimes even eradicated, such as smallpox in 1977.

Although vaccines have shown to eliminate diseases, many parents are still fearful of getting their children vaccinated. According to Morse, the fear of autism is still one of the main reasons parents continue to deny vaccines.

“There are two reasons people usually don’t get vaccinations. One is that they don’t think there is much of a risk, and the bigger one now is people are scared of young children becoming autistic because of the vaccinations,” Morse said.

The article Wakefield published in the Lancet 17 years ago has been revised and demystified as of 2010. According to USAToday, Wakefield had published the misguided article after being paid $675,000 from a lawyer who had hoped to sue vaccine makers. Wakefield was banned from practicing medicine in England, but many parents continue to believe his defamation. The medical world has few answers as to why autism happens, and it is easy for parents of autistic children to channel their blame onto vaccines, according to Morse.

“Autism has gone up and nobody knows why, but there is no evidence that vaccinations cause it,” Morse said. “It becomes very personal. It’s an emotional issue for a lot people, because if it happened to your kid, you’d want to blame somebody else.”

Just as quickly as Wakefield’s false findings reached the public, diseases that vaccines had prevented in the past made a come-back.

“Interestingly enough, when the UK published this paper in 1998, the UK and Ireland had a massive drop-off of people getting their kids vaccinated, and guess what happened? A correlated rise in measles,” Morse said.

Measles in the UK and Ireland had once been eradicated, according to BBC news, but soon it reappeared, infecting un-vaccinated children. Diseases occurred mostly in children who had not been vaccinated during the peak of the vaccine-autism scare. In December of 2014, there was an outbreak of measles at Disneyland in southern California. In an article posted by the Scientific American, study author Maimuna Majumder of Boston Children’s Hospital said the outbreak has been linked to low vaccination rates.

There are of course those people who have strong views concerning government mandated vaccinations including Robert Richards, a chiropractor in Coos Bay.

“I do not believe any government entity possesses the constitutional authority to mandate that I or my child be immunized,” Richards said. “Vaccines of all kinds have been known to maim and kill. There remains a notion that this physical damage and loss of life is acceptable based on the ‘good’ vaccines have done.”

Although there have been cases of allergic reactions to vaccines, the Center of Disease Control stated, “Based on more than 50 years of experience with vaccines, we can say that the likelihood that a vaccine will cause unanticipated long-term problems is extremely low.”

Morse said many online findings about vaccines are not credulous.

“I do not know of any actual deaths being caused by vaccinations from reputable sources, and there are no credible studies linking an association with the MMR vaccine and autism, while there are numerous scientific peer reviewed studies stating there is no evidence linking MMR vaccinations with children acquiring autism,” Morse said.

Along with the stigma surrounding vaccines and autism, there are also issues adjacent to the HPV vaccine, many regarding sexual issues, according to Morse.

“We literally have a vaccination that can prevent cancer. It is the only one that can, and yet many parents are freaked out about it because they’re scared their children are going to become sexually promiscuous if they give them this vaccination,” Morse said. “It is ridiculous.”

Since June of 2006, the Gardasil vaccine has been on the market. It prevents up to an estimated 70 percent of HPV cancers, and 90 percent of genital warts, according to Gardasil’s website. Over half the adult population has HPV, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is easily passed through sexual contact and can go unnoticed in infected persons. The Gardasil vaccine helps prevent this spread and reduce the high risk women have of acquiring cervical cancer from HPV.

“This is a really important vaccine that parents should know about,” Morse said. “It prevents cervical cancer, vaginal cancer and vulvar cancer in women. It also prevents anal cancer in both men and women, and it also protects against genital warts,” Morse said.

The Gardasil shot is administered over the course of six months. It is three injections and must be completed, or else the vaccine will not work. According to Gardasil’s website, it is highly recommended for both boys and girls who have yet to become sexually active, and will help prevent any future infections.

“Ideally you get the HPV shot between 11 and 12. It’s three shots, and it takes that amount of time to build up in your system. They want you to get it before you are sexually active, and it only works with kids because their bodies are still developing,” Morse said. “You can vaccinate women up to age 26 and men to 21,” Morse said.

As for Wakefield, his findings continue to appear throughout the Internet. Morse said the autistic rumors surrounding vaccines started out from Wakefield’s article, published over 10 years ago.

“All urban legends start some place, and that’s where that one started,” Morse said.