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Vaccines: The real risk vs. the real benefits

GLENN ELLIS | 3/19/2017, 7:02 a.m.
Most Americans today have no concept of the terror generated by polio throughout the first half of the 20th century. ...
Boxes of single-doses vials of the measles-mumps-rubella virus vaccine live, or MMR vaccines are keep frozen inside a freezer. CDC recommends all children get two doses of MMR vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age, and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age. Damian Dovarganes

Strategies for Well-Being

Most Americans today have no concept of the terror generated by polio throughout the first half of the 20th century. During epidemics, newspapers and magazines displayed adorable children struggling to walk in braces or entombed in iron lungs, but the disease mostly fell off the national radar after it was eliminated from the country in 1979. In the past few years, however, polio has begun creeping back into headlines.

Research has soundly disproved the alleged connection, yet fears about vaccines continue to be a major risk to public health.

A new wave of fear is currently based on a documentary, Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe. The premise of the film is that the mandatory MMR vaccine – given to children under age 2 to prevent measles, mumps and rubella – may be leading to an epidemic of autism diagnoses.

Many well-intentioned, but misguided, voices are shouting “to the highest mountaintop,” sounding the alarm and cautioning some parents to refuse to vaccinate their children.

What seems to be conveniently left out is that the director of the film is none other than Andrew Wakefield. That name doesn’t ring a bell?

The original study that raised the issue on the connection between vaccines and autism was Wakefield, who at the time was a medical doctor. He published a study in 1998 in the journal The Lancet and involved only 12 patients who, after receiving the MMR vaccine, suffered ill effects that appeared (not diagnosed) to be autism. Not only was it found that he was “hired” by a law firm that was planning to sue a pharmaceutical company, but in an unprecedented move in the 100-year history of The Lancet, the article was retracted, with a formal apology. Needless to say, Wakefield lost his license to practice medicine. Guess he needed to find a way to make a living, so why not become a filmmaker?

I could go on, but the unfortunate truth is that “a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”

But, as I stated earlier, most people don’t know what happens to a child that is stricken with one of the diseases that vaccinations prevent.

Diphtheria is a disease that attacks the throat and heart. It can lead to heart failure and death. Tetanus is also called “lockjaw.” It can lead to severe muscle spasms and death. Pertussis – also called “whooping cough” – causes severe coughing that makes it hard to breathe, eat and drink. It can lead to pneumonia, convulsions, brain damage and death. The measles cause fever, rash, cough, runny nose and watery eyes. It can also cause ear infections and pneumonia. Measles can also lead to more serious problems, such as brain swelling and even death. The mumps cause fever, headache and painful swelling of one or both major saliva glands. Mumps can lead to meningitis (infection of the coverings of the brain and spinal cord) and, very rarely, to brain swelling. In some rare cases, it can cause the testicles of boys or men to swell, which can make them unable to have children.