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Get your shots

Apr 15, 2014 12:00 pm | Sam Macdonald

The internet, as Iím sure you already know, has all sorts of misinformation and outright lies about anything and everything. These untruths vary from the behavior of celebrities, to the dangers of vaccinations. The examples Iíve chosen indicate that while some of this information is just noise, some of it is downright dangerous.

Coinciding with a new wave of pseudoscience claiming that vaccines do more harm than good, is a rise in the incidence of preventable diseases for which vaccines exist, including measles, pertussis (whooping cough), and the mumps.

There is, without a doubt, a direct connection between the amount of people saying vaccines give children autism, and exaggerating statistics associated with people who are allergic to chemicals in vaccines, and the preventable curable diseases that are on the rise.

Let me cut to the chase Ė almost anything scientific a person claiming to be anti-vaccine says about vaccines is wrong. Not just inaccurate, not open to debate, just wrong. There are all sorts of myths out there that can easily be debunked and exposed for the nonsense that they are. But since not everyone is able to identify bad science, there are communities all over North America seeing unprecedented outbreaks of old world diseases.

One of the most frightening claims Iíve seen made is that vaccines cause autism. I can even tell you who made the claim, it was a doctor named Andrew Wakefield in 1998. He was the only one who actually tried to scientifically prove there was a connection, instead of just repeating that there was, because he read so, on some homeopathy site.

His study, written and researched in 1998, has been proven numerous times as wrong, badly researched, and fraudulent. He also ended up losing his medical license, because he had a habit of abusing his patients.

Iíve had people warn me of the horrific side effects of vaccines, but Iíve gotten the gamut of shots for everything under the sun, and all Iíve ever experienced was a little soreness in my upper arm. There are some very rare cases in which allergic reactions are present, but those happen to be associated with one-in-a-million kinds of odds, and even the most severe can easily be treated.

Another real danger behind the growing trend of eschewing vaccinations, and one of my biggest bones of contention with the anti-vaccine stance is the way avoiding vaccination affects herd immunity.

To break it down, herd immunity refers to the few people who are genuinely not able to get vaccines relying on everyone else around them not to transfer the diseases to them.

If someone is allergic to a vaccine, has an immune system too weak to take a certain vaccine, or in the event a vaccine doesnít work for them, that person relies on other people (the ďherdĒ) not to give them the disease.

A growing number of people not getting vaccinated means that the diseases those vaccines are supposed to prevent end up spreading. The weaker the herd immunity the more likely a disease will spread. And that, like weíve seen with the measles that spread across south and central Alberta and parts of BC last year, is exactly what happens when people refuse to vaccinate.

Lastly, any encouragement to get your flu shot or immunize your child against the mumps and rubella is not a secret plot by ďbig pharmaceutical companiesĒ to get your money, itís common sense. Vaccines, the vast majority of the time, save lives and prevent diseases. Pharmaceutical companies, doctors, and people whoíve read the proper evidence recommend vaccines, because they work.

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