Vaccine Controversy: How Cautious is ‘Too Cautious’?

The realization

It’s happened more than once in the past few months; routine procrastination (away from my health and immunology studies) on social media outlets such as Facebook takes a turn away from mind-numbing time filling to aggravated commenting on threads dealing with none other than vaccine controversies. Having an RN for a mother and being (relatively) educated on the matter for as long as I can remember, the logic of proper vaccination has never been questioned in my mind. Now, as social media and news outlets are connecting opinions around the community, I am discovering that many people do not share my thoughts on the subject.

For example, two weeks ago my news feed boasted this (1) lovely article from a natural health website. The article goes on to beat the dead horse that is the ‘link’ between autism and the MMR vaccine, which has been proven time and again that Andrew Wakefield (2) was off his rocker when he published his infamous Lancet article (3). The article joins it’s scientifically inaccurate brothers in arms against the work of immunologists over the past 300 years, adding to the steaming, stinking pile of dung that is the anti-vaccine culture.

The most astounding thing about this whole discovery: the article was published in 2013. 2013. Really?

Now, many scientists and health care workers that might be reading this right now would be saying to themselves, “Right. Yet another case of bad science. What’s new.” The issue at heart may very well be the freedom any person or organization has to publish ‘science’ without peer-reviewed evidence; however, in this rant, we will stick to how it applies to vaccine controversy. To those, however, who are not MD’s- the article may have very well piqued your curiosity.

The controversy

In Canada, since (most) vaccinations are covered under (4) Canadian medical coverage for all citizens, the issue with vaccine adherence is rarely access; it is misinformation or intentional neglect. Whereas poor adherence in Cambodia reflects lack of access or infrastructure, poor adherence in Canada reflects the lack of information or positive action of its citizens.

Now, don’t get me wrong- Canadians enjoy a relatively decent adherence rate (84%-92% in one New Brusnwick study) (5). However, easily vaccinated illnesses such as whooping cough are making a comeback in some areas and we must start asking why. Click here for an article that shows that 2012 Whooping cough cases are the worst in decades. (6)

I can’t stop asking myself- are these small blips in pathogen resurgence a result of lack of vaccination? If my insinuation still isn’t clear, then get this- the rates of vaccine adherence start to fall off the cliff right around the time the world wide web started connecting people and their opinions together.

Massive coincidence? Doubtful.

When one connects the dots, it is startlingly clear that anti-vaccine culture has scared the bejesus out of parents protecting their children (and rightfully so) and other concerned citizens of the dangers they hear about through the grapevine.

So, I’m about to try to tell you why your fears are misplaced, and why you’re actually not being an informed parent/citizen.

The ultimatum

When you hear about a new product that might potentially be dangerous, we don’t buy it. Just talked to a coworker that got sick from the new fast food place? Won’t go there ever. But when we hear that vaccines might be correlated with disease, avoidance is not the answer. It’s a backwards concept, but hear me out:

We all know seatbelts to be best for our safety. Recently, there have been stirrings (7) that wearing your belt might actually harm you at an accident if for some reason it malfunctions and prevents you from exiting a burning vehicle. Sounds logical, so with this threat now do we all boycott seatbelt wearing?

In fact, it is now Ontario law (8) that seatbelts must be worn or said passenger will be fined because- you guessed it- not wearing a belt is dangerous to everyone else in the car! Imagine that, doing something because it protects others in society, and not yourself.

Vaccines are the same way. Getting one may cause problems; there is an extremely low chance you could react allergically or develop a complication due to the increased inflammation. But compared to the risks associated with not getting vaccinated the choice is obvious (click here for 2012 death rates on influenza alone). (9)

This is a prime example of one of the many tough questions we must ask in the 21st century- and just as with seatbelt wearing or even presidential elections, sometimes we must chose the lesser of two evils.

So what can I do?

Your regional health authority not only provides scheduled vaccines, but also offers heaps of information on the risks and benefits of vaccines (Canadian vaccine website) (10). Get a copy of you and your child’s record, and mark off on your calendar the next time you or a family member will need a vaccine. Most importantly, get educated! The best way you can increase vaccine adherence rates is to spread the good news about vaccines, and offer logical explanations for those who think they are the work of Satan.

Getting vaccinated is much less dangerous than an unrealistic fear of complications, so the choice should be obvious- get you and your children vaccinated; it’s not just for you.


Works Cited

  1. Benson, Jonathan (2013). Breaking: Courts Discretely Confirm MMR Vaccine Causes Autism. Natural News.com. <http://www.naturalnews.com/041897_mmr_vaccines_autism_court_ruling.html>
  2. No cited author (2013). Andrew Wakefield. Wikipedia.org
    < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Wakefield>
  3. No cited author (2013). Andrew Wakefield and the Lancet Study. Wikipedia.org <http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Andrew_Wakefield#The_Lancet_study>
  4. National Advisory Committee on Immunization (2011). Publicly Funded Immunization Schedules for Ontario. Canadian Immunization Guide, 7th ed. <http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/public/programs/immunization/docs/schedule.pdf>
  5. Walkinshaw, Erin (2011). Mandatory Vaccinations: The Canadian Picture. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 183 (16), 1165-1166. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3216452/>
  6. Picard, Andre (2012). Comeback of a Deadly Disease and Where We Went Wrong. The Globe and Mail. < http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/comeback-of-a -deadly-disease-and-where-we-went-wrong/article4436993/ >
  7. No author, (ND). Seatbelts: When Safety Features Become Dangerous. Anapol Schwartz, Personal Injury Lawyers. < http://www.anapolschwartz.com/practices/seat-belt-failure/>
  8. No author, (2013). You Have To Pay a Fine for Not Wearning Your Seatbelt- If You Are Lucky; and Your Life- if You Are Not. AllOntario.ca. < http://allontario.ca/2013/05/you-have-to-pay-a-fine-for -not-wearing-a-seatbelt-if-you-are-lucky-and-your-life-if-you-are-not/>
  9. Crowe, Kelly (2012). Flu Deaths Reality Check. CBC News. < http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/flu -deaths-reality-check-1.1127442>
  10. No Author, (2013). Immunizations and Vaccines. Public Health Agency of Canada. <http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/im/>

John Tourigny

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John is a recent graduate of Western Health Sciences and is pursuing a career in health related fields. His degree focused on health studies and immunology and has a special passion in the current public vaccine debate.