We all have faith in doctors. If a doctor goes out and publishes a study in a prestigious journal like Lancet, there is even more reason to believe the outcomes to be true. However, one doctor managed to dupe the world into believing that vaccines cause autism by publishing a study, a claim that has been proven false. And all this was done on the orders of a law firm trying to sue vaccine companies.
In 1998, Lancet, one of the most trusted British medical journals published a dramatic study that autism was linked to vaccines. This alarmed the world and led to a sharp decline in parents who would have vaccinated their babies. However, the claims in the study have been studies repeatedly in 14.7 million children, and there is no conclusive proof that vaccines do cause autism.
However, the damage has been done. A report shows that 1 in 4 parents think that vaccines still cause autism. There have been frequent outbreaks of diseases that would have been eradicated by now. Take the instance of measles. Before the study was published, the disease was almost eradicated from the USA. After the study, there was a steady increase in the number of cases. According to CDC, 90% of these cases were not vaccinated or the vaccine status could not be verified.
Same is the case with other diseases like whooping cough. There was an outbreak in 2010 in California. Vaccine refusal was to blame for this. It is shameful that vaccine refusers, or anti-vaxxers are putting their children in the harm’s way with a notion disproved by studies various times.
And the reason of the publication of this study was money! A group of lawyers wanted to sue a vaccine company, and needed some evidence. Dr Andrew Wakefield doctored the data of all 12 patients in the study before concluding that vaccines cause autism. He received more than 0.4 million GBP in grants and financial rewards, something he never declared.
In 2004, Lancet retracted the study, though the harm was done. Dr Wakefield lost his medical license. His colleagues and co-authors distanced themselves from the study. But today, even Donald Trump quotes that vaccines may cause autism in children.
But my kid is vaccinated. Why should I care?
Contrary to the popular belief, vaccines cannot avoid every disease. A vaccine, for example, Rotavirus vaccine, provides immunity against a few strains of the pathogen. However, if the pathogen mutates, your child becomes vulnerable again.
Vaccines therefore also rely on something called herd immunity. That is the reason why in India, polio vaccine is given as a pulse – all the children under the age of 5 are vaccinated on the same day. This leads to the other children getting immunity too, through the water, if they miss the vaccine.
However, if there is a family, or a few anti-vaxxers in your neighbourhood, their children may contract the disease. The pathogen may also mutate, become stronger and may spread. Imagine such a child sitting next to your child in the Paediatrician’s office.
So yes, it matters to us whether or not we vaccinate our kids. Though all is not lost. Here are a few things that you can do to reduce such instances:
1. Don’t forget to vaccinate your child
Follow the vaccine schedule and ensure that your child has at least the basic level of immunity against the diseases that used to be fatal once.
2. Convince anti-vaxxers
This is a very difficult task, however it is worth the effort. If you know someone who is deliberately not vaccinating the baby, talk to them. Show them this article. Make them understand that vaccines are not harmful.
3. Keep your children at a distance from the un-vaccinated kids
This may be an extremely insensitive advice, but keep them at a safe distance. The parents should know the reason why you are doing so.
4. Talk to your child’s school about their policy on vaccines
There are some schools where vaccination is compulsory to get an admission. I would send my kid to such a place. If your child’s school is a bit liberal about it, talk to other parents about it. The threat of vaccines is not real, but the outbreaks caused due to non-vaccinated children are real.
Mums and dads, keep your children safe and try to protect those whose parents oppose vaccines.