Debunking a Myth: Vaccines

Over the past few years, the belief that vaccines are bad has risen at an unprecedented rate, and I cannot for the life of me understand why. In fact, the belief is so popular that medical dramas have picked up on it as a subplot during an episode. Case in point: Chicago Med (Season 3, Episode 11, aired March 6, 2018[1]), House M.D (Season 1, Episode 2, aired November 23, 2004[2]). Now the anti-vaxx movement is nothing new; people have opposed vaccinations since it was first introduced in the late 1790s[3][4]. That’s right, vaccinations have been around for almost as long as the United States has been a country, and that’s only the first proper vaccination; there are several accounts of the ancient Chinese inoculating children with the smallpox virus as early as the eleventh century, and some say even as early as 200 BC (the exact dates are still up for debate)[4]. Let’s be clear though, Edward Jenner’s smallpox vaccination is nothing compared to modern day vaccinations, and the ancient Chinese method is definitely not a proper vaccination. Ours is safer and far better understood than Jenner’s cowpox injection vaccine and the crude methods used by ancient civilizations (it is important to note that Jenner’s vaccine was used throughout the 20th century and was the reason why smallpox was eliminated worldwide; his vaccine may not have gone through the intensive testing as modern vaccines, but it was certainly effective). Thus, with this essay I plan to make a small step towards eradicating the anti-vaxx movement. We’ll just call it a misinformation vaccine.

To debunk the myths, however, we need to first know what they are. The first “anti-vaxx” problem came about in the early 1800s; this was when Edward Jenner’s smallpox vaccination was becoming a widespread practice[5]. Now, this is more understandable. The concept of vaccination through injection was relatively new, only a decade or so old. You can understand why people were skeptical about it. But not all of it was skepticism; some of it was religious. In other words, God does not approve of vaccinations. This is the first myth I will attempt to debunk. The second myth, and more modern, is the idea that vaccines are somehow linked with increased autism. This one is simply too easy. The third is the belief that the diseases we are vaccinated for were already dying out before the introduction of the vaccine, and therefore the vaccines are not necessary. A related myth is that since everyone is vaccinated, the disease no longer exists, and therefore the vaccine is not necessary. This is outright ridiculous. The next myth: vaccines cause many harmful side effects (apart from autism), and sometimes even death. The final myth: big pharma is using vaccines to rake in the green. I will also discuss “vaccines change your entire body, not just your immune system,” because that is simply ridiculous and I cannot stand to watch people remain so ignorant of vaccines.

Myth #1 (Stupidity level: 6/10—Stupid): God does not approve of vaccines

Stupidity Level Reason: I can see why some people might think it. Kinda. Not really. At all.

Ah, the first myth[5]. I can sort of see where people may derive this. I’m kidding, I can’t. One reason why someone might say God does not approve of vaccinations is because it is seemingly unnatural. God wants humans to abide by the laws of nature, and if a pandemic were to happen, we should all accept it as the will of God. This is sort of like saying God does not approve of hamburgers because the meat is processed and the bread is “fake.” McDonalds and Chick-fil-A especially will be glad to hear that God does not disapprove of hamburgers any more than He does vaccines. This conclusion can be made easily when analyzing several Biblical passages. One that comes to mind is Genesis 1:28[Do I really need to cite the Bible? We all own one, don’t we?]:

God blessed them and said to them [Adam & Eve], “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.Genesis 1:28

This was God’s first command given to man: to be fruitful and increase in number; to fill the Earth and subdue it. Another Biblical passage supporting this idea of humans thriving is God’s promise to Abraham: to make his descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and the grains of sand on the beach[Genesis 17]. If we are to believe that God wants humans to accept pandemics as part of his will, how are we to carry out his very first command to humankind, to thrive? Furthermore, how would God, the perfect being, keep his promise with Abraham? God promised the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants for all eternity, or at least for the duration of the existence of Earth[Genesis 17:8]. God cannot very well keep his promise if they are all dead, and we certainly cannot subdue the Earth if we are dead. To reject vaccines is to accept death. To accept death is to reject God’s commands. To reject God’s command is to accept eternal torment. Or at least three days inside of a whale. Ain’t Jonah one lucky guy?

Myth #2 (Stupidity level: ∞/10—Conspiracy Theory): Vaccines Cause Autism

Stupidity Level Reason: GET YOUR TIN FOIL HATS EVERYONE THE ALIENS ARE COMING!!!!111!!1!

This myth came about because of one Andrew Wakefield, and I am ashamed to share his name. On behalf of all Andrews in the world, I sincerely apologize for this man’s actions. You know, I don’t understand why all of the Andrews seem either evil or stupid. Andrew Jackson? Evil. Andrew Johnson? Stupid. Andrew Wakefield? Borderline murderer. Andrew Woo? What an absolute waste of oxygen. Anyways, the basic history behind this utterly moronic myth is as follows:

In 1998, he-who-shall-not-be-named-for-the-shame-is-too-great published an article to the Lancet of a case study he and his colleagues performed, and he came to the conclusion that the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, and rubella) and autism in children have a strong correlation. After reading this highly flawed study, many parents (who were notably untrained in biological sciences and experimental procedure) opted to not get their children vaccinated for MMR for fear of autism. And thus, the glorious “VACCINES CAUSE AUTISMM ASDASDLASDJA” myth was born.

First of all, I would just like to point out that autism is a better alternative than death, okay? Would you rather your child be slightly autistic, which really isn’t such a horrible thing, or suffer painfully for hours or even days before they eventually die? If you chose the latter, please call your local State Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting number and state your cruel intentions. The number for your state can be found here. If you live in Europe, I’m sure Interpol would gladly help you find the best prison cell for you. And the best part? Everything is absolutely free and funded by the government.

No seriously though, Wakefield’s study was flawed in many ways. First of all, Wakefield’s sample size was too small. Indeed, he only had 12 test subjects[6] for his experiment, and if you have taken any High School maths, or even Middle School maths, you will know that 12 is a far too small sample size to create an accurate conclusion. After all, millions of kids receive vaccinations a year; twelve cannot possibly account for that huge number.

Second, correlation does not equal causation. This is called the post hoc ergo propter hoc informal logical fallacy: because event B followed event A, event A must have caused event B. Because the MMR vaccine was given at the same time the child began to show signs of autism, the vaccines must have caused autism. NO. Signs of autism generally start to show at early childhood, and MMR vaccines are given at the same time. You know what else starts at early childhood? Children begin to lose their baby teeth and their permanent teeth start to grow. I would argue this would be a better explanation for autism (just to be clear, it is NOT an explanation for autism) because it physically changes your body. The MMR vaccine does not.

Finally, ten out of twelve other researchers that participated in the research retracted their interpretation of the data, stating that “no causal link was established between MMR vaccine and autism as the data were insufficient”[6], which should really be self-explanatory. This is neglecting the fact that there have been many, many research papers produced post-Wakefield that found errors in Wakefield’s experimental procedures, and their own research showed no correlation between the MMR vaccine and autism[6]. Furthermore, much of Wakefield’s data were falsified to fit his narrative[7].

Not only that, the entire experiment was corrupt in the first place. Indeed, Wakefield received nearly half a million pounds from lawyers to find proof that vaccines were unsafe. That’s nearly US$1M, adjusted for inflation in 2019[8]. That itself should tell you that the data was probably skewed in favor of the payers. It’s kind of like the Wells Report on the Deflategate scandal: lies made up for the monies with absolutely no factual data supporting their argument.

Wakefield was discredited by the UK General Medical Counsel, and in May 24, 2010, Wakefield lost his medical license for his fraudulent and unethical practices[9]. In February 2010, the Lancet removed Wakefield’s 1998 research[10] and other prominent science journals followed suit and removed several of his other papers citing multiple errors/unethical practice[11].

What were the implications of Wakefield’s lies? Well, in 2008 and 2009, there were measles outbreaks in the US and the UK. According to the CDC, 90% of the infected were not vaccinated[12]. Furthermore, in 2007, a 13 year old boy in Britain died of measles, becoming the first person to die of measles in 14 years[13]. Let that sink in. Wakefield’s fraudulent research caused the death of a boy, and probably tens, hundreds, maybe even thousands, of others.

Myth #3 (Stupidity level: 11/10—Beyond Stupid): The Disease Was Already On Its Way Out In My Country & Since Everyone Else Is Vaccinated, I Have No Chance Of Being Infected.

Stupidity Level Reason: Must be nice, living in your closed-off, uber-developed, sterile country.

Why does this myth even exist? Just because the disease is nearly eradicated in your country does not mean it has been eradicated from everywhere else. How do you think pandemics spanning multiple continents occur? Hint: it’s not through fairy dust and the magic of friendship. People infect people. An infected person can easily cross national borders before they become symptomatic. Administration of the smallpox vaccination was stopped only when it was eradicated from the whole world[14], because if the whole world is immune, there’s no need for it. If the world is not immune, the chances of the disease spreading still exists. How do you think we eradicated smallpox? Through vaccination, and only vaccination[14]. If we didn’t vaccinate… well. Let’s just say 300 million people died of smallpox from 1900 to 1980. 300 million in the span of 80 years from just smallpox. Imagine how many more were infected. Remember, crossing oceans was still a luxury thing back then.

This also goes with the “sanitation” argument: “diseases had already begun to disappear before vaccines were introduced, because of better hygiene and sanitation.” Really? That’s your argument? Please, the U.S is no cleaner today than it was in the 1990s. In fact, I’d say it’s far less sanitary. Back when my parents arrived in the U.S, the country was so clean you couldn’t find a single speck of litter on the streets. Today? Litter isn’t all too uncommon, though probably not as bad as Paris. Despite this, the number of cases of Hib in the U.S went from 20,000 cases in 1990 to 1,419 in 1993 after a vaccine for Hib was developed for infants (the existing vaccine could not be applied on infants)[16]. How much cleaner do you think the U.S got from 1990 to 1993? Certainly not enough to see a 92.9% decrease in Hib cases. You also cannot argue that while the country got dirtier, the hospitals got cleaner. Hospitals are some of the dirtiest places in the world. They are a cesspool of germs brought in by hundreds of sick people every day[19].

Myth #4 (Stupidity level: 7/10—Pretty Stupid): Side Effects May Include Death

Stupidity Level Reason: No evidence exists to support this claim, but fear is deadly.

This myth arose when people began linking SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) with DPT (Diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis). Let me just say: IF YOU ARE NOT A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL WITH 10+ YEARS OF MEDICAL EXPERIENCE, ARE NOT CURRENTLY DROWNING UNDER MEDICAL SCHOOL DEBT, OR DO NOT HAVE A VALID MEDICAL LICENSE ALLOWING YOU TO PRACTICE MEDICINE, PLEASE DO NOT MAKE UNSUPPORTED CLAIMS ABOUT MEDICAL ISSUES. Thank you for your attention. This has been Andrew’s Daily Public Service Announcement, and we wish you an infection free day.

Basically, again, correlation does not equal causation. In an experiment conducted in the 1980s, researchers “found, nearly unanimously, that the number of SIDS deaths temporally associated with DTP vaccination was within the range expected to occur by [pure] chance. In other words, the SIDS deaths would have occurred even if no vaccination had been given”[17. Furthermore, any death that has actually been linked with vaccination was “found to be a programmatic error, not related to [the vaccine itself]”[17]. Basically, the deaths occurred because of human error in either injecting the vaccine or because there was an issue with the vaccine-receiving schedule. These deaths could have been prevented had proper procedure been followed. Furthermore, no vaccine is 100%. For some people, the vaccine doesn’t take for one reason or another. After all, vaccines aren’t miracle drugs. The only miracle drug is the Bible kids. Don’t do drugs. And stay in school. Or become an Anti-vaxxer.

Now, I understand why this myth is so widespread: nobody wants their child to die, so if the vaccine had even the slightest chance of killing your child, you would probably not vaccinate your child. Unfortunately this is simply not the case, and this is why Fear is Deadly; fear of death causes death.

Myth #5 (Stupidity level: 9/10—Really Stupid): The Greedy Corporate Overlords

Stupidity Level Reason: All the data says otherwise.

Until very recently, the vaccination industry has been struggling to turn a profit, and has been dealing with shortages. In fact, while big pharma corporations have managed to make a slight profit, doctors and hospitals have actually lost money on vaccine administration[18]. And so what if they make a profit? We’re Americans. Capitalism is the foundation of our economic structure, and I’d say for the most part people have benefited. I certainly have, anyways, and if you’re paying $400-$500 per course at your private school, you most definitely have as well. For a few measly dollars, Big Pharma vaccinations can give you 20+ years of life to make that money back.

How Vaccines Work: Simplified

Now, I will explain how vaccines work, because it seems some people think it’s some mystical force that changes your body. A vaccine is not like puberty. Your body doesn’t change because of vaccines. When you are administered a vaccine, what really happens is the doctor injects you with a viral strain that has been modified to be harmless. Your body then notices that foreign antigens have entered your body, and your immune system kicks in. Your white blood cells produce antibodies to find and destroy these weakened antigens. These white blood cells will, in a sense, remember the antigens, and more importantly, how to fight and defeat them. This is how your immunization builds. Thus, when a similar viral strain enters your body, your white blood cells know exactly how to fight these viruses and can do so speedily and efficiently. Think of vaccines as a practice course for your white blood cells, just like how soldiers go through boot camp before they are sent into battle. This is basic biology folks, you should have learned it in Middle School.

Conclusion

Vaccinations are important. The myth surrounding them have virtually no basis and are not supported by scientific data whatsoever. This misinformation trend has actually led to parents skipping out on vaccinations, and over the recent years, cases of preventable diseases such as measles has increased. Some have even paid the ultimate price for the ignorance of their parents: death. Vaccinations, at its core, is the same thing as catching the virus naturally, except the virus has no chance of spreading to other people or even within your body. Furthermore, skipping out on vaccinations not only puts you at risk, but others around you. Children are often unvaccinated due to them being too young. If you have not been vaccinated, you have an increased chance of carrying that viral strand, and may expose children to the deadly disease. Furthermore, the belief that pharmaceutical companies are pushing vaccination for profit is simply wrong. As the great House once said,

You know what another really good business is? Teeny. Tiny. Baby. Coffins. You can get them in frog green, or fire engine red. Really! Dr. Gregory House, M.D (House M.D)


Bibliography

1https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7042870/ 2https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0606034/ 3https://www.vbivaccines.com/wire/edward-jenner-and-the-first-modern-vaccine/ 4https://www.historyofvaccines.org/timeline#EVT_1 5https://www.healthline.com/health/vaccinations/opposition#not-new 6https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3136032/ 7https://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.c5347.full 8https://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2007/01/01/surprise-surprise-andrew-wakefield-was-p 9https://www.theguardian.com/society/2010/may/24/mmr-doctor-andrew-wakefield-struck-off 10https://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/03/health/research/03lancet.html 11https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0161813X09002228?via%3Dihub 12https://web.archive.org/web/20110724093057/http://www.wwaytv3.com/healthwatch-disputed-autism-study-sparks-debate-about-vaccines/01/2011 13https://www.immunize.org/reports/report088.asp 14https://www.livescience.com/65304-smallpox.html 15https://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/empire_seapower/smallpox_01.shtml 16https://www.who.int/vaccine_safety/initiative/detection/immunization_misconceptions/en/index1.html 17https://www.who.int/vaccine_safety/initiative/detection/immunization_misconceptions/en/index4.html 18https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/02/vaccines-are-profitable-so-what/385214/ 19https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/05/most-dangerous-germs-hospital-may-be-those-you-bring-you