If modern medicine is so advanced, then why do preventable diseases kill so many people every year. According to MD Paul Offit, “more than 3 million people die from vaccine-preventable diseases each year. Approximately 1.5 million of these deaths are in children less than 5 years old.” There are a lot of contributors to this, a country might not be medically developed enough, they might not be able to afford national coverage, or an impoverished population. But the main reason in developed nations is false research, outdated studies, and gullible people. They’re called antivaxxers and they raise the question, how did this movement start and grow?
\When kids aren’t vaccinated, diseases that haven’t been a problem in decades, or even centuries, can spread like wildfire, and become a problem because of human error. Liz Meszaros states, “Mumps: In 2016, multiple outbreaks occurred, totaling 6,366 cases in the United States. Compared with the 229 reported cases in 2012… Pertussis: Between 10,000 to 40,000 cases of pertussis occur annually, according to CDC estimates, and cause up to 20 deaths. In 2014, California reported an outbreak that infected 9,934 people; in 2012, Washington state had a reported 2,530 cases.” (2018), if we have such advanced and proven medical techniques, then the recent uptick in cases of these preventable diseases and more, wouldn’t add up, if it weren’t for a recent poll from Research America “The number of Americans who believe vaccinations are crucial to public health has fallen by 10 percent in the last 10 years” (2018). The poll shows a clear drop in support for vaccines, but why?
“Only 71% of those surveyed said it was “very important” to have their children vaccinated, down from 82% in 2008. The survey also saw a drop in the percentage of those who were confident in the system’s evaluation of the safety of vaccines, down to 77% from 85% 10 years ago.” -Natasha Bach (2018). Americans are beginning to lose trust in vaccines, because of research done by Andrew Wakefield in 1998. “This doctor, Andrew Wakefield, wrote that his study of 12 children showed that the three vaccines taken together could alter immune systems, causing intestinal woes that then reach, and damage, the brain.” says Clyde Haberman (2015). In the same paragraph Clyde also says, “Dozens of epidemiological studies found no merit to his work, which was based on a tiny sample. The British Medical Journal went so far as to call his research “fraudulent.” The British journal Lancet, which originally published Dr. Wakefield’s paper, retracted it. The British medical authorities stripped him of his license.” His findings were never accepted in their time, and the General Medical Council took his license. And yet, today millions are supporting his research and taking it as an absolute truth.
The problem is that when worrying and over-protective parents see a study that says they could be giving their young children autism, they don’t even question it, and consequently experiments like Wakefield’s spread like wildfire. “Despite the small sample size (n=12), the uncontrolled design, and the speculative nature of the conclusions, the paper received wide publicity, and MMR vaccination rates began to drop because parents were concerned about the risk of autism after vaccination.” -T. S. Sathyanarayana Rao and Chittaranjan Andrade (2011). When people think with their hearts not their minds, things like the antivax movement form.
So where did Wakefield go wrong with his study. As previously mentioned, his sample size was far too small, using twelve children to represent the entire youth of the western world doesn’t make much sense. Other than that, Wakefield’s study was largely supported financially by a lawyer who was working on a large anti-vaccine related lawsuit, “the Wakefield study’s funding sources included a lawyer who was working on an anti-vaccine lawsuit for people who believed that the vaccines caused their children’s medical conditions. Secondly, the lawyer paid Wakefield to assist with the lawsuit” -GI Society (2018). Wakefield also largely profited from his “not-for-profit’ organization “Thoughtful House Center for Children”, where his salary was roughly $300,000 a year. “The organization was technically not-for-profit, but Wakefield received an annual salary of nearly US$300,000.” -GI Society (2018). Which does seem like an awful lot to be making of a not for profit organization. Wakefield and his associates clearly had a lot to gain from publishing this fraudulent study and preying off the fear of parents.
It’s very interesting to see people’s judgement be affected by fear and worrying to such an extent as creating a dangerous movement that puts our society, and the lives of children in danger.
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