Daily Record file photo by Denise Cathey
A Handle on your Health: Safety & Vaccinations
Are vaccines S\safe ? The short answer is yes. So if they work then why all the controversy? Why does there seem to be such a large, angry, verbal sector of society declaring vaccines to be unsafe? Why are people with no formal medical education able to gain so much traction with their arguments against vaccinations?
Let’s look at how vaccines were discovered first. The first vaccine was demonstrated by an English doctor, Edward Jenner on an 8-year-old boy in the late 1700s. He took pus from a cowpox lesion on a milkmaid’s hand and inoculated the boy. Then, six weeks later, he inoculated the boy with small pox and found that the boy did not become sick – voila the first vaccine. People made fun of him, though and a lot of people didn’t trust putting animal pus in their body as a way to protect them from disease.
Then along comes Louis Pasteur, a French scientist in the 1800s, who invented vaccines against cholera, anthrax and rabies. He also discovered the process of pasteurizing milk. He was brilliant. He noticed after allowing cholera microorganisms to weaken over time he could introduce them to chickens and those chickens didn’t die as usual. That was an accidental discovery after leaving his cholera cultures unattended while he went on a vacation. When he returned he found his cholera cultures no longer killed his experimental chickens when they were exposed. His genius came from using those same chickens exposed to the weakened cholera cultures and exposing them to his full strength cholera strains. To his surprise the chickens were now resistant to the full strength cholera. He invented the modern process of vaccine production that are either attenuated strains of live microorganisms or inactivated strands.
There is no conspiracy here with either Jenner or Pasteur. They were just scientists looking to save lives and they made extraordinary contributions to science. Fast forward to 1980, we declared the world cured of smallpox. Think about that for a second. The smallpox vaccine eradicated a deadly disease completely from the world. Previously 30 percent of people infected with smallpox died. Millions of people died from smallpox, and now in 1980 it is cured by a vaccine.
In 1998 the British medical journal Lancet published a study by former doctor Andrew Wakefield regarding an association between the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps and rubella) and autism. It was a complete fabrication. He altered his results, which only involved 12 patients to make the association appear real. It was later found that Wakefield had been paid by a law firm looking to sue the vaccine manufacturer. Wakefield is responsible for most of the world’s fear and distrust of the MMR vaccine. There is no further discussion in the medical community regarding any possible association between the MMR vaccine and autism. We know there is no link. We also know the MMR vaccine saves millions of lives. So how is it possible that people continue to perpetuate this myth that the MMR vaccine causes autism?
Now people are suspicious of all vaccines. This forces doctors to spend extra time and resources trying to overcome their patient’s mistrust of vaccines. It’s not that vaccines are completely harmless. People can have side effects from vaccines just like they can with medicines. Some people can even die from an allergy to a vaccine. The MMR vaccine can cause an allergic reaction or fever and a seizure. The influenza vaccine can rarely cause Guaillain-Barré Syndrome – about one in a million – so can the rabies vaccine. The polio vaccine can cause a severe allergic reaction in one out of a million people. The chicken pox vaccine (varicella) can rarely cause a seizure and a rash. The point here is that vaccines can have side effects that hurt the very people they are intended to help, but they help save so many more.
The HPV vaccine (human papilloma virus), for instance, essentially cures women of cervical cancer. If anyone has seen a child suffer from epiglottitis or meningitis from Haemophilus influenza you would never believe it is better to not vaccinate your child.
The tetanus vaccine saves you from “Lock jaw.” Lock jaw can be so severe that the spasms can cause your bones to break and about 10 percent die. The worst side effect you get from a tetanus vaccine is severe pain, swelling and redness at the injection site. I had a patient once tell me that he believed his brother over me that the tetanus vaccine was dangerous and so he refused the vaccine. So some dude’s brother knew better than I did regarding the benefit versus harm of the tetanus vaccine? This is the world we live in now?
To all you conspiracy theorists out there, do you really believe that thousands of physicians are complicit in a conspiracy to hurt you through vaccines? Do you really believe we attended all those years of school only to graduate with a belief that we need to hurt the people we treat? Physicians only want to make people healthy. Please listen to us regarding vaccines. They have made us safer and healthier. They save lives.
Remember Hays County, vaccinate your children and feel better.
Dr. John Turner is a family medicine and emergency medicine doctor with 25 years of experience. He is also the owner of My Primary Care Clinic and My Emergency Room 24/7 here in Hays County. Dr. Turner may be reached at 512-667-6087.