50 degrees--it’s freezing! Outside the trees are turning brown, the leaves are falling down, and in the midst of it all, the dreaded flu hits the town. An influenza virus universally feared before, but only a mere nuisance today. What’s changed? Generally, the first thing that people think of is to schedule a visit to Walgreens to receive that yearly flu shot. But how do vaccines work? Do they really make a difference? Today we are going to explore the validity of vaccinations.
In 1796, a physician by the name of Edward Jenner pioneered something that started it all. During the time, England was experiencing a deadly smallpox epidemic, and the child of Jenner’s acquaintance was a potential victim. Jenner, being an observant one, noticed similarities between the symptoms of cowpox and smallpox, and hypothesized that he could use the milder cowpox virus to possibly create a defense against smallpox. By using pus from a cowpox infection, Jenner inoculated the child, and waited. The child suffered with a mild infection, but did not become fatally ill. After the child recovered, Jenner took the risk and inoculated the child with a strain of the smallpox. The result was that the child did not display any signs of symptoms [6,7].
Nowadays, vaccinations are mostly required for any situation deemed possibly infectious. And for young children, this is especially prevalent. With weaker, developing immune systems, dozens of vaccines are required just for children to go to school. In fact, approximately 92% of children between the ages of one to four have received multiple doses of both Hepatitis B, Measles, Rubella, and Mumps . But how effective are these alleged preventative measures? According to a 2007 census from the journal of the American Medical Association, for most diseases, vaccinations were able to decrease the amount of disease cases by an impressive average of 90% [3,5]. This demonstrates that there exists reason to trust the implementation of vaccinations into society.
However, with so many required and recommended vaccines already in existence, and the fact that new diseases and illnesses are introduced every year, the recommended amount of vaccines approaches a high level. In today’s world, instead of inoculating the majority with every single vaccine, we predict and inoculate against viral strains that specific populations are most prone to. Even with this attempt to control vaccine dosage, there is still firm opposition against vaccination. Jennifer McCarthy, a widely known television host, has a son diagnosed with autism. The complications lie in the fact that her son started off experiencing seizures, and the impact of these seizures led to a resulting state very similar to autism. Although many medical experts believe her son was misdiagnosed, McCarthy denies it, persisting that his autism was caused by vaccinations . With McCarthy’s strong television presence, it is no wonder society has many “anti-vaxxers,” or people who are against the practice of vaccinating.