Vaccines are safe: now use them!

At last, someone heavy has gone and nailed it down: The Scientist (http://the-scientist.com/2011/08/26/vaccines-are-safe/) reports that

“Vaccines are safe and not the cause of autism, according to a new report from the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academies.  The panel based its conclusions on the review of more than 1,000 studies on eight vaccines commonly given to children, including those for chickenpox, meningitis, tetanus, and measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR).”

One.  Thousand.  Studies.  At least!  There’s more:

“Some serious side effects were linked to vaccines, but occurred very rarely. Among them: those who receive the chicken pox vaccine could later come down with pneumonia or meningitis if their immune systems become compromised by diseases such as cancer, and the MMR vaccine occasionally sets off brain inflammation or seizures, Nature reports. Six of the eight vaccines can also cause allergic reactions. The more serious side effects most commonly occur in children who have underlying immune problems.”

As I taught my captive second- and third-years for close on thirty years, there’s a risk-benefit calculation to be done for every vaccine, and indeed, for every drug that you or yours may be exposed to.  If there’s no benefit – because there’s no risk – then do without.  If, on the other hand, your baby stands a reasonable chance of getting seriously ill, and maybe even suffering permanent damage from getting infected by a preventable dissease – vaccinate!

And that’s rotavirus I’m talking about, not even something really nasty like measles.  I did the same survey over several years, asking 70+ students if they would give kids a vaccine that had a POSSIBLE 1/40 000 chance of causing a possibly fatal intestinal complication (intussusseption, or telescoping of the bowel) in (a) an environment where no children died of rotavirus, (b) an environment like in many places in the developing world, where 1/100 children might die.  Nearly every single one, every time, would not use it in (a), but would have no hesitation in scenario (b).

Regulars on this blog will know what I think about not vaccinating against measles.  So now, folks: reach out to a relative or a friend who espouses this utter nonsense linking vaccines to autism – and smack them solidly.  Then get their kids vaccinated.

OK, maybe not – but remonstrate with them, point them towards the evidence, tell them just how nasty some of the preventable diseases can be, and that they should realise measles, polio or rotavirus are only someone else’s plane trip away.

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