Vaccines- Myth and Legend

We all know someone, especially with the advent of the internet, who does not like the idea of getting vaccinated or [in my opinion] worse, does not want to vaccinate their child.

This could be for many reasons, fear is typically the main reason. Fear of autism, fear of the unknown, or the other big fear, the fear of mercury. All very relevant of course, I mean as a parent you should be looking out for the best interests of your child.

Unfortunately, the anti vaccine camp seems to be doing a better job of spreading fear than fact and the scientific community has been slow to respond in a comprehensible way.

I admit there are many, many more intelligent people who are much more qualified to talk about this, but honestly even if I had an MD at the end of my name, would you be more inclined to listen to me than some internet article claiming otherwise?

Let’s look at five of the more common arguments against vaccines and [I hope] plainly state the reasons why it is total BS.

1. Vaccines contain mercury, mercury is bad, so vaccines are bad.

The truth
This is true, mercury is in vaccines. Shocking, I know, it is even on the label, they don’t try to hide it! The problem is this, there are more than one type of mercury.

Ethylmercury and Methylmercury are the two common types of mercury you hear about.

Methylmercury is the type of mercury in fish and common to things like volcanic eruptions and waste from chemical plants [that is now contained].  Methylmercury accumulates in fish and works it’s way up to larger fish in higher concentrations because of the smaller fish they typically eat.

Because methylmercury is toxic we are told to limit fish consumption so that our body has ample time to process and dispose of the toxic substance. This takes a long time to do, so it can tend to build up if you do not give your body enough time to pass it from the system.

Ethylmercury is what  is  was [sort of] used in vaccines. It was sold under the name thiomersal and one of it’s metabolites [what is broken down from the original chemical] is ethylmercury. It is used as a preservative in an extremely low [and very safe] amount, it is also one of the few reasons vaccines are even around.

Methyl and ethyl doesn’t sound too different I will give you that. But ethylmercury passes the system a lot faster which means it doesn’t build up like methylmercury and the amount needed to cause any sort of health issues would be outrageously high when compared to what you get in a vaccine.

How different is a methyl group from an ethyl group [the thing that attaches to the mercury itself]? Well consider this, ethyl alcohol is what you drink. We all know that it can kill you if you drink too much but it however, for the most part, is safe to drink [responsibly].

Methyl alcohol is what is in antifreeze and is so highly toxic that just a little will kill you. Just a little food for thought when it comes to organic chemistry. If you want to read more about methylmercury and ethylmercury you can just click the name.

But this is all a moot argument since, because of the bad press, [not because of science mind you] they are pulling it out of vaccines. So now, most [not all] do not contain thiomersal anymore.

I know some of you are probably thinking why didn’t they just do that to begin with, well technologies advance and we end up with better [more socially acceptable] ways to do things. It would be like asking why the first TV’s weren’t in color from the start.


2. Vaccines don’t work, I still get the flu.

The truth
We all have heard at least one point in your life that the flu shot causes the flu, except that it doesn’t. The flu shot contains inactive [what you and I would refer to as dead] flu strains. It can’t make you sick any more than someone can come back from the dead.

You may still get the flu, or feel sick after the flu shot. This is normal since you body is attacking the inactive flu strains so it is prepared to fight against the actual flu if/when it comes around.

You can still get the flu because, the flu evolves so there are hundreds and hundreds of different types of flu strains. The vaccine you get has the ones that you are most likely going to be coming in contact with, not necessarily the ones that you will come in contact with.

The vaccine also doesn’t mean you wont get it, it will help make sure that the disease you are vaccinated against doesn’t take full effect, in other words, it wont kill or seriously disable you if/when you get it.


3. People only make Vaccines because they want money

The Truth
Sure, vaccines make people money but when has that ever stopped someone from going to the hospital, hospitals make money too. The truth is that not everyone wants a profit.

After the second world war polio was the biggest fear griping our nation. A race to find a vaccine for it was well underway, enter Jonas Salk.

I don’t expect people to know who he is, or what he did, however he was the reason for the polio cure. It would have made him a millionaire many times over, easily.

I say would have instead of did, because the truth is he did not want to be paid for it. Instead of patenting his work and retiring on his own personal island somewhere he let anyone who wanted to make it, have it.

This made it cheep and readily available for people since the companies who mass produce it didn’t have to pay royalties to the man. In my opinion he is one hero that shouldn’t have been forgotten about and you can read about him on, of course, Wikipedia here.

Jonas salk

4. I don’t need to be vaccinated, everyone else is, so I am okay.

The Truth
Herd immunity is a very real thing and that is great. There are in fact people who cannot get vaccinated due to no fault of their own. These people have immune disorders or other problems that mean that they cannot be vaccinated and so they count on herd immunity to insure that they don’t have any problems.

The problem is that it is only effective when the amount of people vaccinated are higher than a certain percentage. This is the cause of outbreaks of nearly eradicated diseases  that can be deadly, such as the measles outbreak in New York. Or the outbreaks of whopping cough [also known as pertussis], just to name a few. You can read more about that via Google or this random news report on the matter here.


5. Vaccines cause autism

The Truth
This is probably the most common reason parents are afraid to vaccinate their child. The truth is that there are not one, but hundreds of studies on this that show there is no link to autism. The short of the matter is that, vaccines do not create autism.

Where did that story start? Well the condensed version of it is this, a lawyer hired a Doctor to report that vaccines caused autism so that he could pursue legal action, the lawyer won [of course] and walked out with a lot of money in the deal. Of course he was found out because the data was unreproducible and blatantly falsified data.

The damage was done however. Despite hundreds of studies that showed otherwise, people still use the fake study as proof that autism is caused because of vaccines.

You can read about the whole debacle and the fake study that started this whole lie: here

While autism is on the rise correlation is NOT causation. In other words you cannot link two things just because they are correlated. For example, bank robbers always wear black, so anyone who wears black is a bank robber. This, we know is false. Just because the two things correlated does not mean that one is the cause of the other, as this graph shows that the rise of autism can be correlated with the rise in organic food sales for yet another example:


If you want to read more about how vaccines most definitely do not cause autism there are plenty of peer-reviewed articles that you can read here which is probably more than you would ever want to know on the matter.

The truth is that people, especially conspiracy theorists, like to play on the fear of people who genuinely want correct, easy to understand  information. These people commonly use the term sheep or, the cringe worthy term sheeple to describe a person who wont agree with what they think.

I argue that they are not any more enlightened, if anything they are relics of lost reasoning, unwilling to bend when the evidence says otherwise. We all have beliefs, I firmly let science and deductive reasoning lead the way, if I cannot see how you come to a conclusion, then I don’t think I will agree with it.

Things need to be logical, they need to go from A to Z in some meaningful order. If we go to A to Z but something else throws that off then I was wrong and I change my opinion on the subject appropriately. That doesn’t make me anymore of a sheep then the people saying ‘don’t be a sheep’. But if that is the case then I say, they are just the same sheep, different flock.

At the end of the day I can’t make you do anything you don’t want to do, but I do think that it is everyone’s right and responsibility to be properly educated on the subject. Especially before jumping to outrageous conclusions that are not supported by anything other than fear and conspiracy theories in order to scare a person toward inaction.

Will you vaccinate? That isn’t my choice to make. But at least now you have some explanation why the people screaming don’t do it, are wrong.

If the science suggested that vaccines really were bad, then this post would have been about that, but there is no science that shows vaccines are bad. Just fear and misinformed if not ill-intentioned people shouting loudly that they are. Live, learn, and more importantly, question why.

For even more information, this time on the history of vaccines you can go here.

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