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Benefits and Risks

Dangerous chemicals?Dangerous chemicals?Vaccine Benefits and Risks

The benefits of vaccines are simple: they save lives.

Measles, for example, claimed around 150,000 lives in 2011. These deaths were largely in developing countries where vaccination is less common and the mortality rate can easily be 1 in 10. Even in developed countries such as the UK and US, however, measles is a killer and 1 or 2 cases out of every 1000 will be fatal.

These deaths are preventable with vaccines. The evidence for this is overwhelming. Whatever nonsense you might have seen in the darker corners of the Internet, vaccines DO work.

But of course vaccines come with risks. The good news is, these risks have been extensively studied and the reality is that those risks are extremely well known, rare and, when they do occur, usually very minor. Again, the darker corners of the Internet would have you belief that vaccines commonly cause all sorts of different problems, but that is very far from the truth.

Studies of vaccines have revealed risks including rashes and joint pain, possibly lasting several weeks, which may be very upsetting for babies and small children and lead concerned parents to attribute all sorts of subsequent ailments to the vaccine. More serious risks for some vaccines include febrile seizures, which will undoubtedly be very scary for any parent, but do not cause long term damage.

In particular, the Cochrane study of the MMR vaccine, which looked at the effect of the MMR vaccine on over 14 million children, found no significant association between the vaccine and any of autism, asthma, leukaemia, hay fever, type 1 diabetes, gait disturbance, Crohn's disease, demyelinating diseases, or bacterial or viral infections.

The real problem

The main problem with vaccines is that they are TOO successful and have become a victim of that success. People have forgotten how terrible these diseases are and have grown complacent. People have allowed the minority of dissenting voices, voices with no real scientific evidence to back them up, to put doubt into their minds.

Reactions to vaccines, uncommon and minor as they usually are, are visible and scary for parents. On the other hand, the diseases that vaccines prevent are an unknown quantity and seen only as a distant possibilty. In many ways, the reluctance of some parents to vaccinate their children is therefore understandable.

But it is wrong.

Vaccines save lives. And that is the truth.