A CNN headline recently declared “Vaccine Fight Turns Political” as politicians came out in support of people’s right to choose whether or not they or their children get vaccinated after a small measles outbreak in Disney World. An unusual thing about the vaccine debate is that just a few years ago the exact same percentage of Democrats and Republicans either supported or were against parental choice. Despite this, the debate is starting to fall along party lines as Democrats are generally very comfortable using government power to force people to do what they want while Republicans generally support personal freedom and responsibility. Although there are many vaccines out there, this article will primarily focus on the measles vaccine (MMR) and will take apart the hysteria and demands to do forced vaccinations with publicly available data and just three logical questions.
- Are vaccines really “safe”?
First, let’s look at what the vaccine is preventing. The measles is an itchy rash that can last between 4 to 7 days. Other possible symptoms include bloodshot eyes, coughing, fever, light sensitivity, muscle pain, redness and irritation of the eyes, runny nose, sore throat and tiny white spots inside the mouth. More severe symptoms are possible and we’ll cover that in more detail later.
To prevent this, a vaccine was created. As any good doctor can tell you, no medication is 100% risk free. But don’t just take their word for it, look at the warning labels and side effects listed on the vaccines themselves. For the measles vaccine, the listed side effects are:
- Difficulty in breathing or swallowing
- itching, especially of feet or hands
- reddening of skin, especially around ears
- swelling of eyes, face, or inside of nose
- unusual tiredness or weakness (sudden and severe)
- Fever over 103 °F (39.4 °C)
- Bruising or purple spots on skin
- double vision
- headache (severe or continuing)
- stiff neck
- swelling, blistering or pain at place of injection
- swelling of glands in neck
- anaphylactoid reactions
- angioneurotic edema (including peripheral or facial edema)
- bronchial spasm
- Stevens-Johnson Syndrome
- erythema multiforme
- regional lymphadenopathy
- arthritis (usually transient and rarely chronic)
- optic neuritis
- retrobulbar neuritis
- death (reported but not yet proven)
Some side effects are no more harmful than getting measles itself, while others are more severe. Is it likely that you would suffer from one of those severe symptoms? No. According to the CDC, about one in a million people would suffer severe consequences like going into a coma from getting the measles vaccine. Since 4 million babies are born every year in the U.S., we can logically say that about four babies each year suffer severe side effects like permanent brain damage from this one vaccine (out of the 49 vaccine shots babies are expected to take before they turn six).
Another source of information on the injuries caused by vaccines is the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). The VICP was created after Congress passed the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 to help protect vaccine manufactures from being held financially responsible for the death and health damage their vaccines may cause. Looking from 1988 to 2015, there were 895 claims of serious injury and 57 claims of death that caused by the MMR vaccine. Of these, 367 claims were found to be valid and were thus compensated (the U.S Dept. of Health and Human Services chooses not to provide additional details on those compensated). So simple math shows that an average of 13.6 people are severely injured or die from the MMR vaccine every year.
As stated before, no medication is risk free. Vaccines are no exception.
- Is it worth the risk?
The natural question you should be asking next is which is more dangerous, the disease or the vaccine? If this was 1960 and an average of 503,282 people got the measles every year with 432 people dying, it would logically make more sense to get the vaccine.
But it is not 1960 anymore. Today, even with a record number of 644 cases of measles in the U.S. in 2014, only about 2 in 1,000,000 people even caught measles in the first place with 0 people dying. To put it another way, 644 people got itchy rashes and fevers from the measles while 650,000 people got sick and had fevers from the MMR vaccine with 1,330 of them suffering seizures and 4 people getting permanent brain damage (assuming 4 million people a year are vaccinated).
Even if one person did die (because you can’t calculate odds with a zero) it would still mean 400% more people (using the CDC estimates) are suffering from permanent brain damage or in comas from the measles vaccine. Using the VICP numbers, 1,360% more people were severely injured or died from the measles vaccine compared to people dying from measles itself.
In modern society, it simply isn’t logically sound to claim parents who choose not to vaccinate the kids are putting them at more risk. This underscores the fact that the government shouldn’t own our bodies and that people should be free to evaluate their own personal situations. After all, if someone is more scared of the measles than the vaccine, they certainly have the ability to vaccinate themselves.
- What about people who can’t get vaccinated?
This is where the vaccine debate gets nasty. You will hear people talk about “herd immunity” as if we were animals and how the government needs to force people against their will to get vaccines to protect those who are aren’t healthy enough to get vaccines themselves. People on the forced-immunization side of the debate suggest that all those who decline vaccination need to be quarantined to protect the rest of the population or, at the very least, have all un-vaccinated children kicked out of public schools. Others demand that the non-vaccinated be held liable for any sickness they spread and perhaps even charged with murder.
Even people who generally support freedom of choice tend to be persuaded by these kinds of emotional arguments because they are made in the name of public safety. Even though all vaccines have an inherent risk, is it worth it to protect people who are too young or have compromised immune systems?
As the title of this article says, let’s look at this question logically. The thing about immunocompromised people is that almost ANYTHING can kill them. That’s simply what happens when you have a non-functioning immune system. For example, mostly people don’t freak out over the flu and yet it is currently a leading cause of death in young children and people with compromised immune systems. In fact, the flu kills between 3,000 to 49,000 people every year (in comparison, the measles killed 0 people in the last 10 years and an average of 432 people a year before the vaccine) and NO ONE is vaccinated against all flu strains. In other words, every single person in the United States is “unvaccinated” against a type of flu and a potentially deadly threat to the vulnerable population. To take it one step further, people with weakened immune systems are also advised to avoid pets since cats and dogs simply can’t be vaccinated against every disease they may encounter.
If we applied these facts to the forced-vaccination argument, this logically means we have a moral obligation to quarantine every single man, woman, child and animal in the United States. For those who are panicking at the mere thought of meeting a child who didn’t receive the measles vaccine, the data clearly shows that you are still more of a public health threat to that child and to everyone else in society. If measles is so bad and needs to be avoided at all costs, even freedom, at least the same hysteria (if not more) needs to be applied to another disease that is between 10 to 100 times more deadly.
Anything else simply wouldn’t be logical.