Opposition to Vaccines
Vaccination is an important tool for public health.
Widespread vaccination has helped to reduce or eliminate serious consequences
of many diseases. It prevents millions of deaths each year.
Despite the importance of vaccines, some people don’t bother
getting them. Others are actively opposed to vaccination.
Some people are opposed to vaccination for religious
reasons. Others are worried about safety. Although vaccines can cause adverse
events, few are serious. For most people, the risk of vaccination is much lower
than the risk of getting the disease.
The Autism Fraud
In 1998, a
fraudulent paper published in The Lancet fundamentally changed the
debate about vaccines.
The paper claimed there was a link between the MMR vaccine
and autism. The incidence of autism had been growing and people were looking
for an explanation. They latched onto that one. Suddenly celebrities and other
media figures were speaking out against vaccination. Parents began to get
confusing messages about how they should protect their children. Other research
didn’t support a link between MMR vaccination and autism. However, activists
kept the argument alive despite the fact that the researcher responsible for
proposing the connection was found guilty of ethical, medical, and scientific
misconduct in the publication of the original paper.
The initial paper was proven to be fraudulent in 2009 and
has been retracted. Still, many people continue to believe that vaccination
increases the risk of autism. Because of this, children have been needlessly
put at risk of serious, preventable diseases.
Fallout from the fraud is likely to continue for years.
Why People Don’t Get Flu Vaccines
Vaccine mandates and school regulations mean that most
children get important vaccinations. However, there is no similar system in
place to encourage adult vaccination. For example, all adults should be getting
an annual flu vaccine when possible. However, less than half of people do. A
national survey from RAND
Health found that, in the 2009-2010 flu season, only 40 percent of Americans
got the flu vaccine. That number was only slightly higher in groups
specifically recommended for vaccination, such as the elderly.
Reasons for lack of vaccination varied. Some people simply
didn’t know about the flu vaccine. However, many people weren’t interested in
vaccination because of incorrect beliefs. For example, some people:
- believed they didn’t need the vaccine
- believed that their immunity from infection was
“better” than immunity from vaccination
- thought that the vaccine would give them the flu
None of these beliefs are accurate. The flu is far more
common, and dangerous, than typical flu vaccine side effects. According to RAND, influenza
infection causes thousands of deaths every year.