Cite Your Sources, Anti-vaccination Movement. Science Supports Immunization

Robert Kennedy, Jr., son of former U.S. Attorney Gen. Robert Kennedy and nephew of President John F. Kennedy, speaks against a measure requiring California schoolchildren to get vaccinated, during a rally at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, April 8, 2015. The bill SB277 by Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica will be heard by the California Senate Health committee Wednesday. If approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor, parents could no longer cite personal beliefs or religious reasons to send unvaccinated children to private and public schools unless a child’s health is in danger. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Anti-vaxxers rarely, if ever, provide proof for their vaccine skepticism—and it isn’t hard to imagine why, because science supports immunization. Here’s the unarguable data.

In last week’s article, we completed a logical proof contingent upon the research presented in the first piece (if you didn’t get a chance to take a look, check them both out here and here): vaccines directly reduce the number of deaths from an illness, and when this protection is voluntarily removed, the results are tragic. Today, we’ll be concluding this three-part series with even more evidence, something that, along with sources, the anti-vaccine movement usually lacks.

The anti-vaccine movement, generally, resorts to extremely rare, questionable horror stories and non-cited, unclear statistics to push their agenda. For instance, take one of the most popular and active anti-immunization Facebook pages, The Vaccine Gamble. The group’s description uses multiple un-cited, dubious numbers to establish an anti-vaccine position and, finally, gets to the conclusion:

“…what they’re [pro-vaccine families] really doing when they stick their families full of needles is gambling. Thousands of parents have been documenting negative changes in their children following vaccination.”

Like the Facebook group’s other claims, zero proof is provided. The ironic part of this group is one of the statements with which they end is, “we will try to present information that is up to date and legitimate.” Yet they never present information backing up their claims in the description—ever. Fortunately, besides history—which is proof in-itself of vaccines working (see my first article for a complete picture for how successful an impact vaccines have had on public health)—science proves immunization is effective, and here’s another empirical look:

Some of the most recent and extensive research on the anti-vaccine movement comes from a 2018 PLOS Medicine study, which I’ve already cited in previous articles. Here’s some more background: the academic work, authored by Jacqueline K. Olive, Peter J. Hotez, Ashish Damania, and Melissa S. Nolan, is titled “The state of the antivaccine movement in the United States: A focused examination of nonmedical exemptions in states and counties.” It was not commissioned or had any specific funding provided (maintaining an unbiased approach); in addition, the research was externally peer-reviewed and published recently on June 12 of 2018. The study found 15 U.S. cities the authors dubbed anti-vaccine “hotspots” due to the high number of nonmedical exemptions and low vaccination rates found in those areas. 

For a more empirical view on vaccines, here are the states in which the 15 top anti-vaccine hotspots reside, contrasted with CDC-recorded measles cases: 

Arizona: Reported cases.

Michigan: Reported cases.

Missouri: Reported cases.

Oregon: Reported cases.

Pennsylvania: Reported cases.

Texas: Reported cases.

Washington: Reported cases.

Utah: No reported cases.

Additionally, out of all 15 states where nonmedical vaccine exemptions are still allowed, a slim majority experienced at least one case of measles. A correlation is absolutely apparent: less vaccines in an area leads to more diseases. Of course, this isn’t the only information proving the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, there are numerous academic studies confirming this fact; an extensive list is maintained by healthychildren.org, working with the American Academy of Pediatrics, in fact. 

However, in almost every measles breakout listed, although unvaccinated people got the disease far more often, individuals who were vaccinated still contracted measles, anti-vaxxers often mention this fact while arguing their position. Fortunately, the California Department of Public Health helped explain why this is in July of 2019. About 7% of individuals who have gotten one does of the MMR immunization and approximately 3% of people who have collected the recommended two doses of MMR still have a possibility of contracting measles. Scientist don’t know exactly why, but theorize this anomaly could be due to the fact that “the immune systems of these people didn’t respond as well as they should have to the vaccine.” Despite this rare occurrence, the California Department of Public Health reiterated the many benefits of the MMR vaccine:

“Fortunately, vaccinated people who develop measles are much more likely to have a milder illness. In addition, vaccinated people are less likely to spread measles to other people, including people who can’t get vaccinated because they are too young or have weakened immune systems.”

On the other hand, when unvaccinated people are exposed to measles, 90% of them will contract the disease. It’s also worth noting that measles is one of the world’s most contagious diseases, one for which there is no cure—only prevention offered through vaccination. Measles is also still responsible for a great deal of deaths, world-wide. In 2017 alone, there were 110,000 deaths due to there disease, most of them being children under the age of five—highlighting why early vaccination is so important. The benefits of getting vaccinated are impactful, not only to one’s own health, but to the entire community at large.

Science supports vaccination, and in order for anti-vaxxers to challenge that medical fact in the least bit, they must at least begin by citing their sources. But the movement might not have much in the way of sources, because the truth is this: vaccines work, and the medical treatment is safe, and extremely effective.

What do YOU think about this issue? On what side of the vaccine debate do you consider yourself? Let us know in the comments below!! Thanks for reading, everyone. This concludes the series.