Dr. Mina’s presentation from a couple weeks ago gave the class a look into the many controversies surrounding the administration of vaccines. With his studies revealing that live-attenuated vaccines correlating with a greater susceptibility to upper respiratory tract infections, the dilemma becomes more complicated in regards to whether or not to let this information influence people’s thinking on what is strongly accepted by the medical and scientific communities as recommended practice. Although there have been many controversies related to vaccines throughout history, the most recent and relevant trigger for the modern anti-vaccine movement is generally considered be a study by Andrew Wakefield in a 1998 issue of the UK’s The Lancet that the MMR shot (used to inoculate against measles, mumps and rubella) caused colitis and autism. This resulted in a widespread abandonment of vaccination in the UK and Ireland, as well as significant influence on public perception of vaccines. The study has since been very publicly declared fraudulent (due to manipulation of evidence and other forms of ethical misconduct), with heavy scientific backing from multiple subsequent studies that concluded that there was no significant evidence to support Wakefield’s conclusion.
A recent article in the Huffington Post by Jennifer Raff, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas with a Ph.D. in genetics and anthropology, addresses those parents who still remain seduced by the arguments of the anti-vaccine community, primarily by utilizing a wealth of scientific evidence to back up every single one of her claims both against the anti-vaccine movement and in support of vaccination in general. By linking her words to many different scientific publications, Raff provides readers with concrete evidence to counter several claims made by the anti-vaccine movement, including papers that negate the idea that measles, chicken pox, influenza, and whooping cough are not dangerous or deadly, that natural infection is a better vaccination, that side effects are not well known, or that vaccines cannot be trusted for a whole host of reasons. On the flip side, she also provides evidence for how vaccines are tested with great scrutiny for effectiveness and safety, and most importantly, encourages people to do their research before subscribing to a mentality that is literally killing children.