How the debate on vaccinations is still alive and well on the forefront of medicine and childhood development is absolutely mind-boggling.
It’s a prime example of how planting a seed of doubt can turn into a deep-rooted network of paranoia and bad information. Reason has no place here. As more data and studies come out, buttressing the long-standing notion that vaccinations don’t cause autism or other developmental retardations, such findings only seem to add kindling to the anti-vaxxer flames of resistance.
While many people point to the former gastroenterologist, Andrew Wakefield, as the catalyst behind the war on vaccinations, the reason this debate continues to surface is due to something much broader. At the crux of this fear is a societal misunderstanding of chemicals.
A quick history on vaccines and, subsequently, the war currently waging against them:
The first invention of a vaccine occurred in 1796 in response to small pox that was quite deadly. Dr. Edward Jenner took fluid from a cowpox blister and scratched it into the skin of an eight-year-old boy. A blister formed and the boy was infected but he recovered. Days later, Jenner inoculated the boy again, but this time with a tiny dose of smallpox. The boy never got the illness and the method was proven to be a success.
Almost 150 years later researcher, Dr. Jonas Salk, announces he has successfully created a vaccine against poliomyelitis (more commonly known as Polio). In 1952, this crippling – and sometimes deadly – disease was an epidemic. People lined the streets outside hospital clinics to get their hands on this miracle drug.
Fast forward to 1998 and Andrew Wakefield writes a damaging report claiming there was a direct link between the MMR vaccine and autism. These findings were the result of studying the development and behavior of 12 kids. TWELVE. That’s not even enough kids to conduct a conclusive poll on whether chocolate ice cream is better than broccoli. (But in case you were wondering, it TOTALLY is).
Wakefield’s findings were swiftly discredited, but that didn’t stop people from jumping on the anti-vaxx train to crazy town where they all live happily ever after, posting unsubstantiated memes on mommy blogs.
But this particular topic is just a symptom of a wider spread disease that has become a frustrating trend and misconception in society. And that is this idea that chemicals are “bad.”
The word “chemical” instills a fear and distrust in people that is almost as intense as people’s fear of serial killers. Just the mention of chemicals makes people balk in visceral disgust, which is odd because…
EVERYTHING IS A CHEMICAL. The world is literally comprised of a bunch of chemicals undergoing chemical reactions. YOU are a network of chemicals just living a happy, chemical-filled existence. So, this gross misconception that chemicals are bad for us is a little like saying sex is bad for us. It CAN be if you’re having sex with the wrong person. But generally speaking, sex is not only good for you…it’s necessary to continue life.
The ideology that chemicals are bad for us stems from the healthier, cleaner lifestyle movement. Organic farming actually isn’t a new concept – it was coined in 1940 in response to the use of nitrogen fertilizer and pesticides. In more recent times, the concept of organic has extended out to GMOs, man-made chemicals, and synthetic food products.
To be clear, there is A LOT of validity behind skepticism of food, textiles, and beauty products having consequential effects. The pros and cons of genetically modified foods alone warrant its own, in-depth article.
But this flippant desire to act as though all chemicals are created equal is insane and, potentially, detrimental. And it’s the reason cited by most anti-vaxxers as to why vaccinations are so harmful. Admittedly, a lot of the things found in vaccines sound scary, but only if you don’t put them in the right context.
For example, formaldehyde is a chemical that is toxic in large amounts. But the human body produces it naturally during the metabolic process. Furthermore, the trace amounts found in vaccines have exhaustingly been proven safe.
The reality is, both natural and man-made chemicals have actually benefited the human race and elevated our quality of life in immeasurable ways. And, while there is irrefutable proof that CERTAIN things in our food, beauty, and healthcare products are detrimental to our bodies, we have to recognize that chemicals aren’t all created equally.
Vaccines have saved numerous lives. They also don’t cause autism.
GMO has made food products available to millions of people that would never have had access to food, otherwise.
“Nature made” chemicals can be just as deadly as “man-made” chemicals. The two can also be equally beneficial and good.
If chemical structures are the exact same (whether natural or man-made), your body doesn’t know the difference. It will process it the same way.
Organic doesn’t always mean “healthy.” If you buy organic Cheetos, you’re spending 3 extra dollars on crap that your body will hate you for. “All Natural” does not always equate to “all good”. Tetanospasmin is a natural neurotoxin found in certain bacteria that causes tetanus… which is prevented by….
3 chemicals that are injected into the body!
So, please, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, stop with the chemical paranoia. You are essentially spitting in the face of decades of science and research that have saved millions of lives and improved our quality of life significantly. Be vigilant in sifting through fact and fiction before you make conclusions. Otherwise, you’re just contributing to the dumbing down of society.