A group called ‘anti-vaccers’ are not only detrimental to the health of society, but are severely misinformed about vaccines, how they work, and the risks of them.

In the current modern day and age, humans have access to life-saving medicine and vaccines that allow them to be able to live a healthy life by minimizing the risk of catching infectious, lethal diseases. However, millions of individuals around the globe do not have access to crucial vaccines that have the potential to save their life, while others around the globe choose not to vaccinate themselves because of fear of vaccines causing more harm than good.

The history of vaccination and how it all started

After discovering that inoculating an 8-year old boy with matter from a man with smallpox prevented the boy from also contracting smallpox, the British physicist, and scientist, Edward Jenner, discovered one of the greatest breakthroughs in scientific history: the vaccine. His work has saved billions of lives and completely eradicated smallpox from the world 200 years later to the present. It is not a coincidence that the life expectancy for humans around the globe has risen nearly double today compared to 50 years ago, which in part is the result from the ‘father of immunology’ himself.

In the 20th century, scientists have avidly created vaccines for diseases that range from fatal diseases such as polio; measles, mumps, and rubella; to the common flu. Through the use of research and development, here in the 21st century, we could potentially have vaccines for diseases such as the Zika virus, and Malaria.

What is the trade-off between vaccinating yourself and not?

Let’s talk about risk and uncertainty for a moment. According to economics, every individual has different levels of risk; this can be based on experiences, their personality, or observations. Being risk-averse means being reluctant to take risks, while being a risk-taker means loving to take risks.

The logic behind both is that in the first case, the individual sees the benefit of not taking a high risk greater than the cost of taking it, while in the second case, the individual sees the cost of taking the high risk greater than the benefit.

With any medication, there is always a small risk of reacting adversely to the medication itself. This also applies to vaccines, although less rare; these side-effects range from seizures, high fevers, and in rare cases, death.

Given the rareness of these side effects (often less than 1 in 1 million doses), should this be a factor in deciding whether to vaccinate yourself or not against lethal diseases that have detrimental consequences for certain?

In fact, the CDC reports “these are so rare that it is hard to tell if they are caused by the vaccine.”

Let’s illustrate this with an example. If you were told by a doctor that you have a brain tumor and have to undergo surgery, with a 25% of a coma resulting from it or having 6 months to live without the surgery, which one would you choose?

Assuming that you are able to afford the surgery, I would suspect that many individuals would choose to go with the surgery because the risk of not going through the surgery exceeds the benefit.

What about a case where you have a 20% chance of contracting the flu in December or a 2% chance of contracting it by taking the flu shot? In this scenario, it is a little different in the sense that it really depends on the individual.

If we are talking about a healthy, middle-aged person, they might decide not to take the flu shot because of factors such as having a strong immune system, or not wanting to deal with the side-effects from the vaccine (i.e. mild fever).

However, if we flip the tables and are talking about an 80-year old woman, she most likely will take the vaccine because of having a weakened immune system; here, the benefit of the vaccine exceeds the cost.

While it is true that everyone has different levels of risk and are entitled to the freedom of choice in vaccinating themselves or not, it is important to realize that you must vaccinate yourself against preventive, contagious, and lethal diseases that can have a significant impact on society’s health.

Unless you are sick or are allergic to the ingredients in the vaccine, there is absolutely no reason why you should not vaccinate yourself. By not vaccinating yourself or your child against diseases such as HPV, Hepatitis B, and Tetanus, you are not only putting yourself at risk, but other people in society such as the elderly who cannot protect themselves for legitimate reasons.

A group called ‘anti-vaccers’ are not only detrimental to the health of society, but are severely misinformed about vaccines, how they work, and the risks of them.

Myths about vaccines debunked

1. Vaccines do not cause autism!

Many anti-vaccers choose not to vaccinate their children in fear that vaccines cause autism. There is absolutely no correlation between vaccines and autism, and there is no evidence to suggest that it does. It’s kind of like saying an increase in ice-cream sales in July caused an increase in forest fires. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? This ‘relationship’ is actually caused by it being hot outside since people are more likely to purchase ice-cream in hot weather, and the dryness of July resulting in an increase in forest fires. Correlation does not cause causation. I repeat, correlation does not cause causation. Still, don’t believe me? Read nine scientific studies by the CDC that debunks this here.

2. Natural immunity is better than vaccine immunity

In the case of a flu vaccine, it may be true that it is better to deal with your body actually contracting the virus itself because it boosts your immune system. However, it is extremely risky to use this approach to other diseases that can be lethal! If you had a 1 in 500 chance of dying from Measles, and a 1 in 1 million chance of getting adverse side effects from getting the Measles vaccine, which one would a rational individual choose? You have a higher chance of getting struck by lightning!

3. Herd immunity will protect you

Since everyone else got the vaccine, I don’t have to get it, right? Wrong. By not vaccinating yourself against contagious diseases, you are putting individuals such as pregnant women, the elderly, the ill, and people who are allergic to the ingredients in the vaccine at risk because they are vulnerable to it. Also, if more people had the same mentality as “I don’t have to vaccinate myself because others already will,” we would soon see a decrease in people getting vaccinated overall, putting the entire population at risk. This is known as the free-rider problem.

There are many myths regarding vaccination that result from lack of knowledge, misinformation, and naivety. It is important to do a cost-benefit analysis of decisions that you make throughout your life, whether it’s deciding to take a vaccine, or studying an extra hour for an exam. If you choose not to vaccinate yourself for any particular reason, ask yourself this: Is it really worth putting myself and other people in danger?

Read more: “Should the right to free speech be suppressed by violence?”

Canada-based Ayushi Patel, through her writing wants to help people overcome and fight injustices that are occurring in their lives.

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