Vaccines against diphtheria, polio, pertussis, measles, mumps and rubella, and more recent additions of hepatitis B and chicken pox, have given humans powerful immune guards to ward off unwelcome sickness. And thanks to state laws that require vaccinations for kids enrolling in kindergarten, the U.S. presently enjoys the highest immunization rate ever at 77%. Yet bubbling beneath these national numbers is the question about vaccine safety. Driven by claims that vaccinations can be associated with autism, increasing number of parents are raising questions about whether vaccines are in fact harmful to children, instead of helpful (Park, 2008).
Positives for Vaccinations
For many years before the development of vaccines, it was known that after recovery from certain diseases some people would not become infected when exposed to it again. This course by which a person is protected from certain diseases after natural infection is termed active immunity. The person is protected since the immune system remembers the past infection and reacts quickly when it comes across the issue again. Yet, for diseases that can be life-threatening, attaining immunity in this way entails running the risk of death upon the first encounter. Even for non life-threatening diseases, a lot of infections carry a risk of grave complications after recovery and so it would be preferable to obtain immunity without taking unwarranted risks. Active immunity by way of vaccination presents a much safer alternative (Childhood Vaccinations: Understanding Vaccines, 2006).
The CDC works closely with public health agencies and private partners in order to improve and sustain immunization coverage and to monitor the safety of vaccines so that public health can be maintained and expanded in the future. Table 1 lists the current vaccination schedule for early childhood vaccinations.
Negatives for Vaccinations
More than any other matter, the question of autism has stirred the battle over vaccines. Since the 1980’s, the quantity of vaccinations that children get has doubled, and in that same time, autism diagnoses have tripled. In 1998, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, a British gastroenterologist of London's Royal Free Hospital published a paper in the journal the Lancet in which he stated the results of a study that he did. The study consisted of a dozen young patients who were suffering from both autism-like developmental disorders and intestinal symptoms that included inflammation, pain and bloating. Eight of the kids started showing signs of autism days after getting the MMR vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella. While Wakefield and his co-researchers were cautious not to propose that these cases established a link between vaccines and autism, they did imply, that exposure to the measles virus could be a causal factor to the children's autism. Wakefield later went on to conjecture that virus from the vaccine led to swelling in the abdomen that affected the brain...
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