Vaccines have been used to prevent diseases for centuries, and have saved countless lives of children and adults. The smallpox vaccine was invented as early as 1796, and since then the use of vaccines has continued to protect us from countless life threatening diseases such as polio, measles, and pertussis. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2010) assures that vaccines are extensively tested by scientist to make sure they are effective and safe, and must receive the approval of the Food and Drug Administration before being used. “Perhaps the greatest success story in public health is the reduction of infectious diseases due to the use of vaccines” (CDC, 2010). Routine immunization has eliminated smallpox from the globe and led to the near removal of wild polio virus. Vaccines have reduced some preventable infectious diseases to an all-time low, and now few people experience the devastating effects of measles, pertussis, and other illnesses.
Despite all the testing and approval process of vaccines, many people still mistakenly believe that vaccines cause autism, even in light of research that has disproven the notion. This evidences the difficulty of dispelling false statements once someone has accepted a falsehood, especially if it has scientific research backing the results. It also highlights the gullibility of the public at large to believe anything that medical research reports without questioning the findings. Unfortunately, the media attention such examples of junk science receive aids in convincing many of its truthfulness. The hype surrounding the belief that vaccines cause autism began in 1998 when Andrew Wakefield in the UK published an article in the Lancet linking the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine to cases of autism in children. This claim gained a lot of momentum and quickly spread all over the world. This led to the support of various unproven vaccine-autism theories by parents in both the UK and America. After findings of intestinal disease in children with autism, Wakefield claimed that separating the MMR into three different vaccinations would be safer. Since then, Wakefield’s research has been discredited, he was charged with serious professional misconduct by the General Medical Council for violating several ethical practices, and he was investigated for failing to disclose conflict of interest – a pending patent on a rival measles vaccine (Gross, 2009). Although false, many still believe wholeheartedly that vaccines are harmful.
In the 1998 article in the Lancet, Wakefield studied 12 children “who, after a period of apparent normality, lost acquired skills, including communication” (Wakefield, Murch, Anthony, Linnell, Casson, Malik, Berelowitz, Dhillon, Thomson, Harvey, Valentine, Davies, & Walker-Smith,1998). All 12 children were reported to show behavioral symptoms after receiving the vaccination. After receiving the vaccination, the features associated with exposure...