While there are people who have refused to have their children vaccinated against known diseases such as polio, diphtheria, meningitis, tetanus, and others out of concern for possible side effects, childhood vaccination is a proven method of protecting children and adults from crippling and even fatal diseases. In fact, polio, once a scourge of the world, crippling tens of thousands of children, was largely eradicated following the systematic immunization of children with polio vaccine after it was developed in 1952 by Jonas Salk.
Vaccination, or immunization, is a process whereby an individual is deliberately exposed, usually through injection but sometimes through oral delivery, with the strain of disease for which the vaccination is intended to prevent. By exposing the body to minute traces of the bacteria in question, the body’s immune system is able to develop antibodies to those bacteria, thereby protecting the individual from becoming infected at some later date, for example, from exposure to individuals who have contracted the disease in question.
Proof of the enduring value of childhood immunization, and of the dangers of misinformed judgments regarding the potential side effects of vaccines, emerged in the late 1990s, when an article in the journal Lancet purported to link vaccines with autism. A small number of high-profile celebrities, becoming aware of that alleged linkage, became public spokesmen against immunization. While major and widely-respected medical organizations, including Harvard University’s School of Medicine and the Mayo Clinic, have consistently refuted that assertion, the allegation of a linkage to autism was sufficient to frighten many families away from having their children vaccinated. The result has been a resurgence of childhood diseases previously all-but eliminated from society, including polio.
Childhood immunizations work. They protect children from crippling and fatal diseases, and protect adults who have not been immunized from possible infection – and childhood diseases can be very serious for previously unexposed adults. The linkage to autism has been refuted, and the Mayo Clinic states that:
“Vaccines do not cause autism. Despite much controversy on the topic, researchers haven’t found a connection between autism and childhood vaccines. In fact, the original study that ignited the debate years ago has been retracted. Although signs of autism may appear at about the same time children receive certain vaccines – such as the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine – this is simply a coincidence.” [www.mayoclinic.com/health/vaccines/CC00014]
One final note on this topic. Assertions that children are better off contracting some of these diseases from infected children with whom they come in contact, that is not necessarily the case. Full-rate infection by any of these diseases can result in serious life-long infirmities.