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Savanah Francom

Jackie Burr, Instructor

English 2010, Section 2

12 April 2019

A decrease in vaccination and Immunization Rates

Those who currently alive in the twenty-first century should thank their lucky stars

because fortunately those citizens live in a time when most diseases that would have killed them

in the past, such as diphtheria, hepatitis B, measles, or meningitis, can now be preventable due to

vaccines. Although the general population can easily access vaccines, many still opt out of

recieving them. Multiple reasons can be attributed to why people do not have all of their

recommended vaccines, some may be because they do not have access to a doctor’s office, and

others may be a matter of personal belief. The general population tends to believe four common

myths about vaccines, and a lot of history regarding those myths exists to propel many of those

common beliefs. Some common misconceptions about vaccines and why people think that they

do not need them include the fact that society already has good enough hygiene, plenty of people

have their immunizations, vaccines cause autism, and they can have harmful side effects.

One form of reasoning behind why people think immunizations seem unnecessary is that

diseases started to disappear before they were invented because of better sanitation and hygiene.

This statement contains some truth, but today there is a better understanding of how diseases

spread, but the decline in diseases such as Hepatitis B and ​Haemophilus influenzae type b were

directly related to when doctors introduced the vaccine. In the article “Six common

misconceptions about immunization”, the “Hib disease​ ​was prevalent until the early- to mid-
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1990s, when conjugate vaccines that could be used for infants were finally developed” (2).

Countries who cut back on certain vaccine saw an increase in that disease. Take Japan for

example, Japan’s vaccination rates went from “70% to 20%-40%” (“Six misconceptions about

immunization” 2). The sudden drop in pertussis vaccinations “led to a jump in pertussis from 393

cases and no deaths in 1974 to 13,000 cases and 41 deaths in 1979” (“Six misconceptions about

immunization” 2).

Another excuse commonly used by those against vaccinations is “If so many people have

their vaccines and vaccination rates are so low, why should I get them?”. Vaccines work through

a concept called “herd immunity”. Herd immunity works if enough people , which means the

majority, of the population has all of their immunizations. It’s true that one or two un-immunized

people may be safe, but if everyone in a population thought this way then no one would get their

immunizations and the concept of herd immunity becomes less effective. “Vaccine Myths

Debunked” states that ​“if too many people don’t vaccinate themselves or their children, they

contribute to a collective danger, opening up opportunities for viruses and bacteria to establish

themselves and spread.” Many people also do not realize that people who visit foreign countries

may come back and introduce a vaccinated or unvaccinated disease into a population. If a person

without their immunizations comes into contact with the person who brought back that disease,

then they could still be susceptible to the disease.

Although having all of one’s reccommended vaccines is better than having none, the

chance one could contract a vaccinated disease with all of their immunizations up to date still

remains. A mother named Saundie Leverich whose son who caught pertussis still contracted the

disease even though “her son had all four doses of the whooping cough vaccine”. According to
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the article “Can I spread the whooping cough if I am vaccinated against it?”, “​no vaccine is

100% effective, and it is therefore always possible to get a disease even though you are

vaccinated against it.” The chances of catching a vaccine preventable disease reduce if one has

all of their

recommended

vaccinations. The

same mother also

claimed that it had

been fifteen years

since her last

whooping cough

vaccine and nineteen

years since her

husband got his last

vaccine. Additionally,

she mentioned how

the doctor’s office did

not offer the booster

whooping cough

vaccine when she

went there and how

later pregnant mothers started to receive the whooping cough vaccine. Sometimes people find
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out later that they were supposed to have a

vaccine that they did not get, so another reason school children and adults do not have all of their

vaccinations results from a limited access to resources so they do not know what the

recommended vaccines include.

Another myth that a lot of people are led to believe comes from the delusion that the

MMR vaccine, the vaccine against ​measles, mumps, and rubella, is linked to Autism. “extensive

research has asked whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism,” said

Rob Ring, chief science officer, in a statement. “The results of this research are clear: Vaccines

do not cause autism. We urge that all children be fully vaccinated” (Knopf). One of the reasons

many people believe this myth is because of a British surgeon named Andrew Wakefield who

conducted a study that demonstrated how the MMR vaccine led to autism in British children.

The study became published in ​The Lancet ​in 1997. A study included in the article “​A

Population-Based Study of Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccination and Autism” ​was done to

see if children born in Denmark between January 1991 and December 1998 had Autism based on

whether or not they had the MMR vaccine. The study found that “​After adjustment for potential

confounders, the relative risk of autistic disorder in the group of vaccinated children, as

compared with the unvaccinated group, was 0.92 (95 percent confidence interval, 0.68 to 1.24)”

(Madsen et al.). These results concludes that the MMR vaccine does not cause Autism.

A lot of fear surrounds vaccines and immunizations because many believe that they can

cause harmful side effects and certain illnesses. At one point there were many children who had

recently gotten the DTP vaccine and died from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). However,
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a study included in “Six common misconceptions about immunization” found “that the number

of SIDS deaths temporally associated with DTP vaccination was within the range expected to

occur by chance” (5). This meant that those who happened to be diagnosed with SIDS after

receiving the DTP vaccine were simply unluckly, and there is no causation between SIDS and

the DTP vaccine. Side effects of vaccines include adverse events such as a sore arm or a fever,

but these are temporary and taking paracetamol can help with them.

Although today vaccines are almost 99% effective, they used to not always be that way.

Vaccines started to garner some fear because of the Salk Polio vaccine. During the 1950’s a

doctor named Jonas Salk developed a polio vaccine with “killed” strains of the polio virus.

Unfortunately, the formalin that Salk used to kill the poliovirus only made it appear to be killed.

“The Cutter-produced vaccines ended up causing 40,000 cases of polio. It severely paralyzed

200 children and killed 10” (Cáceres). The Salk vaccine eventually became replaced in 1963

with the attenuated (weakened) live oral polio vaccine. Robert Knoch developed Tuberculin in

1890 to diagnose those with Tuberculosis. This “caused serious reactions and deaths in

individuals whose latent tuberculosis was reactivated by the tuberculin” (“Vaccine Hesitancy”).

The effectiveness of vaccines may have not been the greatest in the past, but since the

invention of the first smallpox vaccine in 1796, vaccines have become more and more successful

and the deaths caused by them have been declining. Receiving all of one’s recommended

vaccines can give them peace of mind knowing that their chances of getting a vaccine

preventable disease are slightly less. Everyone can contribute to a safer and healthier community

and world if they choose to participate in this wonderful invention. Even though in some
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countries, such as Australia, there is a “no jab no pay” policy, in the U.S. the choice to vaccinate

ultimately comes down to the person and what kind of environment they decide to live in.
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Works Cited

Madsen, Kreesten,-et al. “​A Population-Based Study of Measles, Mumps, and Rubella

Vaccination and Autism.” ​The New England Journal of Medecine,​ 7 Nov. 2002,

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmoa021134

“Can I spread whooping cough if I am vaccinated against it?” ​Northern Rivers Vaccination

Supporters,​ Accessed 9 Apr. 2019,

https://nrvs.info/can-i-spread-whooping-cough-if-i-am-vaccinated-against-it/

Knopf, Alison. “MMR vs. Autism: A False Choice.” ​The Brown University Child and

Adolescent Behavior Letter​, Vol. 31, Apr. 2015, pp. 1-2. ​EBSCO,​ doi:

http://web.b.ebscohost.com/src_ic/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=6&sid=6a3e5fbf-7d91-4d85

-b3f3-6154de52b26f%40sessionmgr104

Leverich, Saundie. Personal Interview. 10 April 2019

“Six common misconception about immunization.” ​World Health Organization,​ Accessed 9 Apr.

2019,

https://www.who.int/vaccine_safety/initiative/detection/immunization_misconceptions/en

/index4.html

Cáceres, Marco. “The Salk Polio Vaccine “Tragedy”.” ​The Vaccine Reaction​, 11 Jan. 2016,

https://thevaccinereaction.org/2016/01/the-salk-polio-vaccine-tragedy/
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“Vaccine hesitancy.” ​Wikipedia​, Accessed 9 Apr. 2019,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaccine_hesitancy

“Vaccine Myths Debunked.” ​Public Health​, Accessed 9 Apr. 2019,

https://www.publichealth.org/public-awareness/understanding-vaccines/vaccine-myths-d

ebunked/
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