During the last two centuries, the eradication of infectious diseases such as smallpox and rinderpest became a reality, thanks to breakthroughs in immunization science.
Other illnesses like polio and the highly contagious measles are on the same path. And, if the eradication of these and other diseases has been delayed, it has been due to the difficulties of distribution in the world population, not the lack of effectiveness of the vaccines.
However, vaccines have been the target of negative controversies since the 90’s. The best-known case, and probably the modern genesis of the movement against children vaccination, was the study of the British gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield.
In 1992, Wakefield published the results of a study with a sample of only 12 kids, connecting their development of autism with the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine.
The publication prompted the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the most prestigious epidemiology research institutions to spend millions of dollars in dozens of independent investigations, trying to recreate Wakefield’s results.
Almost a decade later, the accumulated evidence demonstrated contrary to Wakefield’s position, raising serious questions about his research motives. Moreover, ten of the twelve co-authors of the study retracted their support, and in 2010, Andrew Wakefield was stripped from his medical license in the U.K., due to multiple ethical violations.
However, the damage to the vaccinations’ reputation was done. The massive publicity his study received–amplified by Hollywood actors and other celebrities–influenced and continue to influence millions of parents around the world who have rejected the recommended immunization schedule of their children.
I have to confess that last year I fell into the trap. I even said to my husband, “This vaccine business is a scam of the pharma giants!” So nobody in my family got the influenza shot. But my anti-vaccine attitude caused me to learn a lesson I’ll never forget.
Last February, my seven-year-old son caught the flu, and it triggered the worst asthma attack he’s ever endured. The night of anguish at the ER included an ambulance ride and constant oxygen supply. Once the emergency passed, the attending pediatrician at the hospital told me, candidly, that children, especially asthmatic kids, should always get the influenza shot.
The 2017-2018 flu season was one of the most severe registered in the U.S. One hundred and eighty-five children died around the country, and approximately 80% of the victims had not received a flu shot that season.
Although the influenza vaccine is not 100% effective, due to the multiple strains of the viruses, studies have proven that the flu symptoms with immunized patients are less life-threatening and present fewer respiratory complications compared to those who didn’t get vaccinated.
Therefore, the CDC and the World Health Organization recommends that the high-risk population–children under 17 and seniors–get the flu shot once a year. So, don’t be a chicken and get vaccinated before the holidays.
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