Just How Safe Are Vaccines?

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Vaccine-Preventable Disease

Vaccine-preventable diseases can lead to pneumonia, deafness, brain damage, heart problems, blindness, paralysis and death in children who are not immunized. There is no doubt that vaccines can help to eliminate or reduce many serious illnesses.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that healthy children are vaccinated against 14 diseases, along with an annual inoculation against the flu. In fact, vaccines are supported so strongly that any uninsured child can walk into a clinic and be immunized for free. The ability to vaccinate is said to be one of the most successful public health achievements of the 20th Century.

What Happens When Countries Stop Vaccinating?

When comparing the statistics of countries that have stopped or decreased their immunization programs, we find that old diseases, such as pertussis (whooping cough), measles and polio rise once again. It only takes one unimmunized traveler to bring a disease home from another country, and if the population has not built up a defence, it can take a heavy toll on the community. The diseases can return stronger and more powerful than before.

Over the years, an increasing number of parents have opted out of having their children vaccinated. A drop in immunization levels may be having a negative impact on the community’s health as a whole. We are seeing rare illnesses, such as whopping cough and measles appearing among unvaccinated children, putting them in danger.


The Legal Case

Feelings are strong on the subject of vaccinations, and many paediatricians are refusing to treat children who have not been vaccinated. Some legal experts believe that parents who do not vaccinate their children should be subject to criminal prosecution (including criminally negligent homicide and monetary damages) if their unvaccinated children infect and harm other children who are too young or immunocompromised to receive vaccines.

If an unvaccinated child falls in, and in the worst case, dies due to a vaccine-preventable disease, it can become far uglier still. The following is an extract from CBC News, and follows the tragic story of an unvaccinated toddler’s demise due to Meningitis.

A southern Alberta couple accused of allowing their meningitis-infected toddler to die four years ago tried home remedies such as olive leaf extract and whey protein rather than take him to a doctor, a Lethbridge jury heard Monday.

David Stephan, 32, and his wife Collet Stephan, 35, have pleaded not guilty to failing to provide the necessaries of life for 19-month-old Ezekiel, who died in March 2012.

The Testing and Monitoring of Vaccines

Putting a vaccine on the market is not something that happens overnight. It can take researchers more than a decade to demonstrate firm evidence (including the experiences of thousands of people taking part in clinical trials) that a vaccine works and is safe in order to be approved and licensed by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).

Still, not all side effects are identified during the vaccine’s development so its safety is continually monitored nationwide by the VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System). This federally cosponsored program collects reports of suspected vaccine-related injury or illness, as well as new or dangerous side effects.

In the event that a problem is identified and reported, the officials will take action, launching an investigation, where safety alerts are sent out. This may lead to a change in the label and even the vaccine license being revoked. An example of this was a vaccine against rotavirus, which was found to cause bowel obstruction for one in every 10,000 babies. It is no longer used.

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