news

5 arguments against vaccination, and why they're complete bulls**t.

Right now the entire world is waiting for a vaccine.

Leaders around the world are telling us it’s the key to pulling us out of the global pandemic we are currently living in once and for all, as lives, livelihoods and global economies are decimated by the coronavirus.

Scientists in more than 40 labs are working around the clock to develop the much anticipated vaccine but we’re being warned it is still months away – and so until then, we have to maintain social distancing and do our best as individual countries, to keep the spreading at bay.

WATCH: Your COVID-19 questions answered. Post continues after video.

Video by Mamamia

But despite the reality we are currently living in – with more than two million infected and 130,000 dead from the infectious disease – the anti-vax community is alive and well.

Celebrities like chef Pete Evans and actress Isabel Lucas are just some of the high-profile Australians who have been vocal about their anti-vax sentiment, even in a world of coronavirus.

British rapper MIA tweeted last month to 600,000 followers: “If I have to choose the vaccine or chip I’m gonna choose death.”

ADVERTISEMENT

As RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon tells Mamamia, “These comments are extremely unhelpful. It may well be a new vaccine that halts COVID-19 and saves millions of lives around the world. Vaccines are one of the great success stories of modern medicine but the rise of the anti-vaxxer trend has led to unfounded doubts about the safety of vaccinations.”

“Don’t rely on social media and apply a ‘sniff test’ to posts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like – ask yourself whether the information is reliable and trustworthy,” added Dr Nespolon.

But if that’s not enough to convince you (or your stubborn loved one) of the importance of this new vaccine we’re all waiting for, just send them this article.

We’ve helpfully pulled together the five biggest arguments used by anti-vaxxers, and why, frankly, they’re complete and utter bollocks.

1. Vaccines are full of “toxins.”

This myth appears to be stoked along by a lack of understanding in chemistry and toxicology, that scientists and medical professionals can easily explain away.

It’s also fuelled by celebrities like Miranda Kerr sharing to her 12 million followers during a pandemic a “virus protection” guide offering things like celery juice and “zinc shock therapy” touting it as “great info to help people during this time.”

Pete Evans’ ‘light therapy’ device that he claims can be used to treat COVID-19, is another example that helps muddy the science in people’s minds.

MIRANDA-AND-PETE
Miranda Kerr and Pete Evans are just two celebrities sharing misinformation during coronavirus. Image: Getty.

Let's get back to the science for a second shall we.

ADVERTISEMENT

Formaldehyde is used in vaccine preparation and traces can be found within doses. Drinking fluid concentrations of this is bad, however the amount present in a vaccine dose is 0.1 milligrams per dose. When you eat an apple, you consume up to six milligrams of formaldehyde. Or if you want another example, there is 50 to 70 times more formaldehyde present in an average newborn's body than in a single dose of vaccine, as confirmed by Public Health.org.

Thiomersal breaks down to produce mercury. Mercury is toxic – yes. But it is also a powerful antibacterial. It’s not currently being used in Australia, and is mainly present in a vaccine when it’s used to help treat epidemics.

Even if it is used in the yet to be completed coronavirus vaccine however - it contains the same amount of mercury you’d find in a tin of tuna. As the Australian health department confirms, "there is no scientific evidence that small amounts of thiomersal cause any harmful effects in children or adults."

Most vaccines contain materials to enhance the immune response to them, and aluminium salts are one of these.

Aluminium can be toxic. However, once again the doses found in vaccines are much less than the rates of aluminium found in food and drink. Human breast milk in fact contains way more aluminium that you'll find in a vaccine, according to the Department of Health.

Preservatives? Stabilisers? (which are usually sugars or oils). Well, the first protects a vaccine from becoming contaminated with harmful bacteria, and the second stops a vaccine from going off. Sugar and oil are also perfectly healthy - and in fact encouraged in moderation - as part of a healthy diet. Ask any nutritionist.

Then there’s squalene. This is an oily substance that occurs naturally in plants and animals and is used in vaccines to enhance the body’s immune response to an antigen – once again it can be toxic.

It’s also a regular ingredient in foods, lotions and cosmetics. The amount found in a vaccine is minuscule and carries no risk, as confirmed by the World Health Organisation.

2. Vaccines have harmful side effects.

All medicine carries a risk. So does that mean we don’t…take it?

The relative risk of injury from vaccines is significantly lower than the risk of injury from getting a disease naturally, says the World Health Organisation.

We have a real life example of that playing out right now in front of our eyes - shall we repeat the horrifying coronavirus statistics? There's your proof.

The current COVID-19 figures.

Most vaccine adverse reactions are actually quite minor and temporary – such as a sore arm or a mild fever.

More serious side effects occur in the instance of one per thousands to one per millions of doses, reports the WHO.

ADVERTISEMENT

As for death, which is another anti-vax claim, the risk of death is so low that it is hard to assess statistically, or to prove it was even as a result of the vaccine.

Deaths as a result of coronavirus - a single disease - on the other hand? Yeah, we're not going to repeat those figures again.

To add to this argument, anti vaxxers claim giving multiple vaccinations for different diseases at the same time can increase the risk of ‘overloading the immune system.’

As the WHO explains, children are exposed to things that’ll affect their immune systems every day.

Kid eats dirt: immune system affected. Kid touches weird saliva-filled bubblegum at the playground: again, immune system activated. Even eating a piece of broccoli is introducing a world of foreign antigens to a child.

A number of studies have debunked this fear, in fact, in a 2015 survey of 534 pediatricians and family doctors published in the journal Pediatrics, only about one percent agreed that vaccines should be spread out.

3. “Big Pharmas” are just raking in the cash.

Sure, they make money from vaccinations.

But if vaccination rates dropped generally - coronavirus aside - there would be an increase in preventable illnesses, many of which have high rates of complications resulting in hospitalisation and expensive treatment. For example, the WHO reported that the number of measles cases in the first three months of 2019 quadrupled in comparison to cases reported at the same time in 2018.

Why?

As the WHO reports, vaccination rates have stagnated in recent years.

“Even though they are thankfully a minority [anti-vaxxers], there is no doubt that in my clinical practice there are more un-immunised children than there were 10 years ago,” Paediatrician Dr Scott Dunlop confirmed to Mamamia last year.

In order for a vaccine to work - everyone needs to take it. It's what's called 'herd immunity.'

"It’s not just a case of protecting you, it’s other people as well. If we all play the game we get a better result in the end," said GP Dr Keang-Sing Lim.

It's why at the moment we're being told to stay home not for ourselves, but for the elderly and the immune-compromised. You may very well be fine if you catch coronavirus, but you need to be vaccinated to protect the wider community.

anti vaccination
For a vaccine to work, we all need to be taking it. Image: Getty.
ADVERTISEMENT

Now let's get back to the whole - we stop vaccinating,  illness increases - and our hospitals are inundated.

Look at how much our hospitals are struggling now, with one un-vaccinated disease running rampant.

So yes, money is made from vaccines. But the money lost treating diseases far outweighs the money to be made from vaccines.

4. Vaccination causes autism.

Despite being debunked time and time again, this claim just doesn’t seem to disappear.

It was a valid concern in the early 1990s, but we have 30 years of research, from multiple studies, that prove it’s completely false.

Autism rates in developing countries have risen in this time, but that’s likely to be because of increases in diagnoses, or changing definitions for autism.

In fact, in 2004 the author of British Medical Journal The Lancet, Dr Richard Horton who is behind a lot of the autism-vaccination link fears, retracted a study guilty of fuelling this myth.

In a statement the journal said "it is now clear that 'several elements' of a 1998 paper it published by Dr. Andrew Wakefield and his colleagues are incorrect, contrary to the findings of an earlier investigation."

Sydney GP Dr Keang-Sing Lim told Mamamia it is still among the most common queries parents-to-be ask at his clinic when it comes to the topic of vaccination.

“A lot of studies look at the rate of autism between those who have been vaccinated and those who haven’t. The rate is the same. Vaccination DOES NOT increase rates of autism,” he said.

Anti-vaxxers also claim the Amish don’t vaccinate and do not have autism. This comes from a non scientific survey published by Dan Olmsted in Age of Autism, and in fact both claims are completely false. You can read about that here.

5. Disease can die out on its own.

A common trope of the anti-vaxxer movement is that: "Diseases had already begun to disappear before vaccines were introduced, because of better hygiene and sanitation."

ADVERTISEMENT

With coronavirus we keep hearing that countries have 'reached their peak' and are on the other side.

China and other countries are even starting to reopen without a vaccine because of their ability to reduce the numbers of infection and spread.

WUHAN-TRAIN
Locals leaving Wuhan after 76 days of lockdown due to Covid-19. Image: Getty.

Yes, some countries have been able to slow the spread of coronavirus with hygiene and social distancing - and on the wider scale socioeconomic conditions have definitely had an indirect impact on rates of disease.

We’ve got better nutrition, better survival rates if we do get sick thanks to advances in technology, and less crowded and dirty living conditions – which means less disease transmission.

However, if you look at the pattern of incidence of vaccine related illness once vaccines are introduced, you’ll see a pattern emerge: a real, permanent drop. The world is entirely free of smallpox today for example - a disease that killed an estimated 300 million in the 20th Century alone.

As Stanford University immunologist Dr Mark Davis once put it, vaccines are “the single most life-saving medical innovation ever in the history of medicine”.

Coronavirus will always be there, waiting to reinfect unless we see that 'permanent drop' that a vaccine brings.

Simply put, we must ‘flatten the curve' until that precious little vial arrives.

Feature image: Getty.