For many years now, vaccination has played a significant role in curbing the morbidity and mortality rate of some infectious diseases. It has even eradicated a number of disease entities which claimed countless lives before regardless of age. One classic example of the outstanding role of vaccination in the prevention of disease is the eradication of smallpox more than 30 years ago, by combining an effective vaccination program with intense surveillance and public health control measures.
In spite of this, vaccination did not escape from the prying eyes of unrelenting scientific studies. It has continually been restudied and retested as new health concerns emerge. Recently, childhood vaccination was implicated with the development of autism and this has fueled numerous researches finding out the truth behind such implications. Unfortunately, allegations like this have caused some fears and reservations on the part of parents, whether or not to continue their child’s vaccination.
1. Parents think that vaccinations might cause mitochondrial disease and autism
This issue about vaccination causing mitochondrial disease and autism drew public concern when a girl suffered from a regressive encephalopathy with features of autism after receiving 5 standard childhood vaccines last July 2000. Four years after, the Department of Health and Human Services agreed that there was a possibility that vaccination aggravated an underlying mitochondrial disorder. Note that the keywords here are “possibility” and “underlying”.
Parents should understand that mitochondrial disorders are heritable disorders that can be inherited by the child directly from the mother. Since mitochondria are the powerhouse and energy-making structures inside the cells of our bodies, any disorder in this structure can cause a child to get little energy to power his nervous system, immune system and other bodily functions. Therefore, to start with, the immune system of the child with a pre-existing mitochondrial disease is depressed, and there is no way he can be able to mount a good response to vaccination. In this case, the child will not benefit from childhood vaccinations, and might even trigger serious symptoms.
Mitochondrial disease was possibly aggravated by vaccination but up to this date, there is no study that can scientifically prove that vaccines can cause mitochondrial disease and autism.
2. Parents are worried that the vaccine side effects are dangerous
The truth is that vaccines have side effects but these side effects are minor which include redness or swelling at the injection site, soreness, low grade fever, temporary headache, dizziness, fatigue, or appetite loss. Some children who are allergic to eggs will not be given influenza and yellow fever vaccines because these vaccines are made from eggs. Also, if the child develops a life-threatening severe allergic reaction to the vaccine, further doses will no longer be given. In very rare occasions, a child may develop seizures and this warrants absolute contraindication to vaccination.
Even though these rare side effects may appear quite troubling, in general, vaccines are still much safer than the disease they prevent. Anyway, there are questions doctors use to screen to identify those who have special risk, so necessary precautions can be done.
3. Vaccines can cause the disease they are supposed to prevent
Many parents thought that just because their child got a flu vaccine shot, he should never get flu illness. It should be understood that flu virus has many serotypes and is constantly mutating. This is the reason why flu vaccine is given every year. Hence, the flu vaccine does not provide 100% protection, but they decrease the chances of getting the flu infection. While it may be true that a person vaccinated with flu vaccine can still get the infection in his lifetime, the vaccine itself does not cause the flu.
Vaccination offers protection to wide variety of serious and potentially fatal diseases that your child could possibly get, including diphtheria, polio, tetanus, measles, whooping cough, pneumococcal infection and other vaccine-preventable diseases. It is important for a parent to keep themselves informed by comfortably raising questions with their doctor or nurse. In this way, you avoid the temptation of skipping your child’s vaccination just because of mere controversies and speculations.