Vaccine mistrust is dangerous and dated

Illustration by Sarah Brady

Ishaan Nandwani, Opinions Editor

As a young boy, like many other stubborn and rebellious children of my age, I often dreaded trips to the pediatrician’s office. I knew what was coming: after the height and weight measurements, after the stethoscope pressed to my chest to detect my (rapidly) beating heart and after the insertion of the otoscope into my ear emerged my greatest nightmare: shots.

No Buzz Lightyear sticker could make up for the searing pain that my fragile eight-year-old self felt while poked with a needle into my deltoid, but still (likely due to my mother’s insistence), every year I went to the doctor’s office to receive my annual vaccines.

Vaccines are defined by the CDC as “a preparation that is used to stimulate the body’s immune response against diseases.” Through vaccinations, we gain immunity from a disease by intramuscularly injecting a killed or weakened form of the pathogen, allowing our immune system to create antibodies specific for that pathogen and a swift immune response when exposed to the pathogen.

Vaccines have been employed by the medical community for more than two centuries, with the first reported inoculation associated with the smallpox vaccine of 1798 developed by Edward Jenner, a British physician and scientist. Since then, we’ve seen (and probably been injected with) countless other vaccines, including hepatitis, human papillomavirus (HPV) and measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).

For many years, being vaccinated was something that I — and I believed most others — took for granted: a rite of passage, as painful as it was. Yet this could not have been further from the truth. Vaccine resistance and mistrust is rampant across the world, and can be felt perhaps more strongly than ever with the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine.

This hesitancy to be vaccinated is not founded in science, but myth. By refusing to be vaccinated, you pose a direct threat to not only yourself, but to everyone you come into contact with.

Mistrust in vaccines has co-existed with the presence of vaccines in our culture. In 1853, when vaccines were required by the English government for infants by law, extreme resistance emerged through the development of the Anti-Vaccination League, with many challenging the law as a violation of civil liberties.

Perhaps the most famous example of outcry against vaccines in recent history has been linked to the 1998 study by Andrew Wakefield claiming that the MMR vaccine may be associated with autism. The impact that this study had on our culture was frightening, causing MMR vaccination rates for children to plummet by around two percentage points. This study has been refuted many times by researchers, and Wakefield — a former doctor — was found guilty of fraud and falsifying facts; his medical license was revoked. Even still, many believe in the disproven links to autism presented in the now-retracted study.

While the backlash against the MMR vaccine resulting from the Wakefield study predominantly affected vaccination rates in children, the study and anti-vaccination movement that ensued has also fueled a larger vaccine mistrust in the general adult population.

With the introduction of three different vaccines against COVID-19 and now a booster shot, the hesitancy to be vaccinated has not slowed down. Indeed, although the vaccine has been required for many to return to their occupations or education, I’ve heard several times from individuals that they would not be vaccinated if it weren’t for this mandate.

Vaccine misinformation continues to permeate our society through social media, blogs and community and religious based organizations. It’s essential that we draw from credible and research-driven sources when making decisions about the vaccine.

I’ve provided a few digestible links that underscore the science behind vaccines and why their criticisms are unfounded that I highly encourage you to look at in case you are interested in learning more or want to refer others to them.

In order to keep our community safe, we must leave our ego (and myth) at the door and get vaccinated. For the betterment of our community, it is undoubtedly worth it.

Resources:

Center for Disease Control

Department of Human Health Services

3 Comments

  1. Most of the vaccines of which you have spoken have decades of research and trials and historical data. The so-call covid vaccine does not. Nor does it prevent you from contracting the virus. Nor does it prevent you from infecting others. And as we have seen from Omicro, protect you from variants.

    A lot of the science is missing. And when the drug companies hire third party testers who fudge the research, how can you really trust something that we have no idea what side effects are going to appear in 5 to 10 years. And given that the companies are immune to law suites, can you trust it. Remove the immunities to being sued and that alleviates a lot of resistance.

    We might just be hearing on the television, “If you took the Covid Vaccine are are suffering…you might be entitled to compensation…” A lot of things approved by the FDA, have been recalled due to side effects.

    • But Covid vaccine does have years of research behind it. When SARS outbroke in Asia, there was a massive influx of funding into finding a vaccine for the SARS-2 virus. The Covid vaccine is that plus a small amount of tweaking. Think about already having a car that is built for the most part and you know it’s tried and tested and works, but you decide to change the something small like the material the windows are made of.

      (Also, yes you are not 100% immune – but imagine what kind of catastrophes we have if we drove without seatbelts or drunk driving protections. There are levels to protection, and rarely is one going to be 100% safe. Take a look at a simple graph showing #of deaths among the vaccinated and # of deaths among the unvaccinated – you will find that there is a huge discrepancy.)

      We’re not going to change each others’ minds, but just wanted to express that for other readers – have a good day!

  2. So people are avoiding this vaccine because they think it causes autism? Must be that. No care to go into the real reasons why people are vax hesitant? I guess they’re all just social media zombies and religious fanatics. Question for the author – how many shots would someone have to take in order for you to feel safe? Surely 3 inside of one year cannot be enough.

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