Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Please get a flu shot

For the last fifteen years or so, there has been a hysteria surrounding what was purported to be a causal link between vaccinations and an increase in new autism diagnoses. The study was widely discredited by the scientific community, and in fact was retracted from the British medical journal The Lancet due to the ethical violations made by its author. Unfortunately, the idea still took hold among a lot of people and nowadays there are huge groups of people who refuse to get vaccines or vaccinate their children. This is a serious problem, and in the UK there was a sharp drop in the number of vaccines given and an increase in the number of cases of mumps and measles (there were even a few deaths).

A lot of the controversy centered around the preservative thimerosal, an organic compound that contains a single mercury atom. Mercury, in some studies, has been shown to cause some mental disorders. However, those studies were done with metal mercury, not organomercury, and so you can't claim a link between organomercury and mental disorder. Not only that, the amount of mercury that was in a vaccine (bonded in the thimerosal) is so little that if you added up the entire amount of mercury ingested through vaccines in your entire lifetime, it would be less than what's in a can of tuna.

As a precaution in 1997, thimerosal was removed from vaccines. Even though it wasn't actually proven that thimerosal could cause problems they still removed it, so to claim that there is any mercury at all in contemporary vaccines is foolish.

If you don't want to get a vaccine, fine, you are leaving yourself more vulnerable to the sickness. While this is unlikely to cause any serious issues in a person of sufficient age and health (they're more just annoying), not vaccinating children or the elderly can potentially cause death (especially if they already have a lower immune function). If you don't want to get the vaccine, then at least vaccinate your small children.

This brings up the important concept of herd immunity. The more people in a population that are immune to a specific disease, the less likely that disease is to spread. The immunized people act as a barrier to those who are not immunized. By not being immunized, you actually pose a threat to those around you because vaccines are not perfect.

So, moral of the story. Get a vaccine if you have the opportunity, and make sure your children get it.

No comments:

Post a Comment