by Jack Caudwell
We hear a lot of sayings that persuade us to do and eat certain things. ‘Carrots help you see in the dark’ or ‘eating bread crusts makes your hair go curly’ are just some examples you may have heard from your parents. Some are related to science and some are not, but most of the time, these saying are harmless. For instance, there is a molecule called Vitamin A, found in carrots, that helps your eyes work better in low-light conditions. However, there is no scientific proof that eating bread crusts makes your curly, so you can cool down your straighteners and put back your hair products… for now. These old wives tales are invented so that those who care for us can encourage us to stay healthy. Do mums always know best, though?
Recently, a group of people known as ‘anti-vaxxers’ have been gaining popularity; people who believe that vaccinations can cause harm to young people and babies. But before we look at what ‘anti-vaxxers’ believe, let’s break down the science of vaccinations.
Vaccinations are a very important part of helping our bodies fight disease. There are lots of bacteria and viruses that our body doesn’t know how to fight. A vaccination is a harmless version of a disease-causing microbe which is injected into your body. Because it doesn’t make you feel sick but is almost identical to the version that is harmful, your body can use it as target practice for the real thing. Should the real disease find its way into your body, your immune system already knows how to get rid of it and in most cases, the disease will not result in illness. Vaccines have saved millions of lives and in some cases, they have eradicated a disease entirely. Smallpox is a dangerous virus that causes a nasty skin rash and vomiting. Thanks to smallpox vaccines, there has not been a reported case of smallpox in 40 years! Although the evidence argues that vaccines are very important to human health, there is still a worryingly large proportion of people that believe they are dangerous.
The main argument that anti-vaxxers have against vaccinations is that vaccines can cause autism. Autism is a developmental disability that affects how someone interacts with the world and other people. People with autism are often overwhelmed by social situations and can find it hard to communicate with other people. In 1998, a doctor named Andrew Wakefield published an article that stated the MMR (Measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine caused autism in younger children.
It was later discovered that there was, in fact, no scientific evidence that vaccines caused autism and he was forced to never practice medicine again. Unfortunately, though the article was proved to be false and was removed, people still believe vaccines cause autism today. Other than being completely inaccurate, the other issue is that autism is not a disease. People with autism just perceive the world in a different way and it is not an illness and does not need to be ‘cured’.
It is unfortunate that some people still believe the writings of a disgraced mad man over an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence which proves that vaccines are important, not only to our health but to keeping the whole human race alive! The truth is, anti-vaxxers are putting people they care about, and even people they don’t know, in danger of serious illness from perfectly preventable diseases. The World Health Organisation (WHO) is a group of scientists and politicians that are concerned with the health of everyone in the world. They have said that one of the biggest threats to global health in 2019 will be ‘anti-vaxxers’ and all because some bone-headed doctor printed a false article 20 years ago…
Doesn’t it all just seem a bit silly? It’s a bit like being told that bread crusts make your hair go curly and still believing it, even though your hair is still silky straight after eating 15 loaves of bread. People believe what they want to believe I suppose, and for the most part it’s harmless. But the belief that we should not use vaccines is dangerous, especially for those who are too young to see that they could actually save their lives.