History of vaccination takes us to the 18th century. The first scientific attempt to curb an infectious disease by the careful use of vaccination is credited to Edward Jenner. In strict sense, he did not discover vaccination but he was the first person to confer scientific status on the procedure and to pursue its scientific investigation. Since the introduction of the first vaccine, there has been opposition to vaccination. Fear and mistrust arose every time a vaccine was introduced. A burgeoning anti-vaccination movement hindered routine inoculation with cowpox to protect people against smallpox in the 19th century, though the benefit of the vaccine was as clear as daylight. What can be referred to as the aftermath were ongoing smallpox outbreaks and needless deaths. Small pox was eradicated only because of the advent of vaccination.
Anti-vaccinationists include people who are ignorant about science. There are radical groups who use deliberate mistruths, intimidation, falsified data, and threats of violence in efforts to prevent the use of vaccines and to silence critics. They have complete mistrust of government and manufacturers and indulge in conspiratorial thinking denialism flawed thinking and have a habit of substituting emotional anecdotes for data. Their deeds can only lead to disruptive and costly effects in terms of damage to individual and community's well-being.†
AdvertisementThe irrationality of the anti-vaccinationists was openly criticised by Sir William Osler, one of the finest and greatest figures in modern medicine.† A frustrated Osler openly challenged their claims in 1910.
The 1940s and the early 1960s saw a major downturn in anti-vaccination movement. This was because of three key factors:
ē A boom in vaccine science, discovery, and manufacture
ē Public awareness of widespread outbreaks of infectious diseases (measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis, polio, and others) and the desire to protect children from these highly prevalent ills
ē A baby boom, accompanied by increasing levels of education and wealth
With such widespread public acceptance, it was an era that enjoyed fewer disease outbreaks, illnesses, and deaths. This was however short-lived due to emergence of many viral strains. Anti-vaccine thinking took an evil rebirth in the 1970s. Perhaps the success of vaccination itself was the culprit. There were fewer highly visible outbreaks of infectious disease threatening the public and more and more new vaccines being added to the vaccine schedules. The media began to disseminate poor science and anecdotal claims of harm from vaccines. A 1982 television program entitled "DPT: Vaccine Roulette" sparked a global debate that lead to many countries dropping their programs of universal DPT (Diphteria, Pertusis, Tetanus) vaccination.
However a 10 to 100 times increase in the incidence of pertussis (whooping cough) incidence forced the same nations to reinstate the vaccination. Similarly, a 1998 publication of an article by Wakefield et al. created a worldwide controversy over the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. It claimed that the MMR vaccine played a causative role in autism. This claim led to decreased use of MMR vaccine in Britain, Ireland, the United States, and other countries. Soon after measles outbreaks became more common. The article was retracted recently by the Lancet. The British Medical Journal reported that the vaccine scare was financially motivated.
Anti-vaccinationists ignited a strong public fear of vaccination, during the H1N1 influenza pandemic of 2009 and 2010. In spite of the absence of evidence of harm from vaccination, millions of doses of vaccine were wasted worldwide.
Anti-vaccination movements lead to the re-emergence of previously controlled diseases.† 'The worst† pertussis outbreaks in the past 50 years are now occurring in California, where 10 deaths have already been reported among infants and young children,' reports The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).
It is high time that we work to hasten the death of† anti-vaccination campaigns. In one of the finest articles produced by NEJM ('The Age-Old Struggle against the Anti-vaccinationists'), the authors recommended the following strategies to fight anti-vaccinationists:
ē Fund and publish high-quality studies to investigate concerns about vaccine safety
ē Maintain, if not improve, monitoring programs, such as the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) and the Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment Network. This is to ensure coverage of real but rare adverse events that may be related to vaccination. VAERS must be expanded to make compensation available to anyone, regardless of age, who is legitimately injured by a vaccine.
ē Teach health care professionals, parents, and patients how to counter anti-vaccinationists' false and injurious claims. Evidence-based decision making must be promoted.
ē Enhance public education and public persuasion. Scientific literacy should be extended to at all levels of education. Public-private partnerships of scientists and physicians can ensure that accurate vaccine information is accessible to the public in multiple languages, on a range of reading levels, and through various media.
Anti-vaccinationists have done significant harm to the public health. None of the anti-vaccinationists' claims of widespread injury from vaccines have withstood the tests of time and science. It is meaningless to take debates to higher levels. So far nothing scientific exists to support an eternal anti-vaccination drive. Moreover 'science is not a democracy in which the side with the most votes or the loudest voices gets to decide what is right'.
Reference: The New England Journal of Medicine
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