Monday, November 10

It's Been A While... But THIS IS IMPORTANT!

Hey all!

It's been a while, but in one of the classes I'm taking, we've been working on a semester long research project on a health issue that involves human rights. It might sound a bit boring, but it's not (though it is a bit more of a serious topic for this blog... sorry).

In any case, my friend asked me to post her research here, and I'd appreciate it if you guys take the time to read it! If you have any questions, leave a comment and I'll check back here a bit more often so we can get back to you quickly!

- Rian

On Vaccinations

            The recent Ebola cases in the U.S. has made everyone a little more nervous and conscious of their health and how easy it is to get sick. For being the dominate species on the planet, we’re pretty frail when it comes to communicable diseases. Tiny viruses and bacteria can and do spread like wildfire through a community, putting everyone at deadly risk. But, thanks to science and modern medicine, we know how to treat, contain, and even prevent a lot of these illnesses that used to kill hundreds at a time. The prevention part in particular is amazing—I’m talking specifically about vaccinations. A couple rounds of relatively painless shots and suddenly nearly all the diseases that used to keep parents up at night (whooping cough, measles, mumps, polio, etc.) worrying for their child’s life are barely a concern. Now, this isn’t to say that vaccinations are definite, 100% protection—there have been cases were someone who is vaccinated gets sick with the exact thing they’ve been vaccinated against, but these are really, really rare occurrences and typically much milder than they would be for an unvaccinated person.

Unfortunately, a lot of people have not been getting their children vaccinated out of concern for side-effects. I interviewed a pediatrician about this, and what he said matched the information I’ve found in scientific articles. Namely:
·         No, vaccines cannot cause autism—the “study” that originally posited this idea used fraudulent data, and the doctor that wrote it lost his license to practice medicine as a result. There have since been a ton of other studies looking into this, and not one has found actual evidence of a link. In fact, the rates of vaccinated kids with autism are the exact same as the rates of unvaccinated kids with autism.
·         Thimerosal, a mercury preservative, also worried a lot of parents, but this hasn’t been used in vaccinations since 2001.
·         Yes, the recommended vaccination schedule has been tested over and over again and is safe.
An important thing to remember: most pediatricians have children too (the one I spoke to did), and they understand exactly why these worries come up and know what they are talking about. They wouldn’t be recommending the schedule if they didn’t have proof it was safe in the majority of cases.

However, there are some exceptions. People who are immunocompromised, because of things like HIV/AIDS, cancer treatments, or some genetic conditions, can’t be vaccinated. Luckily, there is something called ‘herd immunity’ that happens when most of a population is vaccinated (and by most I mean in the 96-99% of people range—for measles, anything below 95% puts everyone at risk). Put simply, if an unvaccinated person is surrounded by enough vaccinated people it creates a kind of shield against diseases so the unvaccinated person is a lot less likely to get sick---if no one in the area is sick, there’s no one to spread the disease to the vulnerable. But herd immunity relies on as many people as possible getting vaccinated—so it’s incredibly important to vaccinate yourself and your children! The risk of side effects is so much lower than the risk of staying unvaccinated and contracting these diseases. Most doctors haven’t even seen cases of things like polio before and won’t easily be able to diagnose them.
            All the ‘eradicated’ diseases aren’t actually eradicated, because they are still really common in third world countries. With the amount of travel between countries that goes on now, it’s very likely you will come across more than one person with one of these diseases in your lifetime. To help illustrate the severity of these, below are the symptoms for measles, polio, and pertussis (whooping cough):

  • Fever
  • Dry cough
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis)
  • Tiny white spots with bluish-white centers on a red background found inside the mouth on the inner lining of the cheek — also called Koplik's spots
  • A skin rash made up of large, flat blotches that often flow into one another

The U.S. is currently experiencing the worst outbreak of measles---over 600 cases according the CDC ( –since before it was declared eradicated in the U.S. in 2000.

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Back pain or stiffness
  • Neck pain or stiffness
  • Pain or stiffness in the arms or legs
  • Muscle weakness or tenderness
  • Meningitis
·  Loss of reflexes
·  Severe muscle aches or weakness
·  Loose and floppy limbs (flaccid paralysis), often worse on one side of the body

Post-polio syndrome
  • Progressive muscle or joint weakness and pain
  • General fatigue and exhaustion after minimal activity
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Breathing or swallowing problems
  • Sleep-related breathing disorders, such as sleep apnea
  • Decreased tolerance of cold temperatures
  • Cognitive problems, such as concentration and memory difficulties
  • Depression or mood swings

  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Red, watery eyes
  • A mild fever
  • Dry cough
  • Severe and prolonged coughing attacks may:
    • Provoke vomiting
    • Result in a red or blue face
    • Cause extreme fatigue
    • End with a high-pitched "whoop" sound during the next breath of air

For more information: