5 Common Claims Anti-Vaxxers Make And Why They're False
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5 Common Claims Anti-Vaxxers make and Why they're False

The anti-vaxx movement is a sad, misguided result of science taking the hit for government mistrust.

Matheus Bertelli

I want to start off this article by saying I'm not intending to shame anyone who is against vaccinations.

I don't agree with their decisions, but it makes complete sense to me why someone would be an anti-vaxxer. We live under a corrupt government and a corrupt health care system that cares much more about money than people's well-being.

Vaccines contain chemicals most people don't know about or haven't heard of, and given our country's track record of presenting dangerous compounds as "safe" in the past, it's understandable why people would be skeptical of vaccines.

What isn't understandable is the lack of research anti-vaxxers have put in to back up their claims. There is no actual study that exists that proves vaccines are dangerous or ineffective, yet even celebrities with major influence like Kat Von D have decided to say "no" to vaccines.

1. "Vaccines contain mercury, formaldehyde, aluminum and other 'toxic' chemicals."

This is one of the most used claims against vaccines, and while it sounds scary on a surface level, it arises from a complete lack of knowledge about chemistry and what makes a chemical harmful or benign. To start with, one of the most "dangerous" products vaccines used to contain is thimerosal.

Thimerosal is a preservative that was added to vaccines to prevent contamination. Thimerosal is 50% ethylmercury, which is what raised so much concern from parents, and eventually lead to all vaccines being rid of it in the 90s (besides certain flu vaccines, which still have a non-thimerosal formulation you can ask for as an alternative).

The problem is, the poisonous mercury we all know about, called methylmercury, is a seriously harmful neurotoxin that bioaccumulates. Thimerosal does not contain methylmercury, but ethylmercury. Ethylmercury is a completely different compound that metabolizes and passes through the bloodstream more quickly, and is not found to cause any harm when present in the brain.

Recent anti-vaxx articles have been asserting that ethylmercury isn't really different than methylmercury, with some even going as far as to say it's more harmful. The reason they claim this is because although ethylmercury passes through the blood within a week, it still lingers in the brain and other organs after 28 days.

The study they cited as "proving" the toxic effects of ethylmercury in thimerosal failed to mention that ethylmercury in thimerosal differs from methylmercury in its prevalence of toxicity due to the different ways the two compounds are metabolized and excreted from the body.

The same studies used by anti-vaxxers to combat thimerosal and vaccinations blatantly state within their journal submissions that the toxicity of the two compounds are not the same, and simply instead suggest that the result of toxicity from exposure to methylmercury is due to metabolism and elimination, rather than the way it distributes or lingers in the body.

Simply put, the studies show that methylmercury and ethylmercury distribute the same throughout the body, and in some areas linger the same amount of time, but still no evidence shows ethylmercury to have a harmful effect, unlike methylmercury.

Here is a quote from the same study an anti-vaxx article cited, but neglected to include in the article:

"The difference in manifested toxicity of MeHg [methylmercury]and EtHg [ethylmercury] are likely the result of the differences in exposure, metabolism, and elimination from the body, rather than differences in mechanisms of action between the two."

-Risher J.F., Tucker P. (2016) Alkyl Mercury-Induced Toxicity: Multiple Mechanisms of Action

The quote is just explaining that although the two compounds act similar in the body, they do not produce the same effects, because it's the way they're metabolized that causes them to be toxic or not.

Anti-vaxxers also argue that aluminum and formaldehyde are dangerous chemicals found in vaccines.

For starters, aluminum is a very non-reactive metal that has only been found to have harmful effects at concentrations exceeding 100 µg/g. If you combine all of the aluminum present in the vaccines that an infant is administered in their first 6 months, it is only 4.4 milligrams, as opposed to the 7 milligrams of aluminum an infant ingests from being breastfed in 6 months. This is because aluminum is a metal that is naturally present in our diet and bodies at a much larger amount than all vaccines will ever give.

The argument for formaldehyde is much the same. The assumption that formaldehyde in vaccines is toxic can be debunked by common knowledge of formaldehyde. Even the strongest vaccines only contain 1/10th of the formaldehyde naturally found in an infant's body. A pear can contain up to 60 mg of formaldehyde while the max amount in a vaccine is 0.2 mg. I've presented this argument to some anti-vaxx people who responded with "yes, but it's different because it's naturally occuring." The truth is, it isn't. It is literally the exact same in composition and is absorbed by the body exactly the same. Lab does not equal bad.

2. "Vaccines cause autism and allergies."

There is no debating that some people are allergic to ingredients in vaccines. Although rare, some people have had extremely adverse reactions. Unfortunately, this is unavoidable. People have allergies, but they are not caused by vaccines.

Children have died from peanut allergies, yet we don't call for banning peanuts, nor do we claim your kid will develop allergies from eating too many peanuts. Because that's just not how allergies work.

It is also possible for someone to suddenly develop allergies they didn't show symptoms of before at any stage of life, even adulthood. People are born predisposed to certain allergies, but like chronic illnesses, the symptoms may not onset until later. So if your child develops allergies after a vaccine, it's likely just coincidence and a manifestation of what was already there. Especially since most people develop allergies during early childhood.

Autism is the same way. It is a genetic disorder that can't be caused by an environmental source. The entire argument was brought about when one infamous doctor, Andrew Wakefield, published a study of 12, (yes, literally only 12) children who had taken the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine.

His study found that 8 out of the 12 children that had taken the vaccine exhibited autistic behaviors. The study was soon debunked and his medical license was revoked.

Many anti-vaxxers claimed that this meant Wakefield was a whistleblower who was taken down by big pharma for "speaking the truth," but anyone who reads the study can tell right off the bat it's clearly biased and distorted. Some of the parents of the children in the study literally said Wakefield lied about their children and some of the children in the study had already exhibited autistic behavior months before the vaccine was even administered. If you haven't already, I recommend reading the full story here.

3. "Vaccines don't work."

Perhaps one of the most irrational anti-vaxx arguments is the claim that vaccines downright just don't work, it's all a sham. This is coming from the same group who calls others "sheeple" yet blindly agrees with any conspiracy a person could come up with. Common serious diseases have shown to decrease form 98%-100% after the introduction of vaccines.

I've heard anti-vaxxers say "that's just because of proper hygiene." While hygiene can definitely help prevent you from getting sick, it can't make you 98% less likely to get a disease. Because it can't get rid of disease.

In fact, having too much cleanliness causes a person to have weak immunity and therefore makes them more susceptible to disease.

Vaccines work by exposing children to weakened antigens that aren't strong enough to cause an infection in the average child, but are just strong enough to trigger an immune response so antibodies can learn to fight off the disease. Essentially, it's the same concept as letting kids play in the mud to build immunity, except it's made to be more efficient by targeting and preventing specific illnesses.

This is not to say vaccines work absolutely 100% of the time. Sometimes the flu vaccine often has a low effectiveness because flu strains change every year, and your body is relying on its memorized strategy to overcome the flu. However, diseases like measles, polio, mumps, rubella, etc. don't vary like the flu, and vaccines are extremely effective in treating them.

4. "I was never vaccinated/my kids weren't vaccinated and I/they turned out fine"

You can thank herd immunity from vaccinations for that. Because vaccines have eradicated most serious diseases, they've likely never come into contact with someone else who had that disease. That's why they "turned out fine." It was the thousands of children who didn't have the privilege of getting vaccines and died from polio that didn't turn out so fine.

5. "If vaccines work, why should my unvaccinated kid be a threat to your vaccinated kid?"

A true classic. The short answer here is some kids have a compromised immune system, so even the weak form of bacteria in vaccines can make them very sick. In rare cases, some children are allergic to vaccines. If your child doesn't get vaccinated and manages to contract an illness, you're putting children who are physically unable to get vaccines at risk.

Anti-vaxxers say it's their choice not to vaccinate their children, and while that's all fine and dandy, they're simultaneously deciding that kids whose parents don't get the choice to vaccinate just have to deal with their child being exposed to unvaccinated children.

A recent outbreak of measles began in Minnesota last year when two unvaccinated siblings contracted measles and spread it to other kids in their daycare center, eventually resulting in thousands of patients contracting measles. The takeaway is that deciding not to vaccinate your kids isn't just a personal decision, it affects many others.

To summarize, my take on the entire anti-vaccination movement is that its root cause is a distrust of the government and big pharmaceutical companies.

Under our current political climate, it's not irrational to believe the government would exploit us out of greed; however, vaccines are not an instance of this happening nor a cover-up. Big anti-vaxx blogs distort, cherry-pick, or just downright make up information about vaccines as click-bait to generate more ad revenue. They are the ones who are actually using people's naivety to make profit.

Actual evidence tells us that vaccines protect children and that science knows no political or government agenda.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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