Editors Talk Vaccinations

Flu season is upon us, once again making vaccinations a hot topic for discussion. This debate has been present since the invention of vaccines but seems to have grown in recent years following the surge of media and celebrity fearmongering over their supposed ingredient toxicity, side effects, and alleged links to autism, among other factors. These claims have been put to rest by scientific data time and time again, but the debate seems to keep continuing regardless of the proven effectiveness of immunizations.

As far as the links to autism go, editors seemed unified in refuting the false claim about linking the MMR vaccine to autism. “I have learned from all my doctors/nurses/professors that they do not cause any problems like autism. I have learned the doctor who said that they caused autism was discredited,” said one editor. Skepticism, more often than not, seems to come from people being uncomfortable injecting foreign substances into their bodies. One editor expressed uneasiness about “the health effects from injecting thousands of complex microorganisms in an infant’s body.”

Another editor stated, “It’s important to understand that vaccines work not by the injection of active bacteria or viruses; instead only key molecules are used to allow our immune systems to recognize invaders and deal with them before we get sick.”

It’s also important to understand the work that goes into the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of vaccines, which consist of at least three phases of comprehensive testing for toxicity and efficacy, with subsequent testing in large patient populations. As one editor said, “I understand that there are extensive tests that the FDA run on all medications before it hits the shelves.”

However, there was some disagreement within the Outlook staff, where one opinion raised questions about the FDA’s ability to regulate vaccine safety. “Pharmacy and medical companies have a large portion of the nation’s wealth. It is easy to lobby in favor of a vaccination that will be bought and sold for money.”

“I’m not skeptical [of vaccines], I think that vaccinations are extremely important for the health of an individual and the people around them, especially when we reach the point of being able to eradicate diseases (i.e. polio vaccine),” said one editor. The Outlook staff seemed to share this opinion for the most part.

This idea is supported by current research. Vaccines boost something known as “herd immunity,” which refers to when a significant portion of the population is vaccinated for a certain disease. The illness will thus not be able to spread within a group of people as a layer of secondary protection from vaccination. The result? Drastically decreased instances of disease among individuals with a lower risk of disease outbreak, meaning a healthier, less illness-prone society.

As an added bonus, herd immunity due to vaccines helps to eliminate certain diseases from the population, as seen with the case of polio. Failure to vaccinate decreases our collective immunity and could mean that the eliminated diseases will make a comeback. This herd immunity is especially important when it comes to certain diseases like the flu being seasonal issues.

“It makes sense that flu shots would be given around this time of year, because the colder months are more likely to facilitate the ‘common cold’ under the seasons’ conditions,” said one editor. Cold months lower our immune response making it easier to get sick. Vaccinations against the flu each year help maintain that immunity to make it hard for a flu outbreak to occur. According to the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, because the flu virus mutates and changes so often, “researchers choose viruses for the vaccine based on which ones are likely to be circulating over the course of the coming flu season,” thus giving us immunity to the one most likely to wreak havoc that year.

In terms of vaccines being required for students to attend the University, editors seemed to have some more varied opinions.

Most believed that certain vaccines, like the MMR immunization, should be necessary. One believed that, “[for] more basic illnesses, there’s no excuse not to get a shot… [But] not all vaccines should be required.”

“I think vaccines should be required for children and for young adults entering college. It helps not only you, but the people you come in contact with…it benefits all,” another editor said.