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The Truth about Immunisation

What is immunisation?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), a vaccine is a biological preparation which improves one’s immunity to a particular disease. A vaccine typically contains an agent resembling the disease-causing microorganism. It is often made from weakened or dead forms of the microbe, its toxins or one of its surface proteins. This agent, when injected into a person, stimulates the body’s immune system to recognize the agent as foreign, destroy it, and ‘remember’ it. That way, if that person is subsequently exposed to the disease, the immune system can more easily recognize and destroy these microorganisms.

A vaccine is administered via a vaccination. The person being vaccinated is now immunised against a disease. Without the vaccination, the disease could make that person seriously ill, if not be potentially lethal.

Because vaccinations have done such a good job of keeping people, especially children, healthy, it could be argued that the current generation has forgotten how serious those diseases actually are.

What happened before vaccinations?

Measles, polio, whooping cough, diphtheria and many other illnesses that vaccinations now prevent used to ravage the world. For example, each year, between 1936 and 1945 in the United States alone, 767 000 people, most of whom could have been children, caught diphtheria, paralytic polio, measles, and whooping cough. Four thousand children died every year from whooping cough alone. The difference that vaccinations made is clear when one considers that in 2014, only 13 children died.

With Polio, also known as poliomyelitis, 1 in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis. Up to 10% of these children die.

How did vaccinations help?

Before 1988, an estimated 350 000 cases of Polio were reported each year. In 2017, there were only twenty-two. Thanks to vaccinations, these number have decreased over time. Without a vaccination, this contagious disease could spring up again; some estimations are that the number of infected people could rise rapidly once more to 200 000 a year in only 10 years.

It is also thanks to vaccinations that smallpox has been eradicated worldwide. Before vaccinations for smallpox were developed, it caused tens of millions of deaths.

How do we know vaccinations work?

After vaccinations began to be administered the number of people who contracted a deadly illness plummeted, as did the number of deaths. Since people have begun refusing vaccinations, there have been new outbreaks of diseases – most recently, chicken pox. Another worldwide epidemic putting millions of people and children at risk can be avoided – but only with the help of vaccinations.

What difference does it make if I refuse a vaccination?

Your refusal to be vaccinated may easily result in the deaths of other people. You, or your child, may contract a preventable disease – remember they are all highly contagious. You won’t know you are sick for a few days. If you come into contact, during that time with other people who have not been vaccinated, whether by choice, or because they are too young to be vaccinated, or they can’t be vaccinated as they have a poor immune system, or a damaged immune system due to another illness they have contracted, like multiple sclerosis, these people will get sick. Some of them may die.

The autism debate

There has been a lot of debate recently concerning immunisation and autism. There is no credible evidence, despite the intense medical research which has investigated the claim, that immunisation causes autism.

The rumor began with a small study, of only 40 patients, published by a physician. The study was very small with just over 40 patients. The article was later found to be fraudulent. It was retracted by the journal that published it. Several other studies proved the findings to be wrong and the physician’s medical licence was revoked.

The latest research, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, is based on a study of about 95 000 children with older siblings, some of whom had autism spectrum disorder (ASD). According to Dr Bryan King from the University of Washington and the Seattle Children’s Hospital in the US, “The only conclusion that can be drawn from the study is that there is no signal to suggest a relationship between MMR and the development of autism in children.” He adds that a dozen studies have now shown that the age of onset of ASD does not differ between vaccinated and unvaccinated children.

The confusion comes in because children are vaccinated at around the same time that autism is diagnosed. But they are not related.

Contact a healthcare professional at your nearest Lenmed Hospital. We will be happy to give you the information you need, in order to make an informed decision about your own health and that of your children.

For more information please contact:
Dr N Maligavhada (Paediatrician/Pulmologist)
BSc (Univen) MBChB (Natal) DCH (SA) FCPaed (SA) Cert.Paed Pulmonology (SA)
Randfontein Private Hospital
Telephone: +27 11 411 3089
Email: riatshikhetha@gmail.com

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.