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  • Rana Abdelhalim and Sophie Gregoire-Mitha

Vaccines- A controversy?

What are vaccines?

Vaccines prepare your immune system to fight certain diseases. Vaccines contain compounds that resemble a disease- causing microorganism. These compounds are not actually harmful and the do not cause disease-like symptoms. When a vaccine is given, the body’s immune system is stimulated and lymphocytes, a type of immune cell, respond by producing antibodies. The production of those antibodies against the compound resembling disease- causing microorganisms is very useful so that when a person becomes infected by the disease, the body’s immune system will be able to fight against it. This action by the immune system prevents a person from getting the disease and it’s associated symptoms. When the body becomes exposed to a disease causing agent for the first time, the immune system needs time, several days, to ramp up its antibody response. For diseases like measles a couple days is too long because by then the disease will have already spread and it will be too difficult for the immune system to control. For this reason, vaccines are considered to be miraculous since they help the immune system recognize and destroy any disease causing microorganisms it encounters in the future.

Currently, vaccines are not mandatory in Canada, but in provinces like British Columbia and Ontario, immunization is required for children to attend schools. Immunization are a safe and effective way to protect yourself and others from dangerous and life-threatening diseases.

How did vaccines go from being considered the greatest advancement in medicine to a modern day controversy?

In 1998 a research paper was published stating that there is a connection between the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism spectrum disorder in 8 children. This correlation was based on the parents’ observations. Parents observed that the onset of behavioural symptoms were associated with the MMR vaccine. The problem with this study is that it did not prove any association between the MMR vaccine and autism. The study did not include control subjects which causes confusion when determining if the occurrence of symptoms of autism following the MMR vaccine was coincidental. Another problem with this study is an apparent conflict of interest involving the author of this paper. The author appears to have received funding for his studies from parents who believed that vaccines were harmful. As a result of all these issues, this paper has been discredited and currently no study has found any kind of correlation between vaccines and autism. Today, vaccinations play an integral part in one’s health. Vaccines have prevented 2-3 million deaths every year! They have helped us completely eradicate smallpox, decrease the global mortality rate due to measles by 84%, and because of vaccines we are very close to completely eradicating polio. Vaccines help us live happier, healthier lives.


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