11.07.2019 in Review

Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All


The book Deadly Choices: How the Anti-vaccine Movement Threatens Us All by Paul Offit deals with the historical aspects of the introduction of new vaccines and the movements against vaccines that people tend to follow. Paul Offit is considered to be an outstanding virologist. He does not conceal all his contempt towards the anti-vaccine movements. The book recognizes possible changes in the minds of people who will read it. Everybody interested in the sphere of vaccines’ effects and the details of human reaction to the vaccines should read this book since it is written in the form of understandable and carefully sourced discussion. Thus, real and perceived vaccination risks, vaccines’ basis, and the consequences of human choice are subjected to discussions (Offit, 2011).Consequently, Paul Offit’s book has documented unfounded claims and issues expressed by the anti-vaccine movement. There are both biological and physical reasons of why the vaccine risks are not risks as stated by the author. For instance, numerous campaigns of “green vaccines” are based on the idea that nasty chemicals exist in vaccines (Offit, 2011). Offit (2011) notes that there is no problem in the vaccine itself. The problems go with the doses of vaccines. Eventually, he stated about the danger of water if taken in large doses (Offit, 2011). For example, college students die because of hazings of fraternity if the drink too much water at a time. Many substances are already in human body and they scare people away (i.e. formaldehyde or aluminium.) Additionally, food contains them and the amounts of these substances in human body are very minor (Offit, 2011).As a matter of fact, babies are exposed to a great number of viruses and bacteria. Children receive a large amount of vaccines, but it does not mean that these vaccines tax human immune system. The matter is that one vaccine requires a certain number of elements to keep the human body healthy (Offit, 2011).On the one hand, the book cannot be considered as one-sided. Some of the chapters deal with documented cases of actual injuries and those effects of vaccines that have occurred in real life. In his book, the author used these tragic cases taken from CDC and supervisory authorities’ statements. Indeed, it is impossible to catch rare side effects that were not found in the large-scale testing necessary for approval; by the way, side effects that happen once in one million, sometimes are not found in testing of 50,000 people (Offit, 2011).Significance of Studying the TopicIt is important to investigate the effect and role of vaccines nowadays because the number of people grows every year, while the number of diseases increases as well. Additionally, all vaccines are exposed to deeper and stricter testings than other drugs. In order to find the rare works of side effects, it is far more effectively to test the effects of vaccines on human body than of other drugs. To enter a new vaccine into the recommended schedule, testing has to show that it does not interact in any case with the rest of drugs from the schedule.
Offit (2011) also discusses some things that defenders of safety of a vaccine could make to help make vaccines safer. However, they did not make them. For example, people who have egg allergy cannot receive the vaccines that are made using eggs, for example, a flu vaccine. There could be alternative ways to make such vaccines, but the pharmaceutical industry has no financial or government funding that develop incentives to those alternatives. Defenders of vaccine safety could force them to do so (Offit, 2011).
In his book, Offit (2011) investigates a case that the anti-vaccine movements cause the fear of vaccines, which is not compatible with science. Doing so, the author draws parallels between the current requirements of anti-vaccine activists and transfers to introduction of a vaccine against smallpox (Offit, 2011). There are great fears that vaccines are dangerous according to today’s standards. For example, children develop features similar to a cow because the vaccine is originally taken from the cows infected with cow smallpox. However, Offit (2011) claims that it is quite convincing that logic of nature and actual disorders caused by vaccines can generally take place. However, it is important to show that most supporters of the anti-vaccine movement are defenders of vaccine safety. In addition, they lack any corresponding knowledge in virology, epidemiology, or statistics, and they, as a rule, have no sufficient training to estimate real risks of vaccines.
Parents receive information on vaccinesfrom friends, the Internet, or even their pediatricians. This book, written by one of the leading scientific experts in area, is a must read for any parent. It provides a background and proofs, so one is able to estimate requirements about dangers and benefit of vaccines and to make the best choice for future children and society as a whole (Offit, 2011).
The most significant part of this issue regarding the importance of the vaccine investigation lies in the following. It occurs when someone who cannot be injected with a vaccine because he is too young contacts with the infected child whose parents decided not to inject. While making that decision, there is no impact on people because of that. Except for the child, it does not affect small children and others who lack strong immune reaction. These children can be infected, and there is no a danger. Eventually, it is aslo relevant to investigate consequences of preventable diseases of vaccination such as whooping cough.

Assessment of the Evidences

It is obviously seen that book lacks strong evidences. Sometimes, the parallels between the historical anti-vaccine movements and current ones are a little unfair, and in several cases, the book, perhaps, is a little more contemptuous than it is needed. For example, Offit (2011) states: “CDC officials complained that Vaccine Roulette had dismissed the seriousness of whooping cough, unfairly characterized doctors and health officials as ignorant of the vaccine’s side effects, and inaccurately claimed that the vaccine didn’t work very well.” However, it is not an evidence against the vaccines. It is evidence against irresponsible doctors.
Consequently, Offit (2011) tells that benefits of the pertussis vaccine outweigh its risks. As a proof, he mentioned about Lea Thompson’s program of anti-vaccination, her expressions regarding this issue, and her merits during her lifespan. Then Offit (2011) talks about Dr.Wilson who had seen thousands of children with different diseases, but still his words were: “We do not think…that the majority of cases here represent a chance association.” Probably, they were injured by vaccines, but this is not a strong evidence.
No doubt, there are proofs against the vaccines, since every child has his own immune system peculiarities and features. Offit (2011) recognizes that he knows nothing about neurologic sciences, but he safely declares that there is no mechanism to explain how vaccines could harm a brain. The thing is that every child must be previously examined and vaccinated on the basis of his medical evaluaions. There are no proofs that allow saying that vaccination is 100% dangerous. On the opposite side, there are many well-studied researches that clearly depict such mechanism as vaccination. It is a matter of fact that parents should read it before making it. Lots of studies exist to explain why vulnerability of small children and newborns to extremely high doses of neurotoxins in repeated doses can lead to the wrong brain development and prolonged neurologic pathological change (Offit, 2011).
Evaluation of Author’s OpinionIn his book, Paul Offit (2011) tells how the whooping cough vaccine reduced fatal cases from that illness from 7,000 to only 30. Whooping cough is a destructive infection. Before the vaccine was at first used in the USA in the 1940s, approximately 300,000 cases of whooping coughs had caused seven thousand fatal cases during one year. Almost all victims were small children. Because of a whooping cough vaccine, less than 30 children die every year of this illness, but times change (Offit, 2011).There is problem with these statements because they are not supported by proofs. Looking at actual data, one could see that although many people died of whooping cough at the beginning of the 20th century, by the time the vaccine was introduced, death rate in the USA decreased by 90% (Offit, 2011). When using the initial reference to make the statement in the newspaper of pediatrics, one can see that reduction of mortality made about 92% before introduction of the vaccine.
The fact is that children accept repeated vaccines during the only visit to a doctor and that this schedule repeats each two months within 2 years of life. The process of vaccination is controlled, and it does not throw down a challenge to doctors who have made everything right. However, defenders of the dangerous policy against vaccine cannot justify it fully. The science is mostly on the side of those who insists on safety of a vaccine, efficiency, and the informed consent. I believe that the author’s opinion is not consistent with the efficiency of evidences.

Integrating the Book’s Information

In my opinion, the book lacks strong proofs against vaccination. All the statistics is comparable to the time when it was gathered and it cannot be counted as credible. Someone can think that this book is an advertizing for manufacturers of vaccines from the doctor who gains profit from his own personally developed vaccine. There is one important issue. The book’s value is that it shows practitioners that nothing depends on vaccines. It depends on them. Only the practitioner can evaluate a child and say “You cannot take this vaccination”.

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