Vaccinate – your fears allayed
Don’t be afraid of vaccinating, especially in view of the benefits vaccines bring, says Dr Robert Arlt
Apart from washing our hands, vaccinations are the only effective mean of preventing infectious diseases. Vaccinating most of the population against specific diseases helps eradicate them.
Of course, everything we do – eating and drinking, playing ball, crossing a street. – comes with some amount of risk. The same applies to vaccines, but how big is the risk really? For this article, I will restrict myself to talking about childhood routine vaccines in SA and in the European Union. Here the only live vaccines are against measles, mumps rubella, rotavirus and chicken pox: as the viruses they contain are very much weakened they will never harm children with a working immune system.
Concerns about Autism
Although a presumed link to Autism was never proved, in the United States, countries in the European Union and a few other affluent countries, thiomersal, a mercury-based preservative, is no longer used in routine childhood vaccination schedules.
Concerns about Aluminium
Many vaccines contain aluminium salts. They act as adjuvants, strengthening and lengthening the immune response to the vaccine. The vaccines we use nowadays contain very minimal amounts of aluminium, and recent studies did not show more aluminium salts in children who had been vaccinated than in children who had not. The view of most experts is that there is currently no convincing evidence that exposure to everyday levels of aluminium in any form increases the risks of Alzheimer’s disease, genetic damage or cancer. Aluminium is the most common metal in the earth’s crust and we are exposed to it all the time. It reacts with other elements to form aluminium salts, and small amounts of these are found naturally in almost all foods and drinking water, as well as in breast milk and in formula milk for babies. Aluminium salts are used as food additives (for example in bread and cakes) and in drugs such as antacids. It is widely used in food packaging. Aluminium is not used by the body. Any aluminium absorbed from food or other sources is gradually eliminated through the kidneys. Babies are born with aluminium already present in their bodies, probably from the mother’s blood.
Concerns about Diabetes
Whether vaccines can provide a “stimulus” triggering some dormant condition is a hot topic particularly regarding development of Type One Diabetes. Recently, an Australian study suggested that the live rotavirus vaccine since it was regularly given to babies there came along with a decrease in the number of cases of Type One Diabetes there.
The benefits of vaccinations outweigh the fears and concerns, so don’t be afraid of vaccinating!
EXTRA: Dr Robert Arlt is a private Consultant Paediatrician at Roseneath Medical Practice. He has a special interest in allergology and is very experienced in paediatric ultrasound.