Vaccines are over 200 years old and treat myriad diseases that science has worked to cure — devastating diseases such as tetanus, which causes uncontrollable, prolonged muscle contraction in painful fits, or some forms of Hepatitis, which attacks the liver. Vaccines are medicine. Vaccines prolong and support life.
I write this article not as a tenured medical science researcher. I am no more than an undergraduate student of biology with an interest in the topic and therefore cannot single-handedly prove the effectiveness or safety of vaccines. I can, however, strongly encourage you to seek out the hard numbers and legitimate research to support this side of the ongoing vaccination safety debate.
Lately, as I drive around the city, I notice more and more billboards stating the dangers of vaccinations and defaming their effects. More and more stickers litter the bumpers of cars with the word “vaccine” crossed out in red and placed next to skulls. There is an ongoing propaganda campaign against vaccinations backed by questionable, third-party research that steps outside the bounds of legitimate scientific investigation. The very idea raises questions about the scientific literacy of our nation as we move forward with medical research.
The unfounded mistrust seems to stem from a generalized move away from synthetic products as a whole. Organic grocery stores with fattened price tags draw customers seeking the most natural products on the market. Simple, hand-sown shoes walk the sidewalks of towns and cities nationwide. While these trends toward natural, simple products are harmless and, in most cases, even healthy, they often coincide with a very unhealthy obsession with natural consumption in all aspects of life – including medical treatment.
The trouble comes when the uninformed population starts associating the medicine they take with the genetically modified food or meat factory processes they’ve rejected. Medicine has always been and will always be synthetic – its very nature is synthetic manipulation of the body to induce health. Now is not the time to ignore hundreds of years of successful medical research and treatment in the name of popular skepticism.
Perhaps the most unfortunate idea behind the campaign against vaccinations is the crippling distrust of the prescribing medical practitioners. Most physicians and nurses do their best to promote and ensure the health of each of their patients. Unfortunately, physicians are human, and a small amount of error in their professional practice is inevitable. When we hear of these errors, it is easy to fall into the human tendency of seeking control. The false sense that people might know what’s best for themselves is what leads people to search the Internet for medical advice – finding diagnoses through WebMD or getting false information from opinion-based blogs. Some of these resources have their place as a supplement to professional medical knowledge but are certainly not a substitute for legitimate medical treatment.
There is a reason the national acceptance rate for medical school dances around only 10 percent each year. Doctors are, almost without exception, the brightest and most qualified individuals of all those who seek to enter the profession. There is no reason that they should not be trusted accordingly.
To conclude, I ask you not to trust my opinion. Instead, go searching for research on your own. Being extraordinarily skeptical of your sources, filter out articles written by nonspecialists and opinionated followers of this dangerous fad. Seek out legitimate information written by peer-reviewed, scientifically knowledgeable professionals. We are young adults just beginning to take full responsibility for ourselves, but some of us may soon be responsible for other young lives. Get vaccinated, avoid sickness, live a healthy life and, by all means, spread the word.
Adam Price is a junior at Xavier. He is majoring in biology with minors in chemistry and business. He hopes to one day put this degree to use by going to medical school and making little kids’ tummies feel better. You would be hard pressed to find something he loves more than his hometown of Cincinnati.