In 1998, a British man named Andrew Wakefield published a research paper linking the joint measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine to autism spectrum disorders in children. This paper, published in The Lancelet, a respected medical journal began what became a massive anti-vaccination movement that is still going strong today.

But there’s one problem that few know about. Dr. Wakefield’s findings were faked.

The evidence in Dr. Wakefield’s paper was manipulated. His study group contained only twelve children. He was being paid by Legal Aid Board solicitors who sought evidence to use against vaccine manufacturers, and failed to inform his colleagues of this. His work resulted in unnecessary and invasive medical procedures performed upon the children of his study.

Investigations into each of these problems revealed Dr. Wakefield’s results to be fabricated, his methods, inhumane, and his motivation entirely driven by the anticipation of payment. He was stripped of his medical license, and his paper was retracted by The Lancelet.

The media, however, didn’t get the memo. Dr. Wakefield’s work continued to be highly publicized and defended, bolstered by anecdotal evidence from distraught parents. Over the next few years, Dr. Wakefield’s work grew in the minds of the public, eventually becoming the biggest science story of 2002, with over a thousand articles—written mostly by non-experts—proclaiming the danger of vaccines, despite the overwhelming evidence that they are safe.

Fast-forward to today. The modern anti-vaccination movement continues to grow, supported by celebrities, politicians, and scores of sincerely worried parents.

But beneath it all rests the lies of Dr. Wakefield. And that is a problem—one that is endangering children.

The Annals of Pharmacotherapy calls Dr. Wakefield’s fraudulent link between vaccines and autism “perhaps the most damaging medical hoax of the last 100 years”. And, indeed, after the sharp drop in vaccinations following Wakefield’s hoax, a significant increase in measles and mumps-related deaths and disabilities was the result.

And if vaccination rates continue to fall, worse is yet to come.

Are Vaccines Needed?

When you vaccinate your children, you protect them from deadly diseases that are still out there, waiting.  While vaccines have nearly eradicated many of these diseases, they still lie hidden in unvaccinated countries, as well as within animal populations. Without being vaccinated, your child is vulnerable to diseases like smallpox, polio, and mumps—diseases that can kill or cripple.

But the benefits don’t end there. No—by vaccinating your child, you also help protect your entire community. Some children cannot be vaccinated because they are allergic to them, or because they have compromised immune function. Unvaccinated children can spread disease to these vulnerable little ones.

Proven to prevent disease, vaccines can also save your family immense time and money by keeping your children out of the hospital. The costs of major disease are enormous—why not prevent them with a simple shot?

Considering all of this, vaccines are not only needed, but extremely effective in what they are designed to do.

Are Vaccines Safe?

Despite their proven effectiveness at preventing and eradicating disease, the health effects of vaccines are well worth investigation. We must ask the most important of questions—are vaccines safe?

Current research indicates the answer to this is a definite “yes”.

Before a vaccine is approved, it is extensively tested by scientists and medical professionals who evaluate all available data about a vaccine to make sure it is safe and effective.

But are there sometimes side-effects to vaccinations?

Yes, there are, but they don’t outweigh the benefits. Upon vaccination, your child may experience tenderness at the site of the injection, mild fever, fatigue, headache, and muscle pain. The majority of these side-effects are minor and well-documented.

There are concerns about the ingredients of vaccines, but this is largely due to the public’s misunderstanding of the compounds involved. For example, one of the most-feared vaccine ingredients is thimerosal, which is said to contain mercury—the silvery neurotoxin that resides within the base of your thermometer.

But thimerosal doesn’t contain that kind of mercury—instead, it contains ethylmercury, which is broken down and excreted from the body quickly and completely. In small amounts, it is harmless, and no links between it and autism have been found.

Formaldehyde, too, has been the target of many anti-vaccination protests, but what many do not know is that a newborn’s body naturally contains more formaldehyde than the vaccine used to inoculate it—50 to 70 times more, to be exact.

Rest in the knowledge that the vaccines made available to protect your child are tested, reliable, and safe—the small risks involved in their use are far outweighed by the protection they imbue.

Start Early

If you’ve made the choice to vaccinate, your children should begin receiving theirs early. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—the CDC—publishes the U.S. childhood immunization schedule based on the recommendations of a group of medical and public health professionals. This schedule is approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

It is vital to begin vaccinations immediately, when your child is most vulnerable. The first immunization schedule covers the time from birth to six years of age, the second covers preteens and teens, and the third covers adults.

You can check with your child’s doctor to arrange his or her recommended vaccination schedule and get started on the path to a healthier life. If cost is an issue, the VFC Program aids eligible families in receiving needed childhood vaccines.

Think Critically

So much of the anti-vaccination movement is based on fear and misinformation. Always check the source of what you read—is it pulling information from a peer-reviewed study, or is it based on personal accounts? Is the evidence you’re reading about based on emotional appeal, or hard evidence?

It is incredibly important to make sure you know the truth, and the only way to do that is to think critically about all of the information you take in.

In this case, the health of your children is at stake. Don’t let them down—get them the vaccinations they need.

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