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The Real Issues in Vaccine Safety

 

 

Summary

            While vaccines have been considered safe for so long, they are linked with rare but serious side effects as well. A good example is that given by John Salamone about his son, David, when he immediately became weak and unable to crawl after administration of oral polio vaccine. David contracted polio from the polio vaccine as a result of weakened immune system. Since then, it was unknown that the polio vaccine could cause polio to one case out of 2.4 million doses. Nevertheless, vaccines face strict safety standards when compared to other pharmaceutical products since they are administered to healthy people especially children (Kwok, 2011). Even though they have low risks vaccines are still feared through public imagination.

            There have been arguments against vaccines even by experts. A good example is the case of Andrew Wakefield, whose surgeon license was revoked after unfounded claims against the safety of MMR vaccine. There are also scientific works geared towards uncovering the real side effects of vaccines. False links are also given such as that linking MMR vaccine to autism. Nonetheless, vaccines carry risks such as rashes/ tenderness, fever seizures known as febrile convulsions, and severe side effects for those with compromised immune systems. Even with rare severe side effects of vaccines, there is need to do research so that people believe in vaccines. This is because vaccines that are used currently are still believed to lead to some diseases. For instance, H1N1 vaccine administered between 2009-1010 was linked to narcolepsy(Kwok, 2011).

Similarly, a rotavirus vaccines was suspended in US in 1999 as a result of 15 cases of intussusception in vaccinated infants. Since rotavirus is a live-virus vaccine, it is likely to cause swelling of the bowel lymph nodes thus increasing contraction and eventually lead to infolding. Administering a combination of measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella vaccine is also associated with febrile convulsions and is thus advised to be administered separately; varicella and MMR vaccine separately.  With all these controversies, there is need for researchers to investigate possible safety issues as soon as possible(Kwok, 2011). This is because with delayed results, it will be difficult to build up trust with the public once more.

There is also need for thorough and faster decisions with incomplete data. This is because the caution by the authorities even though wrong might make the public worried. The public is more worried with suspension of a vaccine. They remember the threat more than the resumed vaccine. This was the case in US after the government pushed for removal of thimerosal from vaccines even there was no adequate evidence that it resulted to risks. However, for the public, it must have been a problem for it to be removed(Kwok, 2011). 

Ethical/Political Issue

A good ethical issue is that presented by John Salamone regarding his son, David, who became weak and unable to crawl some few hours after administration of the oral polio vaccine in 1990. It was later argued that he had a weak immune system and that is why he contracted polio from the vaccine(Kwok, 2011). The issue in this case is that there was a safer and inactivated polio vaccine that could be used on David. However, people were not informed of the risk the oral polio vaccine could have on children with compromised immune system. The public was uninformed of the risk of one case of contracting polio disease out of 2.4 million doses administered. This is an issue that has made the public worried since they do not know the severe side effects of the vaccines they use and the likelihood that they will suffer from those severe issues.            

 

 

Reference

Kwok, R. (2011). The real issues in vaccine safety: Hysteria about false vaccine risks often overshadows the challenges of detecting the real ones. Nature, 473, 436-438.