By: Avishye Moskowitz  | 

Should Vaccines Be Required for Children?

Since the turn of the 20th century, medicine has rapidly progressed toward innovation and new scientific breakthroughs that help prolong our quality of life. During this time, vaccines have become a monumental development in the treatment of diseases and other illnesses. Ever since the introduction of vaccines in the 18th century, people have debated the benefits and risks of vaccination. While future vaccines have the potential to eradicate many illnesses from the world,  a poorly concocted vaccine has the potential to have long-lasting side effects or other unknown issues. The possibility of harm causes understandable concern about how vaccines might hurt children who could otherwise live a healthy life. Therefore, the conversation around vaccine safety has shifted to focus primarily on whether vaccination is safe as a whole to whether parents should be required to vaccinate their children.

One of the main criticisms regarding vaccination of young children is the high levels of mercury and aluminum contained within the doses. Studies show that these metals can have neurotoxic effects on the nervous system and cause adverse effects on children during critical periods of brain development. Government-run, peer-reviewed studies on the toxicological profile of aluminum have shown that it can cross the placenta and accumulate in fetal tissue. This could mean that babies are being exposed to high doses of neurotoxic substances long after parents were made to believe that vaccines were purified and safe. While this information about vaccines raises valid concerns, these metals also serve a beneficial purpose as well. I will now discuss why vaccines contain metals and how these agents serve to increase the body’s immune response.

There are many different components of vaccines that work in tandem to increase the body’s immune response and reduce the overall risk for infection. On a basic level, most vaccines are made of water, an antigen  (a small dose of the virus), aluminum (an adjuvant to increase the body’s response) and sometimes thiomersal, a mercury-based preservative used to prevent contamination. Together, these ingredients produce immunity that protects people from life-threatening illnesses. As time progresses, the scientific community continues to fine-tune various components of vaccines to increase efficacy and reduce some of the negative side effects.  At the present time mercury and aluminum based ingredients are necessary for the overall effect. And yet science continues to develop and research other replacements.

Another criticism is a common misconception among the masses that it is advantageous to build immunity by contracting the virus rather than by vaccination. However, this assumption could result in a more severe and contagious disease than the potential response to the vaccine. Additionally, if children can stay up-to-date with their vaccinations, it will strengthen future immunity since they will have the correct dosage spread out over optimal time for a maximized immune response. If enough children get vaccinated and stay up to date, the chance of infection decreases due to herd immunity. Herd immunity is the resistance to the spread of an infectious disease within a population that is based on pre-existing immunity of a high proportion of individuals due to previous infection or vaccination. Vaccination is extremely helpful since, without it, infection amongst the elderly and immunocompromised could prove fatal.

Lastly, some academics believe that vaccination could increase the likelihood of developing other neurological diseases. At first, this belief might seem credible since it is highly endorsed by the media. However, further analysis shows the neurological diseases shown to have been caused by vaccines aren’t so well understood, so the claim is purely speculative. While it is true that depending on the person, negative side effects of vaccines could range from a mild cold with slight arm ache to a life-threatening allergic reaction, the latter only occurs at a minuscule rate of 1 in 1,000,000 cases. A Canadian-run cohort study on dementia also showed that vaccination against some easily preventable illnesses can decrease the chances of developing worse illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s. Vaccines can have many benefits, some even spanning beyond the specific illnesses they are intended to treat.

Vaccination of children will continue to be a point of controversy as long as people remain uninformed about the proven benefits. The research to support vaccination points to many health benefits that will continue to protect children many years after vaccination. Although there are many proven advantages of vaccination, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for improvement. As science continues to develop, we should demand that vaccines continue to become safer and more effective. This will help to encourage more people to vaccinate their children and will ultimately contribute to a healthier society.


Photo Caption: Child Receiving Vaccine

Photo Credit: Unsplash