The claims on vaccination made in video by Dr Suzanne Humphries are unsupported by any scientific evidence and sound more pseudoscientific, backed up by emotional phrases to convince people how bad vaccination is, it will easily fool people and make sense to those who are unaware of how vaccines work.
So, starting from the simplest question – “What is vaccine?”
A vaccine is a substance that stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies against the antigen or a substance that resembles disease-causing microorganism is inserted in the body, so that the immune system can recognize it as foreign, destroy it and remember it, so the next time when an actual pathogen attacks, immune system can destroy it before it can harm the body.
The antigen inserted is actually a dead or weakened form of the disease-causing microorganism. After detecting the antigen, immune system produces antibodies to destroy it, not only that but the antigen is stored in the memory so next time immune system can recognize and kill it without letting it infect the body.
Vaccination has actually been practiced for hundreds of years in China, India and Middle East before English Doctor Edward Jenner discovered it in 1796 .
Different types of vaccines:
- Vaccine made from dead microorganisms,
- Made of live or attenuated microorganisms,
- Subunit vaccines that only contain the antigen instead of the whole microorganism,
- Conjugate vaccines,in which the antigen is attached with a protein carrier and inserted in the body,
- Toxoid vaccine, a vaccine containing “Detoxified” toxins of microorganisms,
- DNA vaccines that contain genes that encode for specific disease-causing antigens, it is still in experimental stages but its shown to be very effective, and
- Recombinant vector vaccines that use attenuated microorganism to introduce DNA in the body.
Now, you know what vaccine is and how it works. You might be questioning, “Is it safe? Does it always work?” YES, it is absolutely safe, but NO, it does not always work. That actually depends on a person’s own immune system that how well a person’s immune system responds to a particular vaccine.
Some people cannot produce antibodies due to immune system disorders like immunodeficiency, so vaccines do not work for those people. But guess what? As long as people around them are vaccinated, there is a little risk of them getting an infection the people around them have been vaccinated for. That is called ‘Herd Immunity‘. It is especially true for contagious diseases. Another type of immunity is the ‘Contact Immunity‘, that transfers from one person, who has been vaccinated to the other person who was not vaccinated, through contact. It happens when one person is vaccinated with attenuated organism.
Other factors that affect efficiency of vaccines are – if a person has been vaccinated according to schedule, age and sex of person, strains of vaccines and the disease itself as some vaccines for a particular disease perform better than other vaccine for some other disease.
Another question that has been raised in the video is – “Why do babies need to be vaccinated at such young age?” Some people claim that breast milk provides enough immunity but that’s not true. Yes, breast milk is not only a nutrition for babies but also help improve their immune system, as maternal antibodies are transferred to the baby, but those antibodies are the ones that mother’s body produced against the infections she got or against the diseases she has been vaccinated.
For example, if a mother never got Yellow Fever neither has she been vaccinated for it, her body will not have antibodies against the antigen that causes Yellow Fever and thus no maternal immunity will be provided to the child against the Yellow Fever and if that child will not be vaccinated, he will not have antibodies to fight Yellow Fever that makes him vulnerable to the infection and its complications.
Besides, there are many antibodies that cannot be transferred to the milk through breast milk like antibodies for Diphtheria, Whooping cough, Tetanus, Polio and Hepatitis B.
Breast milk is a form of passive immunity that only lasts for a few months, but that does not mean you have to select one out of breast milk and vaccination, one cannot replace the other and studies have actually shown that breastfeeding and vaccination complement each other like children who were breastfed are less likely to suffer from meningitis caused by Hib and they produce more antibodies against Hib bacteria after receiving Hib vaccine.
Now a days, combination vaccines are used in which antigens for more than one disease are combined, so instead of 25 injections given till two years of age have been reduced to 10, in some countries. The advantage of combination vaccines is that children are immune to many diseases as quickly as possible.
One may question – “Does not giving so many vaccines at once overload a child’s immune system or cause some other harm?” No, children are exposed to more antigens in their environment than in vaccines. So a child’s immune system is developed enough to cope with it. If a child were given 11 injections at a time, it would only use one thousandth of their immune system. Besides,vaccines today contain fewer antigens than some years ago.
After knowing all the details about the process, you can imagine where would we have been if it weren’t for vaccination. People who claim that vaccination did no good are either naive or perhaps are being paid to say such things. If natural immunity and breastfeeding was enough to protect a person for life, than why did smallpox kill 300-350 million people during 20th century when no smallpox vaccination was available? It is vaccines that eliminated small pox and is on verge of eliminating polio.
In 1980s, approximately 350,000 cases of polio were reported annually, while in 2012, there have been only 187 cases of polio, that too in developing countries. Similarly, measles vaccine has led to 99% reduction in occurrence of measles as compared to pre-vaccination era, Hib has reduced to 98%, Pertussis or whooping-cough affected 150,000-260,000 people alone in U.S prior to the availability of vaccination. About 450,000 people were affected with Hepatitis B virus in 1980 that decreased to 80,000 in 1990 and the rates are still decreasing, thanks to vaccination.
Before vaccination, epidemics of contagious infections weren’t uncommon, every year or two outbreaks of diseases would kill hundreds and even millions, which are now prevented by vaccines.
Yes, vaccination is not a perfect cure and is not always effective, you still might get infection but it will not be severe, it will heal faster and will not cause complications as it would if you weren’t vaccinated. But these old methods are improving and hopefully DNA vaccination and other new and perhaps 100% effective methods will soon take over.
We cannot condemn vaccines because they are not fully effective and may pose some side effects, because there are only a few medical techniques that are perfect, do not cause side effects and work efficiently. Even Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy cause side effects, does that mean we have to give up on those methods because they are not perfect, so we should trust our immune system as Dr Suzanne Humphries says and let people die.
If immune system was strong enough to overcome any ailment as Dr Suzanne Humphries claims, why would we get infections and cancers in the first place? If immune system has a mind of its own, should not it destroy cancer before it moves to other organs and destabilize a healthy body?
People who promote pseudoscience are at advantage because most people, despite all the technology available are still unaware of the scientific and medical facts. Most people would rather update their Facebook status than to read an article on a recent scientific discovery. All of us are responsible for the prevalence of wrong concepts because we underestimate the medical technology and take most things for granted. And, to undo the damage we have done, every one of us should play our role and aware other people of the wrong or right.
- Image: Health.com.au