Both Jenny McCarthy and Kristin Cavallari have been in the news recently for their stance on vaccines, reigniting the tiresome debate over the risks posed by vaccinating your child.
McCarthy was hilariously put down last week by Twitter users who answered her #Jennyasks question, "What is the most important personality trait you look for in a mate?" with countless jabs at her anti-vaccination beliefs (see Seth Mnookin's reply):
Cavallari on the other hand, declared she wouldn't be vaccinating her child because she had read 'too many books about autism', and was convinced of some 'scary statistics' regarding the links between the two. Our own Chez Pazienza then took her to task for idiocy not knowing the facts, informing her that "Vaccinating your kids is not a 'to each their own' kind of thing because what irresponsible parents like you do has the potential to impact a lot of other people, certainly everyone who comes into direct contact with your little walking petri dish."
Unfortunately, because celebrities are glamorous and have huge Twitter followings, people tend to listen to what they have to say. Doctors and scientists though, generally don't spend that much time making themselves look pretty or gaining Twitter followers, so they inevitably have a much smaller platform to reach the masses. Therefore, 'experts' like Jenny McCarthy, whose extensive background in science and medicine consists of dropping out of a psychology and nursing degree, get their views taken seriously by people who don't know much better.
Therefore, in order to stem the tide of anti-scientific gibberish polluting public discourse on matters of great importance, here's a very quick guide to vaccines and why you absolutely must get your child vaccinated:
1. What is a vaccine?
Here's the Department of Health's quick explanation that should clear up any misconceptions as to what a vaccine is:
A vaccine contains a killed or weakened part of a germ that is responsible for infection. Because the germ has been killed or weakened before it is used to make the vaccine, it can not make the person sick. When a person receives a vaccine, the body reacts by making protective substances called "antibodies". The antibodies are the body's defenders because they help to kill off the germs that enter the body.
To recap - vaccines expose people to germs in a way that won't harm themso that their bodies can build a natural defense to fight germs that could actually harm them.
2. Vaccines save millions of lives
During the 20th century, smallpox was responsible for roughly 300–500 million deaths. The small pox vaccination is 95% effective, meaning virtually everyone who has it won't get infected with small pox.
3. Vaccines are safe
Yes, read that again. Vaccines (particularly in the US) go through incredibly rigorous testing before anyone is allowed to receive them. Contrary to myths perpetuated by non-scientists, vaccines don't cause autism, don't cause sudden infant death, and don't contain dangerous levels of mercury.
4. You are endangering your child's life, and others by not getting them vaccinated.
Vaccines protect the people who have received the vaccine, and those around them. If your child is not vaccinated, their risk of infection from easily preventable disease is catastrophically higher, and they could then inadvertently infect others.
It really is that simple.