Don’t fear the needle

The anti-vaccination movement is dangerous and misinformed.

Daily Editorial Board

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the family of Hannah Bruesewitz, which filed a lawsuit on her behalf against the manufacturer of a vaccine that left her with seizures and permanent brain damage. The case coincides with a dangerous movement against the administration of vaccines to fight preventable diseases.

While there are tragic side effects in a small number of vaccinations, as in the case of Bruesewitz, severe side effects are so rare that it is difficult for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to calculate the risk for such occurrences.

Along with cases like this, much of the distrust of immunizations comes from a British physician, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who ostensibly linked the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to autism in children in a 1998 study. However, the British Medical Journal has since discovered that Wakefield altered or falsified the medical histories of all 12 of the studyâÄôs patients. Last May, his medical license was revoked, and 10 of his coauthors have issued a retraction of the study.

Misinformation about vaccines has led to decreased immunization rates across the U.S. This played a part in an outbreak of the whooping cough last year in California âÄî the largest in more than 40 years âÄî that left six infants dead and hundreds of others infected.

Far from being the cause of medical problems, vaccines are lifesavers. Worldwide measles deaths fell 78 percent from 2000 to 2008 due to an increase in immunizations.

Diseases responsible for millions of deaths have been largely eradicated through vaccination. Society must be careful not to throw these medical miracles away due to falsified and overblown fears.