This article was originally published by CBS19. Read the full article here.
Immunizations have come under fire in recent years over discussions about possible health hazards, but UT Health Science Center at Tyler Infectious Disease specialist Dr. Richard Wallace, says he is confident in their effectiveness.
“It works because of this, so-called herd immunity,” Wallace said. “We need everybody to be protected so when an occasional case of the disease slips through from another country, which don’t have good vaccinations, nothing happens. But if one person slips through, and a lot of people are not vaccinated, we have big trouble.”
Wallace says vaccines are partially responsible for the quality of life Americans enjoy today.
“When I was a child, the average survival age was 60 [years old], now it’s 91,” Wallace said. “For women born today, it’s going to be over 100. Why? Because of work like [vaccines].”
While nothing is perfect, Wallace says vaccines have very little chance of hurting a patient.
“Anytime you put substances in the body, there is some risk, probably genetically determined that a very tiny percentage of people will react in either an unpredictable way, or it will be more severe in them than it is in the average individual. But the percentage is extremely small, less than 1%,” Wallace explained. “But as a parent, you’re saying, ‘well, I’m not willing to take that risk with my child, no vaccine’, forgetting how severe the disease can be if your child gets the disease. The death rate related to measles is vastly higher than any kind of side effects we saw with the vaccine.”
One of the reasons people object to vaccines is because of a belief that they are connected to autism. In fact, an autism researcher at UT Tyler Dr. Brent Bill says the science does not back that up.
“The initial paper that came out about vaccines causing autism was a paper that has since been retracted,” Bill said. “So Andrew Wakefield was the primary author on this, and he looked at 12 kids that had gastrointestinal problems. And he was working for a competitor vaccine company and basically trying to disprove the MMR vaccine. So he published a paper that suggested that particular formulation of the vaccine could cause problems where his would not.”
In the aftermath of the Wakefield paper, Bill says there has been no evidence of a link between autism and vaccines despite plentiful research on the subject.
“There’s been many, many studies since the Wakefield paper that have tried to form an association with vaccines, and this includes entire countries pulling the vaccine off the market,” Bill said. “We have not seen any change in the prevalence of autism after vaccines have been removed after vaccine formulations have changed. There have been animal studies that have utilized vaccines to look to see if they have autistic behaviors that come out, and we cannot find them. So we’ve spent millions and millions of dollars and done probably over 100 scientific studies and none of them suggest that vaccines cause autism.”
Wallace says even if vaccines did have potentially serious side effects, he would still vaccinate his children because the alternative of catching a serious disease is worse.