If you’ve read some of the mind-numbing comment posts about vaccination, you’ll will undoubtedly come across the following argument:
“Vaccination is not the same as immunization!”
That statement means different things to different people. To us scientists, it’s a “truism.” Vaccination is a way to immunize, so is a natural infectious process. Both may not immunize if the person getting the vaccine or the disease doesn’t react to the vaccine or the disease in a way that creates immunity. For example, there are plenty of people who are “non-responders” to the hepatitis B vaccine. That is, they don’t make detectable antibodies against hepatitis B when they go through the vaccination series. They’re not considered immune, but they are also not excluded from working in healthcare and other “risky” professions. Why? Because the jury is out as to whether or not non-responders are really not immune. That is, we don’t really know if they’ll be protected or not. But, by taking the vaccine series, they did the best they could to be protected, short of using personal protective equipment and universal precautions.
Anti-vaccine activists can’t get these concepts through their head, as exemplified in this explanation of “vaccine vs. immunization” by the “Vaccine Injury Help Center,” a blatantly anti-vaccine website run by a law office (i.e. not scientists). How anti-vaccine? Just look at their Facebook page, it reads like a anti-vaccine activist’s favorite reads. Anyway, their page reads thus:
“Did you know there is actually a difference between immunization and vaccination? Most people don’t realize that when you receive a shot or a vaccine, it does not mean you are immunized. Many people are confused with this concept.”
Right off the bat, the doubt creeps in. “I didn’t get immunized?” you may ask. The chances are very, very good that you did. If you got the measles vaccine, you only have a 10 in 100 chance of not being immunized. If you get the two shots (as recommended), you have a 1 in 100 chance of not being immunized. If you get a booster, your immunity is even more guaranteed. The anti-vaccine people are playing on the Nirvana fallacy, that anything not 100% safe is 100% evil. So they continue:
“Vaccines contain a dead or live but weakened germ that can cause a particular disease, like tetanus. When we are given a vaccine shot, our body immediately produces antibodies against the antigen or foreign body. It is at this point that most believe the body’s defense mechanism kicks in and immunity will occur in the event that the said antigen gains entry again into the body. But, this is not the case with all vaccines.”
I wasn’t joking when I told you that the site wasn’t run by scientists. The tetanus vaccine does not contain “dead or live but weakened” germs. It contains a toxoid, or inactivated toxin. You build up an immunity against the toxoid and not the bacteria. “But, this is not the case with all vaccines,” is, again, a truism. Vaccines are not 100% effective, and that’s okay. They’re effective enough to build herd immunity and keep us all safe if all of us use them.
“Vaccination does not guarantee immunity. Natural immunity happens only after one recovers from the actual disease. During the disease, the microorganism usually has to pass through many of the body’s natural immune defense systems—in the nose, throat, lungs, digestive tract and lymph tissue—before it reaches the bloodstream. As it does, the microorganism triggers many biological events that are essential in building true natural immunity. When a child gets a new disease, he may feel sick for several days, but, in the vast majority of cases, he will recover.”
Even more evidence that someone without any scientific training at all wrote this. Why? “Natural immunity happens only after one recovers from the actual disease.” That’s a load of horse manure. There are plenty of diseases, even vaccine-preventable ones, that you can get over and over again because you don’t build up any immunity against them, or your immunity doesn’t last. This is the case with influenza.
And that whole thing about “(w)hen a child gets a new disease, he may feel sick for several days, but, in the vast majority of cases, he will recover”? It makes me wonder if any of the lawyers who are on the firm that runs the site have actually read these statements, and the many others in the blog and “information” section. The whole post reads like parents should forgo vaccination because it’s not 100% effective but embrace natural disease because it is 100% effective in creating immunity (which it is not) and “in the vast majority of cases” their child will recover.
Yeah, put your kid through hell because the odds are really good they’ll make it and be immune… As opposed to putting the child through a mild inconvenience of a shot when the odds are just as good, if not better, that they will be immune?
I have no words. And, apparently, neither does the author of that post since the rest of the post is quote-mining from CDC and other sites, pointing out that even those organizations agree that vaccines are not 100% effective. BECAUSE THEY’RE NOT. Yet they are better than the disease.