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Abstract

Vaccinations in the United States have been quite a controversial issue in that some see this process as beneficial and necessary, while others are skeptical and come up with reasonable explanations as to why vaccines are harmful. Nevertheless, vaccinations have been a process that has been conducted ever since scientist Edward Jenner performed the very first form of vaccination in the late 1700s. Jenner conducted the vaccination by inoculating a young 8-year-old boy with a small dosage of pus originating from Cowpox lesions on a milkmaid’s hand. To get a view of both sides of the argument regarding the issue of vaccinations we will begin with how the process of vaccination works. We will then break down each rationalization in regard to vaccines and determine which argument is strongly supported.

Are Vaccines Safe for Children?

Edward Jenner first came up with the idea of taking a small sample of infected specimens from an infected donor and then using this sample to inoculate into a healthy individual, so that the healthy individual receives immunity from what the infected donor is infected with. This process is known as Active Artificial Immunity, which is a means of artificially and actively giving a healthy individual immunity by vaccination. To understand the process of vaccination, we need to examine how the body works and how it responds to them. Our body has what we call the immune system, which protects us and fights diseases and infections we might contract throughout our life. With a vaccine, we take a sample of the virus and bacteria and weaken it, so that it does not manifest the harmful symptoms that it produces. Vaccination is the process of “preparing the body to fight disease without exposing it to disease symptoms” (LiveScience). If we contract a virus or a bacteria initially without having immunity to it is known as Natural Active Immunity. Our immune system responds rather slowly because it doesn’t have the antibodies that can help recognize and signal white blood cells to neutralize the enemy. These antibodies that are produced from getting a vaccination allow our immune system to recognize and neutralize the foreign body before it causes further infection and disease.

Some may object to the idea of vaccinations and rationalize that vaccinations can cause serious side effects which can be fatal. 1 in a million children are affected by the symptoms of anaphylaxis which can be found in all vaccines (CDC). The rotavirus vaccination can cause intussusception in about 1 per 20,000 babies in the United States according to ProCon. DTaP and MMR vaccines may be linked to causing symptoms such as long-term seizures, coma, lowered consciousness, and permanent brain damage. The CDC also reports that pneumonia can be caused by the chickenpox vaccine, and possibly that the flu vaccine could be associated with Gulliane-Barré Syndrome, which is a disorder in which the immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system, The Gulliane-Barré syndrome associated with the flu vaccine occurs in about one or two per million people vaccinated (ProCon).

The claims above make quite reasonable rationalities as to why vaccines can be dangerous, but the use of the examples is rare and doesn’t represent the majority of the population of children who receive vaccinations. This is a result of generalizing from a sample size that is too small to represent the overall population. An example in the article above of this would be that the rotavirus vaccine can cause intussusception in about 1 per 20,000 babies in the US 0.0005% is possible from contracting it. Intussusception is a type of bowel blockage. Not only is this sample atypical, but the age group affected only refers to babies which do not represent the majority of children. Another claim would be that “all” vaccines carry anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening allergic reaction that affects 1 per million children. The rationale of “all” vaccines carrying a risk of anaphylaxis is another example of generalizing from a sample. As described in the book, when we reason that all, most, or some percentage of the members of a population have an attribute because all, most, or some percentage of a sample of the population have that attribute (Moore & Parker 2017). It may be true that all vaccines contain an allergen, but the claim should also consider that the majority of individuals are not allergic and therefore susceptible to anaphylaxis. Supporters against vaccinations here provided plenty of premises that are shown in studies and research from prominent administrations such as the CDC as to why vaccines may be harmful, but the examples used are quite atypical and don’t represent the majority of the population of people receiving vaccines.

Another example of individuals who advocate for not having vaccinations would be those who say the components or ingredients that vaccines contain are harmful. Vaccines can contain aluminum and it is known to cause neurological harm. Another ingredient formaldehyde found in some vaccines is known to be carcinogenic, exposure to large amounts can cause cardiac impairment, impairment in higher cognitive functions, central nervous system depression, convulsions, coma, and even death according to VaxTruth.org. Glutaraldehyde is another compound found in vaccines that are also used to disinfect medical and dental equipment. This chemical is found in the DTaP vaccinations, exposure to this chemical also leads to respiratory issues such as asthma (ProCon).

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The claims above state the compounds mentioned can cause serious implications and numerous side effects. Note that there aren’t any accounts of affected individuals that link them to receiving a vaccine containing a compound to exhibit the symptoms mentioned above. The claims are simply explaining the ramifications of each chemical ingredient found in certain vaccines. These claims contain the fallacy of composition, in that the ingredients (parts) are described to have harmful effects and it is applicable that a vaccine (whole) containing it is harmful as well. In the example, formaldehyde found in some vaccines is known to be carcinogenic[…]exposure can cause side effects[…]and death. In the book’s definition, the fallacy of composition occurs when a feature of the parts of something is erroneously attributed to the whole (Moore & Parker 2017). In this case; vaccines containing harmful ingredients make them harmful. There’s also a sense of ambiguity in the fallacy of composition in what the word “harmful” is referring to. Ambiguity as found in the definition of the book is a word, phrase, or sentence when it has more than one meaning (Moore & Parker 2017). The word harmful can be implying that the amount of a particular harmful ingredient is what makes a vaccine harmful or the nature or the quality of that harmful ingredient in a vaccine is what makes it so. With this in mind, the writer doesn’t provide us direct information on how much of a particular ingredient in a certain vaccine is harmful, they just generalize that it is because of the well-known side effects it can cause. We can also see this in the example, “Aluminum is used in some vaccines and excess aluminum in human bodies can cause neurological harm” (ProCon). Again this sentence contains the fallacy of composition and has ambiguity in that we do not know what the writer means by the word “excess”. The writer may be implying that this particular vaccine has “excess” aluminum or that “excess” amounts of aluminum in the body can cause these harmful side effects. These statements simply provide information on the side effects of these harmful ingredients, but do not necessarily provide quantitative information as to how much of it found in a vaccine is able to cause harm.

On the other hand, advocates for getting a vaccination will argue that the ingredients in vaccines are safe in the amounts used. Certain ingredients such as thimerosal, formaldehyde, and aluminum can be harmful in large doses, but they are not used in harmful quantities in vaccines. Breast milk and infant formula expose children to more aluminum than vaccines do. Paul Offit, MD, notes that children are exposed to more bacteria, viruses, toxins, and other harmful substances in one day of normal activity than are in vaccines (Kelly 2014). The MMR vaccine does not cause autism according to Ellen Clayton, MD, JD, Professor of Pediatrics and Law at Vanderbilt Law School (Nancy 2015). All vaccines are tested for up to 10 or more years before they are licensed as required by the FDA (CDC 2014). Vaccines are also regulated and monitored by the CDC and FDA to ensure that the ingredients used in them are within safe limits.

When we examine this argument it is somewhat similar to the claim that ingredients in vaccines are harmful in that it provides little to no quantifiable information about how much of the ingredient is said to be harmful in a vaccine. The example, “Certain ingredients such as thimerosal[…]can be harmful in large doses, but they are not used in harmful quantities in vaccines”, does not provide quantifiable information, it simply generalizes that it is safe in the amounts used. This attributes to generalization using the fallacy of composition similar to the contrary, that ingredients (parts) are in safer amounts therefore, the vaccine (the whole) is safe to use. In comparison to the contrary, I would say that this argument; “harmful ingredients are in safe amounts” is stronger than the argument, “harmful ingredients in vaccines are dangerous” mentioned earlier, because it provides a different premise other than focusing on the generalizations of safe amounts of the ingredients to support the claim. Unlike the contrary, this argument supports its claim by providing examples of harmful ingredients found in other sources that children may be exposed to such as breast milk, infant formula, and day-to-day activities. We can see this in the example, “Paul Offit, MD, notes that children are exposed to more bacteria, viruses, toxins, and other harmful substances in one day of normal activity than are in vaccines” (ProCon). There is a flaw to this, however, in that it is comparing the normal activity of children to the harmful ingredients in a vaccine is the fallacy of rhetorical analogy. The rhetorical analogy is used by comparing two debatable things and making one of them seem better or worse than the other. First and foremost, the meaning of normal activity is ambiguous. It is unclear as to what Paul means in regards to normal activity for children, but he is implying and generalizing that normal activity exposes more children to more harmful compounds than what is found in a vaccine. This generalization is weak in that it is not representative of all children who exhibit what Paul describes as “normal activity”. Paul does not provide further premises to support this generalization other than it comes from his bias or expertise on the subject. Another premise that provides another angle of the claim would be that “Vaccines are regulated and monitored by the CDC and FDA to ensure that the ingredients used in them are within the safe limits”. This piece of information provides another dimension of evidence in supporting that vaccines are safe in that the regulation of vaccines are approved and licensed by a prominent administration; FDA & CDC, but it is vague in that it is not known what defines a “safe limit”. As you begin to notice, the claims to support “vaccines are safe” contain individuals of expertise and reputable institutions who tend to have credibility on this particular subject. Although there are a few fallacies, generalizations, vagueness, and ambiguity in their statements, as critical thinkers we are inclined to believe a claim partly because it is from a source that we think is credible and reliable. We determine credibility by determining whether or not they are an interested party or a disinterested party, as well as looking at an individual’s expertise through his education, accomplishments, reputation as well as position, according to the book (Moore & Parker 2017).

The final argument as to why vaccines are safe is that adverse reactions to them are extremely rare. A common side effect of vaccines is anaphylaxis, which occurs in 1 per several hundred thousand to one per million vaccinations according to Sanjay Gupta, MD, Chief Medical Correspondent for CNN and practicing neurosurgeon (ProCon). She states, “you are 100 times more likely to be struck by lightning than to have a serious allergic reaction to the vaccine that protects you against measles” (Gupta 2015).

Unlike the contrary of this argument; “vaccines are harmful”, the very small likelihood of an adverse reaction to vaccines is strongly supported by the large sample size of the population that doesn’t exhibit the side effects. This is supported by this example, “a common side effect of vaccines is anaphylaxis, which occurs in 1 per several hundred thousand to one per million vaccinations.” With regard to the topic of vaccinations, Sanjay Gupta is a Chief Medical Correspondent, and it is likely that her expertise and knowledge in making this claim should be held in high regard. When examining this claim we should also consider the size of the population and determine the margin of error. We cannot exactly determine whether the population is randomly selected and heterogenous or homogenous. We just know that the population size is sizeable. According to the book Critical Thinking, small samples contain huge error margins, with this in mind, the sample of 1 to a hundred thousand or even a million individuals exhibiting a side effect from a vaccine gives us less confidence in supporting the claim that vaccines are harmful.

In conclusion, both arguments contrary and supportive of whether vaccines are safe for children are still ongoing topics today. Both arguments in regard to whether or not vaccines are safe to provide scientific evidence from different sources to support their claims. However, there is support from individuals who hold significant expertise and knowledge of the issue of claiming that vaccines are safe. Adding to this, the probabilities provided of a large population of children getting vaccinated deem it unlikely that a majority of them will exhibit the harmful side effects of vaccines. Therefore as a critical thinker, arguments support that vaccinations are significantly stronger. In conclusion, the arguments for the contrary are weaker in that their rationalizations provided support evidence from atypical and rare occasions of a small number of individuals who have exhibited side effects after vaccination, as a result, it is atypical in that it isn’t representative of the population as a whole.

#heathcare #medical #medicalcare #pharmaceuticals #healthcareprofessional #nurses #healthprofessionals

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