Pt. 2: Busting Vaccination Myths, with Science-Based Evidence

 
Image Courtesy Unsplash

Image Courtesy Unsplash

In February I wrote a post about vaccinations - more specifically, I tried to bring some evidence-based research in to the conversation in an attempt to demonstrate to our readers that the myths that are circulating out there are not based on anything other than speculation, opinion, fear-mongering, and quite honestly, excuses.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read articles posted on Facebook that have testimonies from “former doctors” or “past employees from the CDC.”

They see buzzwords and loose associations and automatically assume that the article is speaking the truth.

Newsflash: ANYONE can post anything on the internet and call it fact. That’s the point I was trying to get across in my last post, that not only do you need to do research, you need to ensure your research is coming from a credible, academic source.

Perhaps part of the problem is the general population doesn’t quite understand how to tell a good article from a bad one, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.

But the problem is that because of this knowledge gap people then read these bogus articles and take them as fact without recognizing the considerable amount of flaws they contain. This all leads me to yet another myth I would like to bust for you:

MYTH # 4: Vaccines cause diabetes, blindness, brain damage, and other health problems.

Many people claim their child developed a serious health problem after receiving his or her vaccinations.

While any child falling ill is a tragedy and an impossibly hard situation for a parent to navigate, the notion that vaccines are the culprit has no evidence to support it.

Yes, there are studies out there that claim to have researched groups of children with chronic illness and concluded that vaccines are the common denominator, but much like the study that published a link to autism and vaccines, the studies have results that have been severely manipulated and misinterpreted.

I’ll give you a quick lesson in research and statistics: When you have a hypothesis you are looking to prove (ie. vaccines cause diabetes) there are a few things the study requires in order to be considered valid.

One is the number of people who participated in the study, otherwise known as the sample size. If you perform a study with a small group of people, it’s a lot easier to draw conclusions and generate statistics that are misleading. For example, a study could claim that it demonstrated the development of diabetes in 50 per cent of participants, however if their sample size was only two you can see how this would be misleading.

That’s why researchers look for results that are “statistically significant” - that is, their results are considered significant based on their sample size and thus are considered an accurate representation of a population.

The bigger a studies sample size, the more credible their results. Any peer-reviewed academic journal must abide by these standards but many other publications don’t have the same methods of reporting. Keep this in mind next time you’re perusing articles.

The other issue with many articles and studies is that they force their reader to ignore the difference between correlation (a relationship between two or more things), and causation (the action of causing something). In simpler terms, just because A and B both happened does not mean A causes B; or, just because your child was vaccinated and also has diabetes does not mean their vaccinations caused the diabetes.

In fact, when in comes to the argument that vaccines cause diabetes it’s been shown that the exact opposite is true: vaccines can actually help manage diabetes! Illnesses such as the flu can raise your blood glucose levels to dangerously high levels thus increasing the need for medical intervention.

To summarize, there are a few studies out there that claim to demonstrate links between vaccines and other serious health problems, but you’ll likely notice a few trends amongst them: they are based on correlation and not causation, their results are not statistically significant, they are based on parent testimonials, they are outdated, and the list goes on.

Basically, they have skewed their results and cherry-picked their evidence to support a hypothesis that real, honest to goodness academia has already shown to be false.

I know I’ve gotten a bit technical in this post, but I’m only trying to bring to light information that can help you better understand what you’re reading on the internet.

Google is a great tool, but it can also be a parent’s worst nightmare. Think critically and don’t let yourself be bullied by the discredited sources that parade around our newsfeeds.

Bottom line: Vaccines are safe and science is still on your side.

Jocelyn Lundberg