Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Case for Vaccination

I remember travelling to Nigeria as a teenager and requiring a host of vaccines prior to travel:  yellow fever, hepatitis A, cholera, typhoid, diphtheria–pertussis–tetanus, polio booster - my right arm couldn’t take the full load, so my left was sore for days too.  Once there, I had to take weekly doses of chloroquine to combat malaria.  Then there were the infectious diseases that didn’t have a pill or vaccine: African trypanosomiasis or the sleeping sickness carried by the tsetse fly. All we could do was use DDT sprays to dissuade the flies from landing on us.  We have come a long way in our ability to combat infectious diseases, eradicating killers like cholera, smallpox and polio. So it mystifies me why there remain a significant number of parents who decline to have their children vaccinated with the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, as demonstrated in the measles outbreak last December in Disneyland.  Their decision to forego the vaccine is largely prompted by the belief that MMR may induce autism.

The 1998 publication by Andrew Wakefield in the Lancet that linked MMR to autism has been completely discredited.  The journal fully retracted the article in 2010 following the British General Medical Council’s finding that Wakefield had acted both against the interests of his patients and "dishonestly and irresponsibly" in his published research.  A few months later, Wakefield was struck off the Medical Register and is barred from practicing medicine in the UK. Yet there persists this fear of vaccination, in general. Wakefield himself still insists his MMR assertions are true, although he has no support whatever from the medical community.

Most scientists support vaccination programs as they can better understand the science behind infectious agents and medicine’s ability to combat them. BioTek Instruments supports vaccine research through the provision of many a microplate reader or liquid handling instrument into the various biosafety level laboratories at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Only through this important work will medicine have a chance to eradicate emerging infectious diseases.

By: BioTek Instruments, Peter Banks Ph.D., Scientific Director

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