Vaccines have helped save millions of lives. In the 19th century, before herd immunization was…

Vaccines have helped save millions of lives. In the 19th century, before herd immunization was achieved through vaccination programs, deaths from infectious diseases, such as smallpox and polio, were common. However, today vaccination programs have become somewhat controversial despite all the scientific evidence for their importance.

The controversy started with a paper published in 1988 and lead by Andrew Wakefield claiming there was a link between the administration of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and the appearance of autism and bowel disease. Despite much scientific evidence contradicting this finding, sensationalist media reports and fear-mongering from conspiracy theorists led parts of the public into believing that vaccines were harmful. As a result, many parents ceased to vaccinate their children. This dangerous practice can be potentially disastrous given that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that vaccinations will prevent more than 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths among children born in the last 20 years (see Benefits from Immunization during the Vaccines for Children Program Era — United States, 1994- 2013, MMWR). The 1988 paper has since been retracted and Andrew Wakefield was eventually “struck off the UK medical register, with a statement identifying deliberate falsification in the research published in The Lancet, and was thereby barred from practicing medicine in the UK.” (source: Wikipedia). Yet misconceptions persist, in part due to self-proclaimed activists who continue to disseminate misinformation about vaccines.

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