The Vaccine Controversy: The History, Use, and Safety of Vaccinations

The Vaccine Controversy: The History, Use, and Safety of Vaccinations

The Vaccine Controversy: The History, Use, and Safety of Vaccinations

The Vaccine Controversy: The History, Use, and Safety of Vaccinations

Synopsis

While millions of Americans receive vaccinations each year, a vocal segment of the population is opposed to all immunizations--some even refusing to get mandated vaccinations for their children. In The Vaccine Controversy, Dr. Kurt Link--a specialist in internal medicine--explores that paradox and provides a history of vaccine development, including such possible future vaccines as those being developed in the hope of immunizing against HIV. A strong supporter of vaccination programs, Link explains the immune system and how it works, as well as outlining the various types of vaccines (including the efficacy and potential toxicity of each). Appendices spell out current medical recommendations for vaccines, describe the legal issues involved in decisions to vaccinate or not, and explain the workings of clinical trials where work is done to determine if a vaccine is effective or not, or has any remarkable side effects.

Excerpt

Our hunter-gatherer prehistoric ancestors had hard lives and suffered many injuries, and probably had occasional sporadic illnesses, but they were not subject to infectious plagues and epidemics.

Infectious disease began to appear with the shift to an agrarian society, which included close contact with domestic and other animals. Transmission of infectious agents from animals to man began soon after and continues to this day.

The rise of towns, with its crowding of people together has made possible the transmission of infections from human to human. When the number of cases passes a critical threshold, like kindling erupts into a blaze, an epidemic erupts in the community. If the infection is highly contagious, and if there is travel in and out of the affected community, the epidemic may spread to become a worldwide pandemic. When a disease persists in a population for a long time, the disease is said to be endemic.

The “common source” epidemic is not transmitted from person to person but arises from a common source such as contaminated water.

The number of persons infected and the duration of the epidemic depends on several factors, including the ease of transmission, the incubation period and the proportion of susceptible and immune persons. When the number of immune survivers increases sufficiently, the chain of transmission is broken, and the epidemic stops, even though there are still many susceptible persons. This concept goes by the unfortunate name of herd immunity. The goal of vaccination has been just that: to immunize enough of the population so that transmission can not take place. A new goal is disease eradication, achieved only in the case of smallpox.

The attempt to prevent disease by immunization has a long history. The first well-documented attempts were in seventeenth-century China.

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