This post was in the works for over a year. And by that, I mean that it was a skeleton draft that I forgot about in my Google Docs for over a year.
However, recent news about that 18-year-old guy who vaccinated himself has re-sparked genuine public interest in vaccines and unvaccinated children, which I personally thought was just a random minority and not an actual thing.
Vaccines in Brief
There are 5 main types of vaccines being used in the US:
- Live vaccines contain weakened viruses/bacteria. They are given to people with healthy immune systems.
- Inactivated vaccines have killed viruses/bacteria. Multiple doses required to build/maintain immunity.
- Toxoid vaccines are made of weakened toxins created by bacteria.
- Subunit vaccines have parts of the virus/bacteria rather than the entire thing. Side effects are also less likely.
- Conjugate vaccines combat bacteria with coatings that hide them from the immune system (especially in young immune systems). The vaccine connects to the coating and creates an immune response.
There is some controversy around whether live or inactivated vaccines are better. On one end, live vaccines build the immune system naturally, but natural infections can be deadly.
The side-effects of vaccines are usually mild. The false belief that vaccines cause autism is the result of bad media coverage and idiot celebrities (or the president) preaching about it.
Some Example Vaccines:
DPT/DTaP Vaccine: Protects from diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), and tetanus. Contains toxoids for tetanus and subunits of pertussis.
Polio Vaccine: Protects from polio (duh). Can be administered through injection (inactivated virus) or orally (weakened virus). Injection is also extremely safe.
Combined DTaP-IPV-HepB Vaccine: Combination of vaccines usually for children lagging behind. The three vaccines are DTP, polio (injection), and HepB (for hepatitis B).1
The Immune System in Not-so-Brief
Our bodies don’t like dying.
It’s generally a bad thing to die.
To begin, let’s quickly cover our body’s defense systems.
Innate Defense System
- Skin and mucous membranes
- Phagocytes (a type of white blood cell)
- Antimicrobial proteins
- Attack cells
Your skin and the mucous membranes around your organs provide the first line of defense for your body.
Your sweat has chemicals that destroy bacteria. Your slightly acidic skin destroys bacteria. Enzymes in your saliva, mucus, and eyes destroy bacteria. Your body really likes to destroy bacteria.
Phagocytes get called into battle to gobble up invaders, but they require energy to maintain.
Neutrophils are the most common phagocytes. They can move around really fast and engulf germs before self-destructing. They can also secrete toxins. Neutrophils track down germs by tracking their chemical ‘scent’, which means they only attack stuff that doesn’t smell right. Neutrophils also self-destruct.
Macrophages are another type of phagocyte. They also eat germs, but they can eat multiple times, spitting out the digested gunk and then eating some more.
Natural Killer Cells
NK cells drift around in your blood looking for invaders. When they find one, they will essentially stab the shit out of it and pour in its toxins that make the cell self-destruct. They can also kill your own body cells if they’re infected. NK cells detect bad cells by checking if they create MHC (Major Histocompatibility Complex), which is a set of proteins that healthy, non-infected cells have on their surface.
- Fever: Raises body temperature in an attempt to kill bacteria
- Inflammatory Response: Cranks up the heat around cuts to help with healing and make capillaries release proteins to clog the cut.
- Leukocytosis: To create and direct more neutrophils (which will be dying a ton in the heat of their self-destructive battle), your body will send out monocytes and neutrophils from your bone marrow to squeeze through the capillaries and get to the battlefield.
Adaptive Defense System
If your innate defense system fails, your body will need to kick it into high gear, calling in your adaptive defense system.
Your adaptive defense system is much more specific than your innate defense system. It systematically targets invaders and memorizes them.
- B cells detect stuff. The more stuff a B cell learns to recognize, the more information gets passed onto future B cells, making detection of the same thing easier. This ‘thing’ could be your body’s cells or an antigen (which can be any invader, such as a fungus, toxin, bacteria, or virus).
- Once your B cells get riled up, they’ll try to eliminate your invader. Each B cell has thousands of binding receptors. Each receptor binds to a single antigen, meaning that it takes a lot of B cells to find one that matches a specific antigen
- Once the correct B cell finds the correct antigen, the B cell will absorb it and begin rapidly reproducing. You’ll end up with a bunch of B cells with the exact same antibody to combat the specific antigen.
- At this point, the B cells will begin marking the antigens (these attacking B cells are called plasma cells). Some other B cells become memory B cells, which will help recognize the antigen in the future.
- Antibodies don’t directly attack the antigens.2
All of the inflaming and fever and weakness from the expenditure of energy for your immune system will make you feel sick and tired.
If you are re-exposed to the same antigen in the future, the memory B cells will still be around, detecting them faster and fighting back without you even noticing.
Dangers of Unvaccinated Children
I say ‘children’ because dead people don’t grow old.
Vaccinations depend on other people being immune. Unvaccinated children are extra-dangerous because they break the herd immunity. They also put others at risk as well.
Children’s immune systems are only recently developed. Most of the defenses they learned was while they were in the womb or through drinking breast milk. Immunity to more severe or rapidly changing diseases like influenza or chicken pox is naturally learned by sucking toes and being smothered in drool.
High rates of coverage are important. It takes only one child to become a big disease-spreading machine to cause an outbreak.
Outbreaks are classified as the sudden increase of disease in a time and place. Outbreaks can affect thousands or few, but the point is that unvaccinated children harboring disease stop the whole point of being immunized in the first place.
The flu comes and goes predictably each year. The flu vaccine is usually a combined vaccine to provide immunity for the diseases that are predicted to strike during flu season.
But the flu is just the gateway disease that opens the door for ear infections, sinus infections, and pneumonia from all of the fluid buildup.
The death rates for the flu change each year. The ambiguity of the death rates occurs mostly from states not being required to report this information to people like the CDC. However, states are required to provide reports on the deaths of children, which is why we have an abundance of info on children and influenza but not the people reading this post.
I use the term “In Short:’ a lot.
Also, unvaccinated people are at serious risk for disease and pose a serious risk for people around them.
Currently, 17 states in the US allow vaccine exemptions. There was a recent measles outbreak due to unvaccinated people in Washington, which is extremely concerning.
There was also a 30% increase in measles due to a lack of vaccine coverage last year.
We need to remove personal belief exemptions so that we can protect those who have medical exemptions.
If that was too complicated for the anti-vaxxers, let me simplify: