Can vaccines actually give you the disease they are meant to prevent?
No. Inactivated vaccines contain dead viruses or bacteria. When administered, these vaccines are similar enough to the disease to generate an immune response, but since they are dead, they do not cause illness.
Live-attenuated vaccines contain a weakened version of the virus or bacteria. The virus or bacteria is just strong enough to get the immune system to recognize it as the disease, but since it is not the disease itself, it cannot make you sick. The only exception would be in people whose immune systems are severely compromised. For these individuals, their immune system is so fragile that they may not be able to turn a vaccination into immunity, so the vaccine simply doesn’t work for them.
In both cases, the vaccine cannot make you sick.
The oral polio vaccine is no longer used in the United States, because in about 1 of every 2.4 million recipients, the live, weakened virus contained in the oral polio vaccine reverted back to the wild type (the disease-causing virus) and caused paralysis. Though this was a rare event, it was withdrawn from the US and the inactivated version, which contains dead virus, is used instead.
If vaccines are safe, why is there a national Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP), and why has this paid out over four billion dollars since its creation in 1988?
Vaccines are safe. Because they are given to otherwise healthy individuals, they are held to the highest safety standards. (Remember the hippocratic oath: “first, do no harm”). They are safer than aspirin and definitely safer than getting the disease they are meant to prevent. But safe in this context does not mean the risk is zero. On very rare occasions, vaccines can cause side effects, some of which can be serious, but even given that reality, getting a vaccine is a safer choice than choosing not to get a vaccine.
For example, measles has a mortality rate of about 1 to 2 per 1000 (0.01 to 0.02%). Before there was a vaccine, about 500 people died per year from measles (8). Between 1989 and 1991, there was an outbreak during which 55,622 cases were reported and 123 people died; 49% of those deaths were children younger than 5 years old (9). By contrast, since the introduction of the measles vaccine in the 1960s, there have been case reports of only 6 deaths with the measles vaccine, all involving the vaccine being given to patients with severely compromised immune systems (6).
The VICP had 120 compensable claims and 126 non-compensable claims for the MMR vaccine from 2006 to 2017. During this period, 101,501,714 doses were distributed, so the number of claims made represents a rate of 0.000242% of the total number of people who received the MMR vaccine (7) . By comparison with those numbers, you are twice as likely to give birth to conjoined twins (30) and 35 times more likely to get struck by lightning (31).
Vaccination is a choice, and it is safer to get a vaccine than it is to choose to go without a vaccine.
If there is scientific consensus around the safety of vaccines, why are some doctors and nurses speaking out against vaccines?
Some people who have obtained a medical degree or a nursing degree have decided to speak out against vaccines. These people represent a small minority of practitioners and are operating against the beliefs of every major medical association and volumes of international scientific research. Many of them are capitalizing on their stance against vaccines by selling advertising space or merchandise on their websites. They have chosen to exploit the anxiety surrounding the impending parenthood of mothers- and fathers-to-be. They present their own feelings as fact, ignoring all the evidence (and there is an overwhelming amount of it) to the contrary.
What is the VAERS? Why do we have it if vaccines are safe?
The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) is a national vaccine safety surveillance program run by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). VAERS serves as an early warning system to detect possible safety issues with vaccines in the U.S. by collecting information about adverse events that occur after vaccination. The law requires the reporting of all adverse events occurring within 30 days of vaccination to VAERS.
Approximately 30,000 VAERS reports are filed each year. About 85% to 90% of the reports describe mild side effects such as fever, arm soreness and crying or mild irritability. The remaining reports are classified as serious, which means that the adverse event resulted in permanent disability, hospitalization, life-threatening illness or death. Reports of an adverse event or possible side effect after vaccination do not necessarily mean that the vaccine caused the specified problem. VAERS reports help alert scientists to possible cause-and-effect relationships that require further investigation. While these problems happen after vaccination, it is rare that they actually end up being caused by the vaccine.