The benefits of vaccines outweigh the risks, Dr. Alfred DeMaria Jr., director of the Bureau of Communicable Disease Control said Monday night.
Dr. Alfred DeMaria Jr., director of the Bureau of Communicable Disease Control, gave a lecture on the roles of vaccines in disease prevention as part of Boston College’s 2008-09 Ph.D. Colloquia on Monday night. About 25 graduate students and Ph.D. candidates attended.
Administering vaccinations to children has greatly decreased the numbers of deaths by communicable diseases, DeMaria said. Today, many of the diseases that plagued the country in the past are rare if not entirely eradicated. Smallpox, polio, measles and mumps are among the diseases that at one point were serious problems for our nation’s health.
DeMaria said vaccinations have come a long way since they were first invented and have even made huge leaps and bounds just in his lifetime.
‘I can remember being kept indoors and an incredible sense of fear of polio,’ DeMaria said in reference to the state of vaccinations during his childhood.
DeMaria said when vaccinations were used in the 18th century, they were administered person-to-person, meaning a person with smallpox would open their wound and expose another person to the virus.
‘Even recently added vaccines [like Hepatitis B] already have a substantial impact,’ DeMaria said.
But while the number of deaths from these preventable diseases goes down, the number of reasons why people cannot or will not get vaccinated goes up, DeMaria said. In 1998, British doctors published a report linking early childhood vaccines with symptoms of autism. However, DeMaria said he thinks the studies have failed to show any direct link between the vaccinations and autism.
‘Vaccines have stimulatory bad effects, but diseases have far worse affects,’ DeMaria said.
DeMaria said many parents think they are forced to weigh the potential risks of the vaccines with the potential risks of the diseases. Other parents think that the natural infection is better than the immunization, but DeMaria doesn’t believe this is true. He said the potential side effects from prescriptions used to treat diseases are worse than the potential risks of vaccination.
‘It’s better only if you survive,’ DeMaria said.
Despite the benefits of modern vaccinations, 28 states currently allow parents to refrain from immunizing their children for religious reasons. Another 20 states allow parents to exempt their children for philosophical reasons, DeMaria said.’
‘If you Google search ‘immunization,’ you don’t get the Centers for Disease Control, you get all of those anti-immunization sites,’ DeMaria said.’
‘Vaccines are safe and effective, that’s the bottom line,’ DeMaria said.
Martha Healy, a first year Ph.D. student at Boston College, attended the lecture to get a better understanding of the vaccinations available at this time, she said.
‘Vaccinations really help the individual as well as society, and we’ve seen it,’ Healy said.
Lisa Wolf, an emergency nurse, said her experience in the field requires her to be aware of the rare diseases that may appear. Not many people are really aware of what smallpox looks like anymore, she said.
‘I’d want to show people pictures,’ Wolf said.