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Biological Preparation: Inoculation
Heather Coyne
December 7, 2010

Are vaccines beneficial? A vaccine is a biological preparation that improves immunity to a particular disease. It contains a dead strain of the specific disease which the body fights as if the strain was alive. So, hypothetically, if the person were to encounter the disease in the future, he would have the immunity. However there is a dispute with the morality, effectiveness, ethics and safety of vaccines. Ever since vaccines were created in the 1800s, some people claim mandatory vaccines violate moral and religious beliefs. Some people think you should be vaccinated and others think you should not; I will explore the current controversy.

My investigation is going to illustrate some of the reasons why there is controversy on the use of vaccines, including where government intervenes to insure the success or failure. The questions that motivated my research are: What role should the government have with vaccine development? What should the relationship be between government and vaccine research? Should the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine be mandatory? This research was of importance to me because I want my children to be as healthy as possible and I want to be educated when I make the decision to vaccinate them. My most significant findings of my research is that vaccination is the most controversial routine medical procedure, because vaccines could contain formaldehyde, mercury, beef or horse. Also, when there is a medical scare (such as smallpox) “corporate producers want ‘fast track’ approval” which usually leads to reduced clinical testing (Kurt, 2005).

Since vaccines contain an infection derived from mainly animals, it is the most controversial of all routine medical procedures. Some say “vaccination saves millions of lives and prevents a world of suffering” and the opposition says vaccine induced immunity wears off and is not necessary (Link, 2005). Much of the opposition comes from resentment of mandatory vaccination and each vaccine has unique problems and benefits. For instance, one view is the “chicken pox vaccine is unnecessary and may cause an epidemic of shingles” in the future. Analyzing the cultural foundations of vaccines help understand the challenges targeted.

The definition of vaccine has been transformed in the last fifty years. This is because medical and public health research has become increasingly commercialize. In addition, the government plays a more influential role in vaccine development. The government serves as a “funding source and potential watch dog” when accepting vaccines (Heller, 2008). Being faced with medical scares, such as the smallpox terror and anthrax, corporate producers want ‘fast track’ approval for their vaccines, which often entails reduced clinical testing, and immunity to liability claims. America accepts vaccination as a commercial enterprise. For the producer, “profit introduces more motivation” with corporations developing profitable drugs (Heller, 2008).



The government portrays “all vaccines as life savers-as essential and necessary” even though the vaccine may not apply to everyone (Heller, 2008). Our culture has told us that vaccines are essential to our continued good health. Shari Roan (Moyer, 2009), a journalist from Los Angeles Times, discusses the question of whether politics overtook science in the swine flu scare. She mentions in “Swine flu 'debacle' of 1976 is recalled” that the officials must always keep the public updated on information, even if the officials have no information. The politics suggest that we accept vaccines as a fundamental measure and the government should undergo any measure to obtain them. The article states “more than 500 people are thought to have developed Guillain-Barre syndrome after receiving the vaccine” and resulted in the deaths of 25 people. The government did not see the other side of the cost benefit analysis of the absence of the vaccine “made little difference to morality rates” (Moyer, 2009). Roan concludes that sometimes the vaccine is the victim of its own success.
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In 1976 there was a panic about the swine flu because the 1918-19 flu pandemic killed 50 million people world wide was thought to have some swine components. Further research, however, conclude that the pandemic was the avian flu. Then President Ford called on a mass inoculation, a $137 million program. 40 million Americans waited in long lines at schools and clinics to receive their shots; however the program was halted after ten weeks. Five hundred Americans who were vaccinated developed Guillain-Barre syndrome and 25 people died. Ultimately, the Federal Government paid millions in damages to people or their families. The episode was viewed as a political farce, even though the government erred on the side of caution. Dr. David J. Sencer (Moyer, 2009) comments, “We did not know what sort of virus we were dealing with” and if they had known, they may have acted differently. On the other hand, in Mexico, where 22 people have died from the Swine Flu, the government was criticized by the public for not taking enough action. The public do not understand the “challenges faced by health officials with such a mysterious threat” said Dr. Peter Katona, an infectious disease expert at UCLA. Such a virus is unpredictable and could either burn out or proliferate.

The public has become “dismissive of viable alternatives or careless of possible negative ramifications” because they are led to believe vaccines are an important step to eradicate diseases (Heller, 2008). The public often defaults on them as a ‘quick fix. It is easier to take a vaccine for sexually transmitted diseases than educate people on sexual behavior. Historically, before the age of vaccination, people were conscious of housing and workplace sanitation conditions, as a precaution to sickness. Ever since vaccination, the public is lackadaisical towards healthy working conditions, because of the extra immunity provided.

Major controversy exists with parental decisions on whether vaccinating their child or not. In the US, fewer than 2% of parents refuse to vaccinate their children. Some parents do not believe the vaccines are beneficial because the vaccine contains dead junk. But from a medical perspective, such a view is “illogical and inhibits future medical advances” (Link, 2005). In addition, children who are not vaccinated allow preventable diseases to spread in public schools with the children who have been vaccinated. Still, some vaccinated children still catch the disease because of the waning immunity of the vaccine. Gingy Molacek (Allen, 2007), a teacher at a charter school, believes non vaccinators do not understand the risk analysis; “Sure there’s a risk to immunization but how does it compare to not immunizing?” But what about stay at home mothers, farmers, etc. who are not high risk for catching diseases? Valeria Stone (Allen, 2007), a stay at home mom says in the US there is no point in having her children vaccinated. Molacek responds “Yeah, because every one else is carrying the burden.” (Allen, 2007). Molacek believes Stone has the privilege of not vaccinating/immunizing her children because all the other children are vaccinated. It is similar to “I don’t want to pay my taxes but drive on the public roads and reap the benefits.”

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The Human Papillomavirus (“HPV”) is a common virus that is spread through sexual contact. HPV does not have distinct symptoms, but can lead to cervical cancer and genital warts. The HPV vaccine, a series of three doses (shots), is recommended to females aged 11 and 12. There is much controversy whether females should take the vaccine and if the vaccine should be mandatory. Krishnan (
Krishnan, 2008) recommends the vaccine because it “is not a live virus, but just antigens” meaning one can never obtain the virus from the vaccination. For example, with the H1N1 virus, lab specialists have no time to create antibodies against the disease, so the vaccine consists of the dead virus. Although with the HPV, lab specialists have had time to create antibodies, through yeast cells, for in the vaccine. There are a high percentage of men who carry HPV, but no symptoms or disease ever develop. Most women that are infected by HPV, through sexual intercourse, are not affected, yet, there are a small number who are affected.

Krishnan goes on to say that since HPV is “not an epidemic,” the vaccine should not be mandatory. In the HPV, “men do not get infected and men pass it on to woman” and “no one gets tested.” Approximately 75% of men have HPV and 95% woman have HPV, but most people do not exhibit symptoms. This is similar to the mononucleosis, a common virus which most people unknowingly have. This is because most people are exposed to mononucleosis at an early age, but symptoms do not show because the immune system is just growing. Some people believe that the HPV vaccine is just “protection of their kids encouraging them to commit ungodly acts” by telling them it is okay to engage in sexual activities (Allen, 2007). The HPV vaccine only protects against a few strains and the virus kills only a few people every year. With this new vaccine, though, will “parents of young children reach their tolerance limits for new vaccines” (Heller, 2008)? Some female health advocates ask why the HPV vaccine is not targeted to the male population, because they are the HPV carriers. Others believe there is no need for an HPV vaccine because pap smear tests have reduced the number infected with HPV. The focus of the controversy is usually not about the vaccine itself, but “laws regarding vaccine use or politics of a vaccine designed to protect” a controversial disease, like HPV (Heller, 2008).

Vaccines can cause side effects and their success depends on research, funding, government approval and public acceptance. It takes several years for a vaccine to gain government and then public approval. In order for a vaccine to be successful, more studies and tests of its effectiveness are necessary. Concerning the HPV vaccine, two strains are being tested, however the vaccine is expensive and there is much uncertainty over the efficiency. The rational for mandated vaccines is to protect against epidemics and injury. Furthermore, the public should stay educated with medical advances.


Allen, Arthur. 2007. Vaccine. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York: (1-431).
Heller, Jacob. 2008. The Vaccine Narrative. McLean: Vanderbilt Universtiy Press. (2-155).
Krishnan, Shobha. 2008. The HPV Vaccine Controversy. Wesport: Praeger, (5-363).
Link, Kurt. 2005. The Vaccine Controversy. Wesport: Praeger, . (1-139).
Moyer, Melinda. "Swine Flu Vaccine-->
--Too Little, Too Late." Scientific American. (2009): Print.