A photo of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his five-week-old daughter Max sparked a conversation about vaccination on the social media site.
The 31-year-old Facebook CEO posted on Jan. 8 a photo of him and his daughter with the caption, "Doctor's visit- time for vaccines!"
Zuckerberg's post garnered more than 85,000 likes in less than 15 minutes, and has now accumulated more than 3 million likes. Although the post does not explicitly promote vaccination, many anti-vaxxers and anti-vaccination sentiments surfaced on the post's comments section.
One Facebook commenter shared her opinion about the potential effects of immunization. "Vaccines are largely ineffective and even if they don't result in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder, as they did for 9 year old Hannah Poling: they are extremely unhealthy," wrote Colleen Kenny.
In contrast, supporters of vaccination flooded the post with positive messages applauding Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan's decision to get Max immunized.
"As someone with autism, with a son with autism, as someone who is constantly watching good people put their own children at serious risk because of old, fraudulent fears of vaccines and autism... thank you for being sensible. Thank you for doing what's right and also for showing everyone else that it's the right thing to do as well," wrote Stuart Duncan.
The Zuckerbergs welcomed Max to the world on Dec. 1, and have been sharing updates about their little girl via social media ever since.
The Facebook CEO has long been a supporter of doctor-recommended vaccines even before his daughter's birth. For his 2015 book club, Zuckerberg chose the book "On Immunity" by Eula Bissas as one of the readings.
"Vaccination is an important and timely topic. The science is completely clear: vaccinations work and are important for the health of everyone in our community," said Zuckerberg.
The Case Of Hannah Poling
In 2000, then 19-month-old Hannah Poling received five vaccinations at the same time because she was behind her vaccine schedule for ear infections. After two days, Hannah became lethargic, feverish and irritable. After two weeks, she developed a rash consistent with vaccine-induced varicella.
After several months, Hannah was diagnosed with encephalopathy, and had delays in brain and mental development. She had problems with speech, language, communication and behavior, all of which are features of autism spectrum disorder.
Hannah's case has since heightened concerns that vaccines may possibly cause the development of autism, along with several other side-effects.
However, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed in a report that there is no direct link between vaccinations and autism.
One vaccine ingredient that researchers have studied is thimerosal, a preservative that prevents contamination of multidose vials of vaccines. Scientists have found that thimerosal does not cause autism.
A 2015 study even found that anti-vaccination websites present significant amounts of pseudoscience and misinformation to support their claims.
"It was being distorted to support an anti-vaccine agenda," said Meghan Moran of the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School, the lead author of the study.
With that, Moran said professionals need to be sensitive with the concerns of vaccine-hesitant parents.
Top Reasons To Get Babies Vaccinated
Experts from the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) and vaccines.gov listed several reasons why a person should get vaccinated.
1. Immunizations can save lives.
Some diseases that once killed thousands of children in an epidemic have been eliminated completely because of vaccines. Polio, for instance, was once the most-feared disease in the U.S., causing paralysis and death across the country. Today, thanks to immunization, the U.S. has been polio-free, the CDC said.
2. Immunizations are safe and effective.
Vaccinations from birth through adulthood can provide lifetime protection against many diseases and viruses. Vaccines are only given to children after a careful review by doctors, scientists and healthcare professionals. According to experts, the major benefits of vaccination outweigh the minor side-effects.
3. Immunizations can keep you from spending money for vaccine-preventable diseases in the future.
Some vaccine-preventable diseases often lead to prolonged disabilities. These diseases can take a financial toll on families because of expensive medical bills for long-term disability care, experts said. Getting vaccinated is a good investment and is usually covered by insurance. The CDC's Vaccines for Children Program provides vaccines to children from families with low incomes.
4. Vaccine-preventable diseases can spread to your relatives and can be lethal.
A vaccine-preventable disease can be deadly to children, grandchildren and other relatives. The NFID said vaccine-preventable diseases are more serious for elders and young children.
5. Vaccinations are as important as exercising and having a healthy diet.
Like exercising regularly, eating right and getting screenings for diseases, vaccines play a vital role in keeping you healthy, the NFID said.