By opting out of vaccinating children, parents are putting greater public at risk, opening door for preventable diseases to flourish
The recent outbreak of measles in the United States has rekindled the debate over immunization, a debate that should have been settled a long time ago.
From Jan. 1-30, 102 cases of measles were reported in 14 states. Most of these stem from an outbreak that started in Disneyland earlier this year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The sad thing is that all of this could have been avoided.
The vaccine for the disease has existed since the ’60s, and the CDC declared measles eliminated in 2000.
Since then, there have been numerous outbreaks of the disease. In 2014, there were 644 cases, the most since 1994 according to The New England Journal of Medicine. According to the CDC, most people who get measles are unvaccinated.
The reason that this outbreak is even happening is because there are still people in modern-day America who believe that vaccines are either wrong or hurtful.
Every state requires students to get vaccinated for diseases such as polio, but there are exemptions to these laws. Some are for medical reasons, but others are for much less substantial reasons.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 20 states allow exemptions for vaccinations based on parents’ personal beliefs. These can be anything from to philosophical to religious justifications.
One of the main reasons people have taken a stance against vaccination is the spread of rumors about the side effects they cause. In 1998, Andrew Wakefield, who at the time was a licensed doctor, published a study in a British medical journal that linked autism with the measles vaccine.
The effect was almost immediate. In 2002, a survey done by the BBC reported that approximately 50 percent of British medical professionals said parents were less willing to allow their children to be vaccinated.
Even though this study was discredited in 2010 when it was discovered that Wakefield stood to gain money from his findings, the damage done by this “study” have been long lasting.
Not only do the vaccinations not cause autism, but they also have been proven to prevent the diseases they are made to fight. No parents in their right minds would expose their children directly to something that would hurt them, but that is what they are inadvertently doing when they oppose vaccinations.
For years, people who have held personal choice over public safety have stood in the way of the simplest measures to ensure the well being of others. Because of this, the United States has fallen behind in its rate of vaccinations.
The World Health Organization recommends that children be vaccinated for measles at least once before their first birthday.
According to WHO, Libya, Russia, China, Zimbabwe and Iran all have higher immunization rates for 1-year-olds than the United States. That’s just a short list. Nearly every country in Europe is more effective at immunizing their young. All told, 113 countries have higher immunization rates than the United States for 1-year-olds.
As the world continues to advance in medical technology and science, it sometimes seems society is taking one step forward and two steps back. For the first time in history, humans have the chance to wipe diseases that have caused so much pain and struggle off of the face of the planet.
By not using vaccines, people are choosing to allow those diseases to flourish. If choice continues to make more sense to people than logic and science, those choices will continue to cause unnecessary pain.