I beg of you, vaccinate your children

by Greta McLaughlin

In April, a London mother posted photos of her baby daughter, sick with measles. She was too young to receive the MMR vaccine for mumps, measles and rubella, and likely contracted the disease from an unvaccinated individual. She was put at risk for blindness, pneumonia and death. Though this took place across the pond, the issue is also prevalent in the U.S.

A Centers for Disease Control study on measles found that from Jan. 1 to May 24, there were 940 cases in the U.S., the largest number reported since 1994. Another CDC study found that the percentage of unvaccinated children under 2 in the U.S. has quadrupled in the last 17 years.

Although the majority of the U.S. population remains immunized, the impact of the anti-vaxxer rhetoric has unprecedented effects on public health. So what started the anti-vax trend?

In 1998, a study was published linking autism to the MMR vaccine. The report was fraudulent and disproved by numerous studies, including one that tested 95,000 children; however, it continues to fuel anti-vaxxer sentiments.

Additionally, the decreased presence of diseases has led to a more lenient view towards immunizations. When the polio vaccine came out in the 1950s, almost everyone received it because the disease was so prevalent. However, since the introduction of more vaccines, such as those for measles and chicken pox, more diseases have declined as well. Consequently, people downplay their severity and presence, leading to a lack of immunization.

Similar to the autism study, anti-vaxxers often state that vaccines can cause dangerous complications. However, this is largely based on mere coincidence rather than direct correlation, as evidenced by a 2011 study by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. An infant may contract an illness shortly after receiving a vaccine, but it’s only because the baby is young and susceptible to becoming sick.

Because of this, if an individual isn’t vaccinated, the risk of contracting actual illness is much larger and usually more serious than the unlikely complications from the vaccine. For example, although there are issues associated with the MMR vaccine, the mumps disease itself can cause deafness, meningitis and even male sterility in those affected after puberty.

However, many people cannot receive vaccinations due to compromised immunity or age. Thus, eligible individuals should be required to get vaccinations to protect others. This is what is known as herd immunity, when everyone else is protected so unvaccinated individuals are at a lesser risk. According to The New York Times, herd immunity only works when a high number of people are immunized, often 95 to 99 percent.

The “right to choose” argument is invalid when preventable diseases have become such a large health issue. There is no reason but foolishness for an infection like measles to suddenly reemerge. Sick children and the immunocompromised population should not be endangered by the senseless ideology of anti-vaxxers.


No, give me the choice

by Jessi Schlewitt

Before you yell at me, I have all my vaccinations, and plan on giving them to my children. However, I do believe that regardless of your beliefs, it’s only fair to evaluate both sides of an argument.

In terms of vaccine exemptions in public schools, each state has different legislation regarding the validity of religious and philosophical exemptions. Washington state recently passed legislation deeming philosophical beliefs against the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine as inexcusable. This caused outrage among the anti-vax community, who were angered that they were forced to do something contradictory to their beliefs.

Ultimately, there is no universal immune system; every child can react differently to vaccines. With many parents wondering if vaccines are actually safe, they’re reasonably unhappy to be told how to parent their children, especially by the government.

In the end, the issue boils down to this: Why should the government tell me what I can or cannot do to my body? For many anti-vaxxers, this isn’t an issue of science as much as it is an issue of policy. They believe in the right to medicate their bodies and their children’s bodies without being dictated otherwise by a higher institution.

Anti-vaxxers deal with backlash as people accuse them of “killing their kids” and say that they caused the reemergence of preventable diseases. Yet, as every child differs, vaccines are not the best option for everyone. Rather than the government dictating parenting, parents themselves should have the choice of whether or not to vaccinate their own children. Ultimately, anti-vaxxers believe they should maintain the right to do their own research and decide what is best for their child before vaccinating.