“Vaccines save lives; fear endangers them. It’s a simple message parents need to keep hearing.” – Jeffrey Kluger
Vaccines have lived in a gray area for a long time in parent’s minds. Parents are conflicted on whom to trust and are confused about what is right for their kids and community. People are experiencing an epidemic where parents are mistaking fear as parenting. Vaccines have been used for centuries as a form of protection to many communities. They have not only saved the lives of those who administered them but those who cannot due to immune deficiencies or other health problems. This is possible through herd immunity. Not only that, but vaccines have advanced way beyond what they were in the beginning. Parents have begun to not trust trained doctors with degrees and started to give in to false information as if doctors or organizations do not have the child’s best interest in mind. Vaccines have been a monumental discovery that has not only protected communities but should be mandated in the US for the sake of public health.
Herd immunity has been very beneficial to society, especially to those who do not have the choice to vaccinate. Herd immunity is the concept that vaccinated people in a community can help be a barrier for those who do not have the option the vaccinate, such as the elderly or people with immune disorders (Darzi 1). Doctors use a lot of information in order to determine the percent of a community that must be vaccinated in order to avoid outbreaks of any disease. Factors such as the number of people immune, the environment and the people that the disease can be transmitted through, and the probability of immunity. For example, if a disease from one infected person infects five people, a community must be more immune than 1 in 5 (England 3). Measles has been found to be the most contagious disease, being that 94% of a population must be vaccinated in order to prevent outbreaks (England 4). Luckily, no one has died from measles since 2004 (Greeve 1). That is because vaccines have become so far ahead of their times.
Vaccinations have come a long way since the beginning of immunizations and are at their safest currently. The very basis of vaccines started with variation, in which a person was injected with a sample of the disease, like smallpox. That developed into using cowpox, which was a weaker form of the disease. Today, vaccines use extremely weak imitators, and scientists now know that vaccines are just causing the immune system to fight off the infection before a real disease can begin (England 2). The CDC states that low vaccine rates and unvaccinated people are what causes outbreaks. Many parents decide to not vaccinate their children through a clause which allows nonmedical vaccine exemptions, which are a worse force to herd immunity compared to the parents who do vaccinate (England 9).
While herd immunity and vaccinations have aided many, there are side effects that can be quite destructive. Barbara Loe Fisher, an Anti-Vaxxer, believes that physicians are keeping from the public catastrophic side effects that vaccines cause (England 5). Although many deadly diseases have been eradicated due to vaccines, some have caused permanent injury or even death (Klicka 1). Some people have contracted a polio infection after receiving a polio vaccine (England 5). The NCVICP has paid $1 billion in damages for families that have been affected by death or injury through vaccinations, and the FDA’s VAERS receives 12,000-14,000 reports (Klicka 1). Sure, no one has died from measles since 2004, but 100 people have died after receiving the MMR vaccine since then (Greeve 1).
Although vaccines do contain side effects, as with any medical drug, the probability of the vaccine being safe outweighs the probability of side effects. In Maryland, there was a 17% increase in peruses cases in 2017. One case included a 7-month-old baby who was delayed in receiving vaccinations. Complications such as this are more likely in young children, that is why timing is important (Meyer 1). The number of preventable outbreaks has skyrocketed. Around the world, there have been 1,330,987 preventable outbreaks of measles (“Global” 1). Many Anti-Vaxxers believe the government is not disclosing side effects and they use vaccines to control communities, which simply is not true. In 1961, an oral form of the polio vaccine was created by Albert Sabin. It began to cause polio infection in some, therefore it was pulled by the CDC in 1998 (England 5). This demonstrates how vaccinologists take their jobs very seriously and withdraw recommendations if concerning side effects occur, especially when it hits close to home, as Sabin’s own son became paralyzed after receiving the vaccine (England 5).
Many parents have decided to refuse vaccines on the basis of fraudulent evidence. An epidemic of ‘fake news’ has plagued the nation in recent years, which has caused concerned parents to reject the MMR vaccine for their children (Darzi 1). The very basis of the fraudulent evidence started with a 1998 study done by Andrew Wakefield. He claimed some vaccines, such as the MMR vaccine, were linked to autism. This caused a huge scare to millions of parents which then discredited vaccine programs which actually worked and saved many lives. Due to Wakefield’s false claims, easily curable diseases such as polio and measles have caused outbreaks (Darzi 3). Susan Senator, once an Anti-Vaxxer, explained that in 1998, she feared that vaccines were the cause of her son’s autism (Senator 1). She reasoned with herself and thought Wakefield’s claims made sense until she heard of Wakefield’s claims being debunked, so she changed her view (Senator 3). Senator found that the autism population had always existed, but had not been acknowledged until recently (Senator 2). To counteract this wave of fear, vaccine advocates have promoted vaccines. In 2014, the promotion of vaccines decreased refusal from 5.4% to 3.6% (Meyer 2).
Refusing vaccines for a child for non-medical reasons can be extremely hazardous to the child, the family, and the community. From 2008-2015, 84,846 preventable outbreaks occurred in North America; this includes measles, polio, and rubella (‘Global’ 1) some people refuse vaccines for religious reasons. One family did so which resulted in the child contracting whooping cough (Klicka 2). This stems from a misinterpretation of Matthew 18:6, which says that no one should cause harm to a child, which brings the question: is vaccinating a child hurting them or protecting them from harm? Parents also fear that there are too many vaccines to receive at once at a certain point in a child’s life, so they spread them out instead of following the CDC schedule. This proved to show no difference in neurophysiological outcomes (Meyer 2).
But at the same time, parents are a child’s mentor and caretaker, therefore, they should make the decision on behalf of the child, especially if the child is too young to consent. The government has sided with parents on this matter it seems as Chris Christie said he understands that ‘… parents need to have some measure of choice in things” (England 1). The government also allows for non-medical exemptions school for mandatory vaccines. States with choice exemptions were found to not have a high percentage of vaccine-preventable illness. According to a CDC survey also, 10-20 cases of polio have been found each year after the vaccine was administered (Klicka 2). Liza Greve witnessed her child get injured after getting the MMR vaccine, so she refused it for her other children (Greve 2). She explained that vaccines are like sports, some are extremely dangerous and life-threatening, so some parents ban their children from participating, while others do not. Greve believes that vaccine mandates will restrict parental rights (Greve 3).
Parents may feel that they have a right to choose what is best for their child, choosing for one person is way less complex than choosing for an entire community. By choosing to refuse vaccines, parents not only endanger their child’s life but the lives of other children, that is why herd immunity is so important. Fear has been instilled in parents over Wakefield’s claim that vaccines are linked to autism (Heuvel 1). This evidence was quickly debunked because no other scientist could replicate the results, and Wakefield had his license revoked (England 5). Another source of this fear has come from celebrities. 1/4 of parents trust information endorsed by celebrities, such as Jenny McCarthy. McCarthy has been a very vocal campaigner against vaccines, her reason being her child has autism. The issue with her statements is that she claimed Google was a better source and proved the link, rather than doctors (Heuvel 2). Her actions have become destructive as they cause parents to find mistrust in trained professionals with degrees.
The power of vaccines and their benefits have been overshadowed by a fear plaguing this issue. The discovery of vaccines have not only saved many communities, but a continuation of their enforcement can help future communities. This concept of herd immunity gives a chance for those who cannot vaccinate to be safe by making others reduce the risk of infection. Many parents have been lied to on the dangers of vaccines through false claims and evidence as well. Through education and empathy, the world can destroy this misconception and fear that vaccines have grabbed a hold of. That they are not evil but rid of the evil that is infection, death, and loss.