Changing our anti-vaccination nation
February 5, 2015
A few weeks ago, our family friend from California called us, letting us in on her town gossip: Several kids in her son’s school were sent home because their parents refused to get them the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, simply because they didn’t believe in it.
Because measles is an extremely contagious respiratory disease that can lead to pneumonia, ear infections and even death, my mom and I were baffled and wrote this story off as crazy parenting. However, it seems that this is becoming a more popular stance in America, which is increasingly alarming.
Measles had been termed as an eliminated disease in the United States just in the year 2000 due to the prevalence of the measles vaccine. That is why it is frightening that just this past month, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 102 people from 14 states contracted measles, a number that has still been growing.
What is even more alarming is that despite the resurfacing cases of measles, many parents are still choosing not to vaccinate their children. Such is the case in my family friend’s story under the same pretext: They simply chose not to subscribe to success of the vaccine, but instead, in dramatic and unfounded “side effects” they believe in. They even went as far as claiming that all their child needs is a healthy lifestyle and natural immunity.
Multitudes of Americans are joining the anti-vaccine movement, which may be turning this nation’s health victory into health defeat.
Much of the anti-vaccinators’ cries are based upon misinformation. After the scare of Dr. Andrew Wakefield claiming that the MMR vaccine would lead to autism, many Americans were fearful for their own children and strayed away from the vaccine. However, later research found that Dr. Wakefield’s work was dishonest and fraudulent.
Even now, doctors are encouraging their patients that the adverse effects that many fear are extremely rare. The most drastic side effects doctors have seen so far have ranged from a fever to a mild rash. The mild rash only occurs in about 1 percent of those who take the vaccine.
Even more so, the vaccine itself is extremely effective: the MMR vaccine has shown that more than 95 percent of the people who receive a single dose will develop immunity, and if not, full immunity will likely be developed after the second dose.
At the University of Illinois, each student must show proof of receiving the MMR vaccination before entering the school starting freshman year.
While our campus’s health staff seems to be aware of the consequences this disease carries, many misinformed family members, friends and perhaps even neighbors do not.
Parents are weighing the side effects against what they think is a virtually nonexistent disease, which is therefore leaving children and even young adults across the nation defenseless and at risk of contracting it.
They could not be more wrong.
Measles infects 90 percent of people who are exposed to the disease. This contagious disease and its ability to both sicken and kill children who have not been vaccinated is what I think makes vaccination so vital.
This past December, after the outbreak in Disneyland, 20 children were infected. It then spread to the general public. It seems clear to me that it should not take children suffering to convince people to follow basic vaccination recommendations from physicians who have already found the vaccine safe and incredibly effective.
While there should be a balance between personal freedom and public safety, I’m not sure the current balance is the correct one. Before we see parents making the decision whether or not to vaccinate their children, and children we might come in contact with — even just in passing — we need to look at all aspects of medicine and research to reach an informed decision.
Every adult should think twice before putting off a measles vaccine. After all, there is no justifiable reason for putting innocent children and others at risk for the choices that we make.
Melinda Gates, co-chair of the The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation stated it best when questioned in an interview about the effectiveness of the vaccine. “We’ve forgotten what measles deaths look like. We’ve forgotten … the scourges they used to be. But in Africa, the women know death in their children and they want their children to survive … We’re incredibly lucky to have that technology, and we ought to take advantage of it.”
It is now time that, as a nation, we are not overwhelmed by so many choices yet choose to not even make one; we shouldn’t be surrounded by so much valid, scientific information yet choose to become and remain misinformed. Instead, let’s end this measles epidemic, one informed choice at a time.
Kaanan is a freshman in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected].