The “anti-vaccine” movement is wreaking havoc in communities across the United States. It seems that rumors on parenting blogs have played a role in the recent uptick in refusals to vaccinate. Some blogs site religious beliefs. Other blogs tout the benefits of an organic lifestyle’s ability to overcome disease. Parents choosing not to vaccinate should question what will happen when their child gets sick and needs to take drugs in order to survive. There is never a 100% guarantee for anything. Risking the odds of contracting a serious, possibly fatal virus by refusing to get vaccinated seems absurd in today’s high tech information age.
Vaccines weren’t always so readily available. In fact, it was only 70 years ago in the 1940s that children were dying from outbreaks of measles, mumps and hepatitis B. Due to the invention of 40 different vaccines by Dr. Maurice Hilleman and better hygiene practices, over 732,000 lives will have been saved just over the past two decades. Current generations including Millennials, Gen Xers and Gen Yers appear to take disease free communities and longer life spans for granted. If these same generations had talked to their grandparents rather than browse online blogs perhaps this movement could have been avoided. Instead, we see the rise of diseases like Chickenpox, Measles and Influenza that can have serious consequences to young children and grandchildren.
Not only is it important to think of the safety of our loved ones, but we must think of our communities and society as whole. A concept known as “Herd Community” focuses on the impact to entire populations worldwide. Because travel is so readily available, disease can spread farther and faster than ever before making it even harder to contain to a small population. If the majority of people are vaccinated, the community as a whole is more protected against a disease; as it is harder for the virus to penetrate the population and even the non-vaccinated people of the “herd” have a smaller chance of getting sick. Unfortunately, due to the “antivaccine” movement in the US, diseases that were nearly extinct like Whooping Cough and Polio have begun to appear. The sad part is the unvaccinated children will suffer the most, as they will be the ones feeling the full impact.
There are many rumors and untruths related to vaccinations. However, the current facts showing the evolution of vaccination, demonstrate that vaccinating children is safe and effective. For example, in 1999 Thimerosal, the substance associated with Autism, was voluntarily removed from vaccines by the pharmaceutical companies. Furthermore, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) has substantiated that once harmful chemicals used in the 70s have been removed and vaccines are safe and effective. Should the anti-vaccination trend become more prevalent all of the people we come in contact with on a daily basis including family and friends will be at risk. Therefore, I urge everyone, especially parents of young kids, to research the current facts and statistical importance of vaccinations and then get vaccinated!
Here are some articles to help get you started:
LA Times: Sunday, September 7, 2014 front page, A vaccination heretic, by Paloma Esquivel