By Daniel Stratton & Tanisha Gupta
For many years, measles was not a prominent issue in the United States. However, recently, measles has spread across the United States to 14 states. This sudden outbreak, which started in Disneyland, California, has ignited a furious vaccine debate amongst doctors, politicians and parents across the nation.
Fundamentally, there are three simple arguments in favor of vaccines. First, they save lives in a safe and effective manner. Second, they save time and money. Third, they protect the spread of infectious diseases to current and future generations.
“I am absolutely for vaccinations!” said science teacher, Ms. Allen. “As a biology person, thinking back historically all these infectious diseases that we vaccinate people for are a lot worse than the potential side effects for the majority of the population. There may be individuals that will find out as time goes by are genetically more predisposed to having problems with vaccinations but the incidence is so low that it is absolutely ridiculous that people are avoiding vaccinations as a result.”
There are three main types of parents who choose to abstain from vaccinations. First, are those who choose to not vaccinate for religious reasons. While we do believe everyone has the right to express their religion, choosing not to vaccinate not only involuntarily puts one’s own children at risk of disease and death, but also puts other children at risk, especially babies who are too young to be vaccinated.
Secondly, parents are paranoid to vaccinate after the release of a report published in 1998 linking the MMR vaccination to the development of autism in children. Unbeknownst to the greater public, the report was based largely on false evidence and improper research. The report was widely criticized, and in 2010, it was fully retracted, described as being completely false. While a few parents around the US still believe in this risk, the number of parents who choose not to vaccinate based on this report is largely decreasing.
Thirdly, many well-educated and financially-stable parents are choosing to force their children into an “all-natural” lifestyle. As a result, they abstain from vaccinations, as they are unnatural. This rationale is based on a selfish interest, and not only puts their own children at a high risk for contracting many proven preventable diseases, but also puts in danger everyone else in the United States by allowing a channel for diseases to spread nationwide. It takes an outbreak of measles to spread to 14 states before people realize that these diseases are still real, and that we are not immune to them unless we take precautions, and even still, parents will make every excuse to defend their choice of putting their children at risk for measles, which if not cared for, can lead into a fatal disease.
Melinda Gates put it best when she said in a Huffington Post interview that “we take vaccines so for granted in the United States. Women in the developing world know the power of [vaccines]. They will walk 10 kilometers in the heat with their child and line up to get a vaccine, because they have seen death. [Americans have] forgotten what measles deaths look like.”
In sum, research has shown that vaccines are safe and effective. Choosing to leave children unprotected from a deadly yet preventable disease is not only unsafe, but selfish as it provides a channel for diseases to return and spread to others.