Anti-vaccination Movement and the Ongoing Denial of Science


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Medical syringe

Lily Ives, Staff Writer

A recent measles outbreak in Washington could have been prevented if parents vaccinated their children.

The uprising of anti-vaxxers has caused too many avoidable deaths and has now been named a global health threat by the World Health Organization as of 2019. This threat ranks similarly with issues such as pollution, ebola, and HIV, among several others.

Many anti-vaxxers believe vaccinations can cause autism, specifically pointing to the mercury-containing ingredient thimerosal, which was formerly included. The CDC has disproved this in various studies over the past 16 years. My question is, why does the fear of a livable disability outrun the fear of a potentially deadly illness? This belief that vaccines cause autism was born out of Dr. Andrew Wakefield and his 1998 research paper on vaccines for measles, mumps, and rubella. This study was full of false statements presented as facts, and Wakefield has since been discredited as a doctor.

A distrust of pharmaceutical companies and the doctors associated with these companies is another cause of concern for these parents. The distrust of doctors, in the case of many autistic-children’s parents, comes from what they have told them in the past. Doctors may tell them that they are overreacting to their child’s symptoms and that they don’t need to worry, when really their concerns can be justified.

The belief that not vaccinating your children has effects only on that child is simply not true. Some children who have specific diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, are unable to receive vaccinations. Therefore, if one purposefully unvaccinated child gets an illness, such as measles, and plays with this other child, they are unfairly passing along an otherwise preventable disease. This concept is similar to that of herd immunity, which is when a population is protected from a disease due to members being vaccinated, therefore unable to transmit illness. The herd immunity concept has been proven by plenty of studies, including some by Oxford University. These children who have weak immune systems are also more susceptible to getting ill, so vaccine or not, these children are posed with a threat to their life. If parents listened to scientists/researchers and vaccinated their offspring, this threat wouldn’t be nearly as concerning.

Some countries have laws requiring vaccinations, yet these laws are not enforced. In most of the U.S., children are required to be vaccinated to go to school. However, most schools allow for medical, philosophical, and religious exemptions. The extent of proof needed for these exemptions can vary depending where one is located. The need for some sort of proof that justifies the lack of vaccination can help prevent the spreading of disease, but without this, children can remain unvaccinated for foolish ideals held by their parents. This puts other kids at risk.
Vaccines are easily obtained during yearly check-ups and are covered by most insurances, therefore, for most families, there is no excuse for lack of vaccination. If we can start to petition against this movement, then we can help save lives and make a better reality for our children.