Editorial: Crisis of common sense, vaccines in America

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared measles to be eradicated in the United States in 2000. However, over 100 cases have been reported in 2019, spread across 21 states. While the major outbreaks have widely been contained, scientific evidence points to parents who declined to have their school-aged children vaccinated for this reemergence of the disease.


Although every state requires vaccination for admission to school, 48 states allow parents to opt out for religious reasons, and 20 allow the declination of vaccines for “personal or philosophical reasons.” In many states, these exemptions are loosely granted. In Washington, for example, where a state of emergency was declared due to the gravity of the measles outbreak, nearly a quarter of kids attending schools have not received the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine due to this allowance.  


Many of these parents avoided the now-considered-routine acts of having their children vaccinated due to the debunked “medical science” which claimed that vaccinations cause autism. Although leading scientists worldwide have proven this theory wrong, some parents are unable to let go of the lingering fear that fuels this movement.


A portion of the public’s trust in vaccines has become so thoroughly eroded that we are now in the midst of a public health crisis. The possible undoing of the eradication of highly contagious and infectious diseases lies in the actions of the collective “anti-vax” individuals. Vanquishing this vaccination aversion will require aggressive campaigning and sweeping legislative change. The first step of launching such a campaign is overcoming the public’s resistance: we need a substantiated counter-narrative to the public’s irrationality, effective and poignant public health warnings, and a reminder of the chaos that accompanies the rampant diseases such as the measles. Educating the public on the countless benefits associated with vaccination would be a powerful step in decreasing vaccination resistance.


It must be emphasized that vaccines are not only necessary for personal protection, but also for the greater goal of public health. Schools should play a crucial role in underscoring the importance of allowing their children to be vaccinated. When parents choose not to have their child vaccinated, they display a blatant disregard for not only the health and safety of their own child, but also towards individuals who are medically ineligible to get vaccines, such as pregnant women, chemotherapy patients, and babies under 12 months old. Therefore, the people who are medically eligible to receive vaccines have the responsibility of getting a vaccination in order to protect those who cannot.


Just a few generations ago, children’s lives were taken or seriously affected by illnesses like polio and measles, which, due to scientific breakthroughs like vaccines, are entirely preventable today. We must recognize the progress we have made since then and continue with medical advancement. Perhaps it is time for legislation that makes it more difficult to receive an exemption from vaccination. We are at a public health crossroads – do we choose proven effectiveness of vaccinations or an unsubstantiated fear that puts lives at risk?

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