If you’ve been paying attention to the news, you’ve probably heard about the measles outbreak that began in California last December after, it’s rumored, a group of people who had not been vaccinated against the disease visited Disneyland.
According to an update published by ABC World News on February 9, currently 17 states have felt the effects of the measles outbreak, including Illinois.
Over 82% of the first people diagnosed with measles during this outbreak did not receive the full dosage of the vaccine, which is commonly given to young children and for most states is required before children are allowed to enter school. However, as seen with the measles outbreak, there has been a recent trend of parents neglecting to let doctors vaccinate their children, which has led to an increase in preventable diseases.
While there may be many reasons why parents might choose not to vaccinate their children, the two of the most cited are religious reasons and fear of either the vaccine not working or causing some other damaging effect to the children.
Religious exemptions to vaccines are something that I do understand. Just like if it were against my religion to do something, I would want the ability to abstain just like the people seeking religious exemptions to vaccines.
However, I wholeheartedly believe that parents who neglect to have their children vaccinated, even when done for religious purposes but especially when done for other reasons, are causing more harm than good both for their children and for every single child in the world.
This problem extends well beyond the measles outbreak, too. Every fall, people everywhere refuse to be vaccinated against the flu.
An unvaccinated person can still carry a disease and make others sick in the process, even if the unvaccinated person doesn’t ever actually show signs of being sick. Someone in the prime of his or her life with a healthy immune system can successfully fight off a disease and never show signs of it. The young, elderly, and sick are at an increased risk of catching diseases than younger people with stronger immune systems.
Thus, it is not only ourselves that we are protecting when we choose to get vaccinated. Rather, and perhaps more importantly, we are protecting the people around us.
That being said, choosing not to get yourself vaccinated or neglecting to vaccinate your children is a selfish choice. Some people may cite certain studies that have “shown” that vaccines cause autism to develop in some children.
This idea emerged from research that Andrew Wakefield, who has since been barred from practicing medicine, did in the 1990s. As part of his study, he “showed” that the MMR vaccine, which is given to prevent mumps, measles, and rubella, caused some children to develop autism. However, it was soon revealed that he acted without the consent of the Institutional Review Board and more recent studies have shown that his findings were blatantly wrong and that there was no foundation for his claim. However, even though his findings have been thoroughly disproved, some parents still believe his claim and choose not to vaccinate their children, thus putting them and every other child that they come into contact with at serious risk.
Vaccines work. They are merely a dead virus that is incapable of causing a disease placed inside a body in order to stimulate the body’s immune system to build up the antibodies required to fight off the disease. There are, of course, very minor risks associated with them, but is it really worth the possibility that you or your child might contact a life-threatening disease or spread it to other children?
Technology has made it possible for us to have these medical advancements, so we would be wise to use them.
Katie Linder, from Jacksonville, Illinois, is a sophomore majoring in English at Illinois College. Katie is an opinions writer for The Rambler, a consultant in the Campus Writing Center, and a member of the IC concert choir.