Vaccination is an extremely controversial topic these days. Whatever side of the aisle you may fall with regard to your opinion about vaccination, one thing is for certain. The choice to vaccinate or not is a decision that has the potential to greatly impact the health of you, your children and all of those around you.
Anti-vaxers, as those against vaccination are called nowadays, and those in favor of vaccination often end up in heated conversations that most of the time are never ending. Parents have come under attack, especially in recent weeks, for their choice not to vaccinate. They’ve been shamed on social media platforms and criticized by other mothers and fathers who accuse them of being selfish and uninformed. Yet, is their choice to not vaccinate their children so utterly wrong?
A recent outbreak of measles reported in US, Canada and Europe is something that made many health officials, as well as politicians, to reconsider the “freedom” parents had in their children’s vaccination possibility.
The European measles outbreak, unfortunately, even faced the worst case scenario. In Berlin, a city that saw the biggest measles outbreak since 2001, a 1 ½ year old child has succumbed to the disease. (Source: The Local)
In California, the state with some of the most tolerant childhood immunization laws in the US, the largest outbreak of measles in 15 years has been observed and has spread to 14 other states with 107 cases been reported. Also let’s not forget the 10 children that died in California in 2010 in the worst whooping cough outbreak to sweep the state since 1947.
Right now, under California law there are two ways to get out of having a child vaccinated, one is if you have a medical reason, and the other is if you have a “personal belief” that prevents vaccination.
New laws, however, proposed a few weeks ago in California and in at least 10 other states are promoting a legislation that would leave that medical exception in place and get rid of that “personal belief” part. The proposed laws include a range of approaches, from requiring schools to post immunization rates to entirely eliminating religious and philosophical exemptions and they all respond to one undeniable fact; measles spread more quickly in communities where people who were not vaccinated against the disease.
Anti-vaxers speak of a violation of the Constitution if they are to be forced to vaccinate their children. Those in favor of vaccination, though, speak of the dangers imposed to everyone when people choose not to have their children and themselves vaccinated.
Anti-vaxers strongly believe that their children face no risk for diseases such as polio, measles, tetanus which are rarely seen. Others believe that certain vaccine-preventable diseases, such as chickenpox and measles, are not particularly serious. And many, if not all, worry about the safety of vaccines and the possibility of causing autism.
The “autism causing” fear, however, has been debunked some time ago as it was the result of a scientific paper published in 1998 in the Lancet but which was later retracted as more than a dozen studies have convincingly shown that vaccines do not cause autism and the main author was accused of falsifying the data and ended up losing his medical license.
Still, the recent measles outbreaks have shown that parents who refuse to vaccinate their children do not only put their own family at risk, but they also endanger other families who choose to vaccinate.
It’s critical, public health experts say, that as many people as possible get vaccinated to maintain herd immunity and prevent diseases like measles from spreading and infecting those who can’t be immunized.
Parents want to protect their children from harm, however, a decision to not vaccinate actually places them at unnecessary risk. Parents who choose not to vaccinate their children should understand the risks and responsibilities.
The facts are indisputable
The fact is that measles is one of the most contagious diseases known to man. The fact is that 1 out of every 20 previously healthy children who get the measles will come down with pneumonia. The fact is that 1 out of 1,000 will suffer an inflammation of the brain that can lead to convulsions and mental retardation, and 1 to 2 out of 1,000 will die.
Similarly, chickenpox can lead to severe infections of the skin, swelling of the brain, and pneumonia. Even when no complications arise, chickenpox is painful and triggers high fevers and itchy rashes. Vaccinated children who develop chicken pox (no vaccine is perfectly effective all the time) usually suffer much milder symptoms. (Source: Scientific American)
All parents want the best for their children and often respond fiercely if for example an adult places their child at risk by not placing them in a seat belt. Yet, parents who choose not to immunize their children, don’t they put their children in danger too?
Parents opposing vaccination need to know that vaccines prevent potentially fatal diseases, that vaccines have a high degree of safety, and that their safety is constantly evaluated and reevaluated in a system operating independently from the pharmaceutical companies that make vaccines.
The sooner they understand that, the sooner they will protect themselves and their children from isolation wards, emergency rooms, watching their children suffer with the devastating effects of measles, whooping cough or some other readily preventable infectious disease.