Snyder: Anti-vaccination movement poses serious threat



Stephen Snyder

In high density populations such as cities or universities, the risk of spreading infectious diseases is heightened. However, here in the United States, the risk of contracting serious illnesses like Ebola, polio or the measles is almost negligible due to our medical advances. So only third world or developing nations still have to combat those deadly illnesses, right?

For a time, that may have been true, but the growing trend of parents choosing not to vaccinate their children for fear of vaccinations being linked to increased probability of autism is bringing illnesses like the measles back into the national spotlight.

A different kind of high population density area has learned that lesson the hard way. In the past week, more than 85 cases of measles have been reported, stemming from Disneyland in Southern California. The disease has now spread into Mexico, as far east as Nebraska and maybe even as far north as Alaska.

The anti-vaccination movement has been growing in recent years thanks to outspoken “activists” such as Jenny McCarthy — yeah, the woman who hosts the New Year’s Eve show. McCarthy has written books on the subject, and according to McCarthy, her expertise in the dangers of vaccinations comes from the “University of Google.” This is an even less intelligent way of saying “I base my world view on things the internet says are true.”

McCarthy wrote a letter last year to the Chicago Sun Times to declare her stance on vaccinations has been misinterpreted and misrepresented, but her past comments on the subject betray her new claims. No matter how McCarthy has pushed the anti-vaccination agenda, one overzealous B-list celebrity couldn’t have started this entire movement on her own.

The fears concerning autism through vaccination began with the British scientist Andrew Wakefield publishing a report, which linked autism rates to vaccinations, a report that has since been proven false, not to mention the research process was found to be unethical.

So now that we have — and have had for years — overwhelming evidence that anti-vaccination supporters often rely on faulty logic and obsolete science, why does the movement continue to gain momentum?

The responsibility of a parent is to protect their child by whatever means they see fit. For most parents, that protection includes getting them vaccinations that have been proven effective and driven many diseases — measles included — to the edge of existence in the United States. However, there is a fearful portion of parents who got the idea in their head and won’t let it be shaken out, regardless of what the scientific community says.

The government, nor any other organization, has the ability as of yet to require vaccinations for children. The decision is entirely up to the parents and you know what, that’s fine. If, as a parent, you feel that your child is better off not being protected against some of the most dangerous illnesses in the world, then the responsibility and the consequence falls squarely into your hands. However, when the health of a vaccinated child is put in risk because of the decision of another parent, a certain level — a high level — of outrage is justified.

Even the measles vaccination, which is the most effective of all vaccines at 97 percent effectiveness, according to the CDC, is not bulletproof. Vaccinated children still stand a chance of contracting the measles, so having unvaccinated children around, who are obviously much more susceptible to the illness, drastically increases the risk of the disease spreading. From this possibility comes legislation, which allows schools to ask that unvaccinated children remain home from school for an extended period when they have a vaccine-preventable disease and some parents are asking to have unvaccinated children barred from their schools entirely.

The argument is not as simple as “I don’t vaccinate my child, so vaccinate your own child and they should be fine.” Children who are too young to receive vaccines are caused unnecessary risk, along with children who are medically unable — like those recovering from chemotherapy — to receive vaccines.

The rights of a parent to leave their child vulnerable to preventable illness should not be allowed to infringe upon the ability of parents who show an obviously superior understanding of scientific and medical processes to protect their own children.

This isn’t guess work we’re talking about. These aren’t trial vaccinations or even remotely new concepts. These immunization methods are precise and have proven to be effective for generations. Ignoring some of the most important developments in the history of medicinal science is not admirable. You are not doing your child a favor. You are not doing anyone in the world anything other than harm.