Eleanna Davos ’20
In the last 10 years, there has been a great uptick in the number of people who have become vocal on not vaccinating their children. While the majority of their claims are unfounded and unsupported, this movement is now becoming a danger to society. Being a parent means doing what is best for your child, following the guidance of physicians and specialists of those who are smarter and more knowledgeable than you.
So why is it that now parents have taken it upon themselves to withhold proper care and decide on behalf of their children? They will not be vaccinated with no reason other than they think (with no medical background) that vaccines will harm their child. There are two schools of thought presented in the anti-vax movement: that vaccines lead to further health complications, some irreversible, and that vaccines are not an effective method. Rather, children should be exposed to the hazards in their environment and will build their immune system that way.
In an ideal world, I suppose parents could do whatever they want to harm their child with no repercussions to society. Considering that is not possible, we need to put this entire movement into perspective and understand that parents making these uneducated cavalier decisions are not only selfish and unintelligent, they are putting other children at risk. One parent’s mindless decision not to properly care for their child is not just a disservice to their own child. They are putting other children around them at risk and in danger on behalf of their own reckless decision.
Immunity is the body’s way of preventing disease. When a baby is born, his/her immune system is not fully developed, which can put him/her at greater risk for infections. Vaccines reduce a child’s risk of infection by working with his/her body’s natural defenses to help safely develop immunity to disease. The vast majority of parents in the United States fully vaccinate their children according to the recommended immunization schedule. Forgoing vaccinations creates a risk of contracting diseases. It also creates risk to communities and vulnerable groups of people who cannot be vaccinated because of their age or health status.
To put this into perspective, many vaccines are unable to be given to newborns, such as the measles vaccine, which is recommended at 12-15 months of age, leaving young children vulnerable. Many diseases are particularly dangerous for young children. There are also some children who can’t be vaccinated, such as pediatric cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment. These children are at increased risk of serious complications or even death. Vaccines are not just about protecting your child. Vaccines protect other children and the entire community. Vaccine-preventable diseases (with the exception of tetanus) are spread from person to person. The decision of a parent to not vaccinate their child can endanger other children and vulnerable people.
Measles has been at the forefront of the anti-vax movement, even though measles has been largely controlled because most people get the very safe and very effective vaccine. We are now seeing dangerous new outbreaks because some parents are refusing vaccines for their children. There have been repeated measles outbreaks in the United States – such as the Disneyland outbreak, among six others this year – because of communities where too many parents refuse the vaccine. To make matters worse, parents are now lying on school registration forms, stating and verifying that their child has been vaccinated just to enroll their child, while keeping the fact that by enrolling their child hundreds of other children are now at risk. Vaccines are not just about protecting your child. Vaccines protect other children and the entire community. Vaccine-preventable diseases are spread from person to person.
The common cold at Trinity spreads like wildfire. Imagine what would happen if people were attending with no form of immunizations, making them perfect targets for diseases and illnesses that we have otherwise protected ourselves from. Communities depend on high immunization rates to keep vaccine-preventable diseases from spreading. When more people are immunized, there is less risk for everyone. The more parents that choose to not vaccinate their children, the greater the risk that infection will spread in the community. The consequences of contracting major illness are not harmless. Measles can cause brain swelling, which can lead to brain damage or death. Mumps can cause permanent deafness. Meningitis can also lead to permanent deafness or brain damage. Vaccines are not a guarantee protector, but they do provide us with the added defensive shield from these illness that we otherwise wouldn’t have.