The debate surrounding vaccines is nothing short of ridiculous. Not only that, it's dangerous. Anti-vaxxers are spreading misinformation and causing a public health risk.
This senseless discussion has come to the forefront of the public's attention in recent weeks due to an outbreak of measles. While "patient zero" hasn't been identified yet, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has determined that it all started at Disneyland back in December. At present, there are 84 cases across 14 states.
This has concerned public health officials a great deal due to the fact that the virus is entirely preventable. Measles used to be fairly common until a vaccine was introduced in 1963 and by 2000 it was declared eliminated in the United States.
Why has it returned? Public health officials believe that "patient zero," the individual who first contracted the virus, was surrounded by people who aren't vaccinated. Measles is incredibly contagious and spreads rapidly. Thus, if you're not vaccinated, you have an extremely high risk of contracting it.
In response to these developments, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie contended that parents should have "some measure of choice" when it comes to vaccinating their kids. These remarks generated a great deal of controversy and backlash:
Chris Christie's vaccine and Ebola stances are so incredibly at odds with each other, you can barely wrap your head around it. — Matt Pearce (@mattdpearce) February 2, 2015
I'm no expert, but taking Chris Christie's advice on health is probably not the best move. #vaccineswork — Samelson (@j_samelson) February 2, 2015
Gov. Chris Christie believes women don't have say over their own bodies but believes parents have a choice on what diseases get brought back — Connor Turcotte (@ConnorPTurcotte) February 2, 2015
Governor Christie was attempting to make the argument that the government shouldn't attempt to control parents' choices when it comes to their children's health. Yet, this isn't a matter of control, it's common sense.
Vaccines have been made a political issue, but the science behind their necessity is irrefutable.
There are no shades of grey in this discussion; it's a black and white issue. Vaccines are necessary and practical. Here are six reasons why people need to stop listening to anti-vaccination propaganda and get their kids vaccinated:
1. Vaccines are extremely effective and beneficial.
Vaccines are drugs that help the body build immunity to certain diseases. The more people who are immune to a disease, the less likely it is to spread, which increases the likelihood for it to become completely eradicated.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the only thing that helps reduce the burden of infectious disease better than vaccines is clean water. Yet, even with widespread access to clean water, vaccines are still necessary.
The WHO argues that vaccination greatly reduces disease, disability, death and inequity across the world.
Indeed, vaccines have saved hundreds of millions of lives.
They don't prevent disease 100 percent of the time, but they are highly effective. For example, measles is one of the most infectious diseases around, yet just one dose of the measles vaccine is 95 percent effective.
It's also much cheaper to prevent a disease than to treat it. Hence, vaccines are good for the economy.
2. Vaccines have helped eliminate some of the most fatal diseases in history.
Vaccines have been used to completely eradicate smallpox and rinderpest (which impacts cattle).
Not to mention, they've also helped the US almost completely eradicate diphtheria, bacterial influenza, measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus and more.
3. Science says that you're an idiot for thinking vaccines are harmful.
The anti-vaccination movement largely began in 1998, when a study was released linking vaccines to autism. Ultimately, the paper was deemed seriously flawed, and the journal that published it retracted it.
In spite of this, the myth surrounding a link between vaccination and autism has persisted, as have others. These myths, such as the belief that vaccines contain mercury, are unfounded and false.
Simply put, the claim that vaccines cause long-term health problems is completely untrue. Vaccines can cause minor and serious side-effects, but these are both extremely rare.
4. Doctors, health organizations and public health officials agree that you should get your children vaccinated.
The vast majority of the scientific and medical community supports vaccination and says it's safe.
This includes the American Academy of Pediatrics, National Institutes of Health, National Academy of Sciences, World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
5. Unvaccinated children put other kids at risk.
When parents decide not to have their children vaccinated they put other lives at risks. Babies cannot receive most immunizations until they reach a certain age.
For example, infants cannot receive the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) during their first 12 months. This means that the current measles outbreak is particularly dangerous for babies.
It also means that anti-vaxxers are selfishly placing other people's children in danger because of their own ignorance and obstinance.
6. The spread of disease is much more likely when people are unvaccinated.
As the chart below from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases reveals, even a small number of unvaccinated people increase the likelihood of a disease spreading.
This is because vaccinated people serve as a shield of sorts, or buffer zone, for those who are at risk. What is described here is a process known as community immunity, or "herd immunity."
Luckily, a majority of American adults support vaccination. Yet, as we've highlighted, when a small percentage of the population is unvaccinated, it can put everyone else at great risk. This is particularly true for babies and people with weak immune systems.
At the height of the Ebola scare last autumn, many people were furious with the doctors and aid workers returning from West Africa. They argued that they were putting the entire country at risk in order to save foreign populations.
In truth, Ebola isn't very contagious, and these people were working to prevent a global outbreak in a region with poor infrastructure and limited resources. In other words, they were risking their lives to save ours.
Comparatively, anti-vaxxers are actively endangering future generations. If you want to be mad at someone for putting public health at risk, be mad at them. Simply put, anti-vaxxers pose much more of a threat to America than Ebola ever did.
Citations: 9 things everybody should know about measles (Vox), Everything you need to know about vaccines (Vox), Community Immunity (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases), Myths and facts about vaccination (WHO), Attitudes and Beliefs on Science and Technology Topics (Pew Research Center), Why this babys mom is so angry at the anti vaxxers (The Washington Post), Opting Your Kid Out of Vaccination Thats Sickening (Slate), Congress Promotes Dangerous Anti vaccine Quackery (Slate), An anniversary worth celebrating (Discover), Christie said parents should have choice on vaccinations (The New York Times), Christie takes fire over controversial vaccine comments (Vox), Vaccine Critics Turn Defensive Over Measles (The New York Times), Christie clarifies comments on measles vaccine after call for balance causes stir (The Washington Post), Vaccination greatly reduces disease disability death and inequity worldwide (WHO)