Currently, a major debate in the US regarding health surrounds vaccines. In the last decade, an upsurge in anti-vaccination activists have caused a lot of discussion around whether children should be required to receive vaccinations. For the majority of parents, vaccines are undoubtedly necessary in protecting their children and the rest of society from disease. However, some people have opinions that stray from the crowd, just like in other major debates. Although a lot of outsiders question the reasoning and evidence brought up by the anti-vaxxer circle, this kind of conversation calls into question the larger issues at play. Should the government be allowed to force children to be vaccinated to protect the greater community? Or should people be entitled to act on their own opinions regarding this matter? A lot of people disagree with the matter, but I think it is important to examine both sides of the argument in order to fully understand the differing opinions and the potential magnitude of affect those opinions have.
Deadly diseases have plagued humans throughout history. Before the modern era of medicine, parents often feared for their children’s lives due to the constant threat of infection by serious diseases. Polio, Smallpox, Rabies, and Measles are just some examples of the many deadly diseases that have either been eradicated or significantly controlled due to the presence of vaccinations (“Polio”). The first effective vaccine, a vaccine for smallpox, was discovered in 1796 by Edward Jenner (“History”). Some 100 years later, the Rabies vaccine was developed by Louis Pasteur (“History”). Although the initial expansion of vaccines was slow, when the 20th century hit, vaccine research and breakthroughs skyrocketed. Polio, one of the most successful eradications, went from paralyzing thousands of children in the 1940’s to virtually no reported cases since 1979 in the US (“Polio”). Vaccinations have helped many children live happier and healthier lives around the world, and the continuation of the development and expansion of vaccine treatment will broaden its beneficial impact on public health.
The Controversy – Where It Started
In the late 1990’s, a report was released that claimed there was a direct connection between vaccines and autism (“There Is No Link”). Since autism rates in developing countries have increased exponentially in the past 20 years (“Do Vaccines Cause”). Whether this increase is due to the rise in awareness or the change in the definition of autism remains unclear, however, a lot of concerned parents began to blame vaccinations. Despite the article’s retraction and disproval by scientists, it was a key moment in the beginning of the anti-vaccination movement. Since then, an outbreak of the movement has caused a lot of concern amongst public health officials that decades of progress made against a wide range of diseases will be undone (“Measles”). One person’s decision to not vaccinate their child can unintentionally affect everyone around said child. In the event that an unvaccinated child contracts a deadly disease, those around them, especially the elderly, infants, and those with autoimmune disorders, could possibly die as a result of one person’s decision to not protect their child. The increase in the number of unvaccinated children has caused the World Health Organization to list vaccination hesitation as a top threat in 2019 (“Measles”). In addition, evidence concluding unvaccinated children affect the spread of deadly diseases has been established by the increase in cases of almost eradicated diseases. According to the Council of Foreign Relations, the number of measles cases around the world have increased by 30 percent since 2016, with concentrations of outbreaks in North America (“Measles”).
The Current Situation
Currently, all US states require children to get certain vaccinations (“Measles”). However, that doesn’t mean that there are not ways for people to find loop holes. In most states, parents are allowed to opt out of vaccines for their kids for religious, philosophical, and personal reasons (Bellafante). In essence, parents can refuse immunization for the children if it doesn’t fit their parenting standards as if it were Fortnite or Chuck E. Cheese’s. Regardless, in some cases, religious waivers harbor those who refuse vaccines simply because they chose to object established science.
The Opinions From My Community
As a student at an international school, I would like to think that myself and my peers are generally well informed and aware of the issues that are present in the world. I created a survey (which is available below) to gather the overall consensus from my community regarding the Vaccination crisis in the western world.
One comment I thought was interesting was from a participant of the form. The participant said, “I believe that requiring vaccines to attend schools in countries without free national healthcare systems is inherently classist and serves to bar students from lower socioeconomic statuses and backgrounds.” This idea is something that never really occurred to me when I started exploring this topic.
I’ve always been aware of the health care inequality between 1st world and developing nations, however, rarely did I consider the inequality that exists in even the most advanced countries. According to the New York Times, “Vaccination prices have gone from single digits to sometimes triple digits in the last two decades” (Rosenthal). This is not only a problem for patients, but also the doctors and public health budgets. It would be unfair to require all children in the US to receive vaccines if access to them isn’t financially conscious. It should not be an issue for parents to protect their kids from deadly diseases. Therefore, before requiring US children to be vaccinated, the problems surrounding the accessibility and cost need to be addressed.