Just Why the “Anti-Vax” Movement is So Harmful

While the anti-vax movement may be surrounded by an air of hilarity and disbelief, the ideas that it pushes forward into society are incredibly harmful and have already caused preventable disease outbreaks.

Recently, right here in Boston, there was a diagnosis of measles. In 2000, measles was declared eradicated from the United States. The word that the CDC specifically uses is “eliminated.” Boston hasn’t had a case of the measles since 2013, so this recent case put everyone on high alert. I remember emails from the president of my college, my college’s Health and Wellness Center, and news alerts from the local channels popping up on my phone.

This measles outbreak shouldn’t have been as scary as it was. In fact, not that long ago, it wouldn’t have been. But in recent years, the anti-vaccine movement gained steam, and with it, a deep societal fear.

That fear goes both ways; there is a fear of vaccines themselves and then there is the fear of what those who are unvaccinated could contract and spread. The fear of vaccines is baseless. Long story short, a doctor (who lost his medical license, by the way, for spreading misinformation) put out the statement that vaccines could be dangerous and the idea spread like wildfire, catching in popular media and seeping into every corner of the US.

The most popular idea that was spread around was that of vaccines causing autism. Apart from the fact that autism isn’t something that is inherently bad, the statement just...isn’t true. But it did cause parents everywhere to reconsider vaccinating their children.

And now, we as a society have things like measles outbreaks and even influenza. Yes, you heard me, influenza.

Parents, of course, have a right to raise their kids as they choose, as long as they aren’t harming them. However, the misinformation spread by the anti-vax movement creates a harmful environment for everyone. Even parents who want the best for their children, are doing so at the cost of the health and wellbeing of other children who come into contact with those who are unvaccinated.

The role of schools in aiding the parents of unvaccinated children to continue with their ways is also unforgivable and seriously harmful. The ability for parents to exempt their children from vaccines by claiming a “religious reason” is ridiculous, and merely allows for the continuation of a harmful series of beliefs.

We need to focus on putting a stop to the spread of the anti-vax movement, but more than that, we need to actively work to cut away at the misinformation that already exists. Otherwise, the sentiment against vaccines will be cemented and there’ll be no going back, placing even more people in danger.