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The Anti Vaccine Movement and Why It’s Harmful

What is the anti-vaccine movement? Who does it concern? Why is it harmful?

At the beginning it was described as a “cult kind of movement”, but in 1998 when Andrew Wakefield falsified data and published a study suggesting that there was a connection between vaccinations and autism, it sent the world into a frenzy. Wakefield’s study was retracted from the journal, but once those thoughts were placed into people’s heads, there was no going back.  Even though the information was reported to be falsified, it could not quell the fears of parents who began opting for nonmedical exemptions and simultaneously fueled anti-vaccination groups.

From then on the numbers of people choosing to not vaccinate their children has risen. One study found that “since 2009, the number of ‘philosophical-belief’ vaccine nonmedical exemptions has risen in twelve out of the eighteen states that currently allow this policy.” While eighteen states do not seem to be a large number of people to be allowing nonmedical exemptions for, you have to consider the major cities that this is affecting. This issue concerns millions of people, especially in areas where larger numbers of children are not being vaccinated and running the risk of contracting diseases. These diseases are sometimes fatal, and can and passed onto other children in school.  

For anyone thinking that this issue doesn’t affect them, it does. There are still so many people, especially in my generation, who are still using Wakefield’s study to justify the anti-vaccine movement. During my first biology class of the semester, my professor asked us if vaccines should be required in order to attend K-12 public school.  There were many responses, but the one that stood out to me was someone who hesitantly said that some parents don’t want to be forced to vaccinate their children because it can cause autism. It’s 2018 and we’re still basing the information we have on anti-vaccination on a falsified study from 1998. 

Vaccinations prevent one from getting life-threatening diseases, especially from those who don’t get them. At the end of the day, it’s a parent decision to choose whether or not to vaccinate their child. Yet, choosing to not vaccinate a child doesn’t just affect them, but it will affect every child in their school district. If you’ve received all of the recommended vaccinations, that’s great. But, educate yourself.  Up until a month ago, even I was still in the mindset that a shot had the potential to cause autism. Now I know the truth, and so should you.

Sarah Coffel

Muhlenberg '21

Currently a junior at Muhlenberg College studying Media & Communications and French.  I'm a Jersey girl born and raised that loves sushi, makeup and has a very random assortment of songs in my Spotify library 
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