The Great Vaccine Debate

Everybody hates shots — or at least finds them rather unpleasant. If you’re like me, then your parents held on to the memory of the first time they ever brought you in, and now retell. Every time you go in for any sort of vaccination.

My story (or at least the first one I remember) isn’t even bad. I didn’t scream or cry. Just took a deep breathe in, looked away, and pretended I was anywhere else. Afterwards, they gave me a lollipop, two Scooby-Doo bandaids, and I went on my way, ready for kindergarten.  It’s basically the same thing I do now, only they don’t give me a lollipop and Scooby-Doo bandaids.

As a kid, I was always vaguely aware that shots were a necessary part of life, like broccoli and waiting in line at Disneyland. No one really liked it but it had to be done. The specifics weren’t clear in my brain as to why they were necessary but I was sure that they were.

Of course, not everyone agrees with that assessment. I’m older and my high school biology class finally explained to me the rationale behind shots, but that explanation is no longer enough.

There’s a lot of talk going around about whether or not certain vaccines should be made mandatory. It’s a conversation that cycles through the public consciousness every couple of years or so. In 2012, it came to a head after 20 children died from whooping cough. That discussion continued into 2014 when California had its biggest outbreak of whooping cough in 70 years. And now, just one month into 2015, the situation has come to the forefront again with the outbreak of measles that began in Disneyland.  

Outbreaks of diseases like the measles and whooping cough bring the vaccine issue to the forefront because many of these diseases were thought to be nearly eradicated during the vaccine push of the 90s. But, after Andrew Wakefield published his now debunked study on the link between vaccines and autism, a huge anti-vaccine movement began and some parents began opting out of optional vaccines like MMR and pertussis.

The theory is that of herd immunity. If enough people in the whole of society are vaccinated, then the disease will have nowhere to spread to should anyone become infected.

Supporters of the vaccines point out that certain children have medical reasons that they cannot get these vaccines. As such, the rest of us have a moral obligation to get the vaccines and keep society as a whole safe.

In contrast, anti-vaxxers claim that vaccines ought to be voluntary. Not everyone need be immune and therefore, there should be some flexibility about requiring the vaccine. They carry some medical risks and the government shouldn’t force these upon people. Recently, in the media, Chris Christie made comments to this effect, though his people eventually backed out of the statement. Rand Paul is also a strong supporter of making vaccines optional and even Obama has made comments to this effect (though not since 2008 and his first presidential election).

With the most recent outbreak of measles, some physicians have begun to take a hardline approach to anti-vaxxers. They tell their patients that they will not treat them if they continue to choose to avoid vaccinations. It’s not entirely clear how legal this is and what its long-term implications might be, but it is certainly keeping the vaccination issue at the forefront of the national mind.

It’s a sticky situation and as the measles continue to spread in the U.S., one that may continue to garner national attention. Still, even if it fades from view, plenty of people make the choice to abstain from vaccinations every year. It’s an issue that needs to be discussed, especially if we feel that vaccinations like MMR and pertussis ought to be mandatory. The longer we go without addressing it, the number of unvaccinated people increases and with that, the herd immunity slowly, but surely, begins to disappear.

 

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Sources: Linked in article

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