Why it is Awesome that Vaccines are Now Mandatory in California

Back to school season can be a wild time for everybody. Making countless Target runs hoping they’ll have finally restocked those index cards you need for your English class, finding out that that one annoying kid you were hoping wouldn’t be in any of your classes this year has your exact schedule, and making sure you’re up to date on all of your vaccines. 

Wait, what?! When did vaccinations become a part of your September back-to-school routine??!! 

In mid-September 2019, CA governor Gavin Newsom passed a law mandating all schoolchildren to be up to date in regards to vaccinations (except for immunocompromised children), is whether or not making vaccinations into a legal issue violates the idea of bodily autonomy. In other words, is completing all vaccinations in order to attend school breaching people’s personal choices regarding what they do to their own body?

My answer is NO. Vaccines are extremely important for multiple reasons. First of all, there’s the obvious: they prevent you from getting diseases. If you’re vaccinated, you don’t have to worry about getting polio, or measles, or mumps. Second, and in my opinion the biggest reason why, it’s NOT just a personal choice and why it affects others: immunocompromised children rely on herd immunity to, like, stay alive. 

Let me explain point number two real quick. Basically, a vaccine is an injection containing weakened (or dead) bacteria of infectious diseases. When it is injected into our bloodstream, our white blood cells are notified that there’s an intruder. They check out said intruder and create the best antibodies to kill off the weakened virus bacteria. After this process, our bodies become aware of the existence of this virus so in the future, if we ever come into contact with that disease, our bodies go through their little inventory of antibodies, pull out the best antibody to fight that disease, and kill it off easily. Coming back to the immunocompromised folks, their immune systems are not strong enough to even fight off the original, weakened version of the disease. While most people can fight off the weak virus, even this weakened virus can be deadly to people with weaker immune systems. Thus, they can’t get vaccinated because even the weakened bacteria in the viruses can potentially kill them. So, the ONLY way to protect these immunocompromised folks is through herd immunity- when everybody surrounding them is vaccinated so diseases are killed off before immunocompromised folks can be exposed to the bacteria.   

The third reason why I am a huge fan of mandatory vaccinations is because if everybody that physically can be vaccinated does so, eventually the disease will be killed off because so few people will be susceptible to it that it’ll be virtually impossible to spread it. That’s what happened to the measles virus. The measles vaccine prevented an estimated 21.1 million deaths (1,) but with the spread of anti-vax rhetoric, a measles epidemic started again in the late 2010s, reaching a tally in June 2019 not seen in 25 years. The disease was declared eliminated from the U.S. in 2000, but then came back and claimed even more lives because so many people decided to stop vaccinating their children.

So why do people refuse to get vaccines, despite the fact that vaccines are clearly extremely important for optimal public health?

I speculate that it comes from a lack of education along with the spread of misinformation. One myth is that vaccines are just a way for “big pharma”, a colloquialism for the pharmaceutical industry, to make a profit. However, a very small portion (about two percent) of pharmaceuticals’ annual profit is from vaccinations. They actually make more money selling drugs to treat those diseases (2.)

Another COMPLETELY wrong myth is the idea that vaccines cause autism. This one particularly grinds my gears because of how disgustingly incorrect it is. In fact, it was based off of a single study with a sample size of twelve children, which is such a small sample size that it cannot be generalized to the overall population. The ex-doctor Andrew Wakefield (I say EX-doctor because the study was so bogus that he had his medical license retracted) created a causal relationship when the relationship was merely correlation (i.e. even though the kids showed potential symptoms of autism and had all gotten the measles vaccine, it doesn’t necessarily mean the measles vaccine CAUSED the potential autistic symptoms, even though Wakefield claimed a causal relationship) and was also convicted of fraud in relation to his publication. (TL;DR: Vaccines do NOT cause autism).

One more reason I’ve seen people give for refusing to get vaccines is that they believe that the vaccine is injected “diseases and toxins” into their bodies. This comes from a lack of proper understanding of how vaccines work. Yes, a vaccine is an injection of [WEAKENED] virus bacteria. But as I explained above, it’s much more complex than just an injection of a disease into your body. 

I know that bodily autonomy and personal choice are both very important. However, when it comes to vaccines, I believe that public health should come above personal choice because if one chooses not to get vaccinated (apart from those who are immunocompromised), it affects more than just them. Otherwise, believe me, I would not be writing this article right now. If the only person affected by somebody’s choice to not get vaccinated was themselves, then you do you, boo. But that’s not the case. The fact is that immunocompromised people literally depend on others to be vaccinated for their own lives. 

That’s why I say that CA governor Gavin Newsom’s decision to mandate vaccinations in schools was a great move. Vaccinations are EXTREMELY important to maintaining the health of a community, and I hope that one day, those that are so adamant that vaccines are just a “big pharma tactic for profit” will learn that vaccines are actually pretty awesome and important and that one day we will be able to focus on fighting other global crises instead.

 

1. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/measles

2. http://www.boostoregon.org/arent-vaccines-just-moneymakers-for-pharmaceu...