As flu-season comes around in full force, many adults and children alike race to their local pharmacy for their annual flu shots. This vaccination, along with others, is the administration of an antigenic material that stimulates an individual’s immune system to develop adaptive immunity to disease or illness like the flu. Vaccinations have the power to prevent the contamination and spread of a pathogen in the body. Whether or not you are in line for your flu vaccination, the debate over vaccinations, especially the vaccinations given at birth, is a hotly argued topic in our country.
While the federal government does not require vaccinations for children, parents are required to vaccinate their children before admitting them to public schooling. While most states do offer some sort of exemption, be it for religious or medical reasons, it is this requirement that aims to ensure the national health for the general public. There are also programs in place such as Vaccines for Children that provides vaccinations at a lower or free cost to families who are either underinsured or not insured at all. As citizens of the United States, we must take the health of our general population seriously. In a metaphor explained by Dr. Paul Offit on Medscape, choosing to vaccinate your child is not like choosing to use a car seat or not since that decision only effects your child; the decision to vaccinate your child effects everyone he or she may come into contact with. It is this social responsibility for the sake of a healthy nation that should motivate people to vaccinate their children.
In the wake of Jenny McCarthy’s accusations that vaccinations caused a diagnosis of autism in her 2 ½ year old son in 2010, many celebrities have jumped on the bandwagon to educate the world on their belief that vaccinations have become a “public menace.” Journalist Tierney Sneed, in an article found on U.S. News, explains the large amount of influence celebrity opinion has on the general public. More and more stars are speaking up about not vaccination their own children, and further spurring the debate of vaccinations. Since then, proponents of both sides of the argument have fought in the worlds of medicine, statistics, and national health. The side of the debate that has elected to not vaccinate their children against illnesses such as polio, chicken pox, Hepatitis B, the measles, and so on are making this decision in fear of the potential their child may be diagnosed with autism. Yet, as an event in 2014 shows, not vaccinating our children has disastrous consequences on public health. In December 2014, an outbreak of the measles occurred in California at Disneyland. Nine people were confirmed during this time period to be diagnosed with measles, six of these nine people were not vaccinated. Medical officials claim that the measles vaccination is 99% effective and that the spread of the disease can be as easy as being too close to a cough. The Disneyland measles outbreak showcased the dangers of not vaccinating children and launched the importance of this topic to the forefront of discussion when regarding national health.
However, despite many accusations, scientific studies have all but debunked the claim that vaccinations are linked to autism. In an article found on the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the author explains how there is little to no proof that autism may be caused by vaccinations. The author also goes to lengths to account for the growing attention of this debate by the amount of people who are now considered on the autism spectrum. In recent decades, the autism spectrum has grown to include a larger amount of people, ranging from severe to those with high functioning intellectual abilities but with some communication issues (Asperger’s syndrome). With science as backing, it makes it difficult to blame autism on vaccinations.
Our access to ready vaccines should be viewed as a blessing, not as a threat to health. In many less developed nations, thousands of people die from diseases that we can easily prevent from spreading in our own country. It is nothing more than blatant ignorance to choose to not vaccinate our children; not only does it put the child at risk, but also everyone around him or her. We have this privilege of substantial healthcare that allows us to inhibit and even eradicate diseases that cause death in other less developed countries. For the government to expect, or even mandate, the vaccination of children is not too much to request. Vaccinations have the power to not only promote individual health and safety, but also assure the overall health for the nation as a whole.