SOPHIA TRAN Following the recent widespread measles outbreaks in United States schools, medical professionals have attributed the resurgence of once nearly-eradicated childhood diseases, such as measles and rubella, to the increasing amount of parents expressing skepticism at childhood vaccination with the MMR/MMRV shot. In 2000, federal health officials declared that measles was virtually eradicated. However, the increasing presence of these diseases in the years since are indicative of a growing shift and consequential trend in parental attitudes of the 2010’s.
The Polarized Views:
The cause of the decline in vaccination rates is due to a number of reasons, one being the objection of families in specific religious communities. Such objections are legitimate grounds for a school to excuse required vaccines, but also put the child at risk of contracting the disease and potentially spreading it. Aside from the religious objections, there is still a larger cohort of the American population that chooses not to vaccinate their children based on the idea that the injection of non-natural ingredients causes negative side-effects, such as paralysis, seizures, autism, and ADHD. These claims, however, have yet to be scientifically grounded in research.
Another basis for anti-vac beliefs lies in the concept of herd immunity, in which vaccinations in a large majority of a population provide adequate blockage for the few that are not vaccinated.. However, there are certain faults in not vaccinating for this reason: particularly, that decreased rates of vaccination cause cracks in the strength of the herd’s immunity. Part of the belief also lies in the fact that these diseases are uncommon now, so it does not matter whether or not a child gets vaccinated. Some also say that the distribution of vaccines promotes increased resistance of diseases in response to them.
Proponents of vaccination argue that vaccinations must be maintained for the continued strength of the population’s immunity. In turn, some propose government regulation of vaccination schedules in addition to the state-mandated requirements on the levels of protection that a child receives.
But where do we draw the line between individual and state? Surely, parents should have some degree of choice in determining what type of care their child receives, but that choice’s impact does extend beyond the family. Of the 50 states that require vaccines, 48 offer religious exemptions and 19 offer philosophical exemptions, meaning that there are vast differences across the nation in the protection that children have against measles and rubella.
Ultimately, the topic of immunization has become a sociopolitical firestorm and a conflict of interests between the requirements that private and public institutions set and the freedom of choice parents possess in choosing to immunize their children. As things are going now, neither of the two could possibly work independently of one another. The only significant issue that remains is to find a balance between the choice of a parent and the necessity of public health: a balance that will undoubtedly be discussed at length in the upcoming elections and debates on health care.
References and further reading:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Measles Cases and Outbreaks
- Vanishing vaccinations: why are so many Americans opting out of vaccinating their children?