Editorial: The importance of vaccinations in the 21st century
The debate regarding whether to vaccinate has been a heated topic ever since the creation of the vaccine, but the matter has taken on new significance amid a frightening measles outbreak that has affected more than 100 people across the U.S. and Mexico.
Thanks to the widespread use of highly effective measles vaccination, the disease was effectively eliminated in the U.S. in 2000.
Yet according to public health officials, a small but growing number of individuals are avoiding vaccinations for their children, which led to a record year for measles cases in 2014.
The current outbreak has revived the discussion about parents choosing not to vaccinate their children, some out of fear that vaccines can lead to autism and developmental disorders—a claim that has been vigorously debunked by medical researchers.
“There is every reason to get vaccinated; there aren’t reasons to not,” President Obama said in an interview. The president acknowledged that some people have concerns about the “effects” of vaccinations, but he cautioned, “The science is pretty indisputable.”
Of course, there are some who choose not to have themselves or their children vaccinated for religious or other personal reasons, and it is neccessary to recognize the importance of having autonomy over one’s own body and healthcare regimen. Those who ultimately make the descision not to vaccinate must thoroughly do their research, making sure to educate themselves on all the current studies—not just the ones that support an already established point of view—and be willing to acknowledge and take responsibility for the risk to which they are subjecting others.
There are those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, because they have compromised immune systems. They rely on the people around them to be vaccinated to prevent the spread of infectious disease.
The problem we are currently facing has arisen from a growing number of people who have hopped onto the “anti-vax” train, sucked in by the vast amounts of misinformation now circulated by the rumor mill and on the Internet. The movement has grown from a small and insignificant number of people to a figure well into the thousands—many of whom have little to no idea of the real repercussions of their decisions.
All the current research points to the fact that vaccinations are a perfectly safe and—taking into consideration recent events—essential step in ensuring the health of our country. So long as everyone is accurately and well informed, this debate is a just byproduct of a healthy society.