According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, no polio cases have originated in the U.S. since 1979. Polio cases decreased from over 50,000 cases in the 1950s to 29 reported cases last year. To what do we owe this drastic change? The polio vaccine, which was first made available in 1955. This vaccine is an example of how important vaccines are to society as they eradicate different types of diseases, some of which are fatal.
Understanding this, I really don’t understand how the anti-vaccine movement exists. It makes absolutely no sense.
When I first heard about the existence of the anti-vaccine movement, I didn’t think it was popular; maybe a handful of people believing in nonsense. Nevertheless, there are multiple celebrities, politicians and even doctors who support this movement. Jim Carrey, Alicia Silverstone, Selma Blair, Donald Trump and Rob Schneider are some of the most famous people who doubt vaccines, despite the fact that the World Health Organization ranked resistance to vaccinations as one of the top 10 threats in public health in 2019.
A popular anti-vaxxer argument is that vaccines are a choice. This argument, however, is completely wrong as vaccines cannot be a choice. The flu, measles, mumps and chickenpox are easily contagious diseases but due to majority of people being vaccinated, they are kept at bay. This is known as herd immunity, the idea that if the majority of a population is immune to a disease, the disease won’t spread. Thus, vaccines don’t just benefit an individual—they’re beneficial to society. Those who cannot be or aren’t vaccinated, such as babies, cancer patients and those allergic to vaccines, depend on the people around being vaccinated for them to not get those types of diseases. So, vaccines aren’t a choice, people need them in order to live around one another.
This has even become a major problem in California. According to NBC News, several counties in the state are reporting vaccination rates lower than 90 percent, which is precisely the number needed to attain herd immunity. This is due to California parents that find doctors that will write medical exemptions for their children, even though there’s a California law that prohibits vaccine exemptions based on personal beliefs.
Parents don’t get to choose if and when their child gets vaccinated, there’s a reason why vaccines have specific orders and steps. Dr. Bob Sears, an Orange County native, is a pediatrician and celebrity figure within the “anti-vaccine community” that is proposing alternative vaccination schedules which he admits are based on theoretical research. In this case, Sears offers a more spread out schedule for vaccinations that he believes “a lot of parents feel more comfortable about” because the kids won’t be, as Sears argues, overloaded with vaccines. The problems here are that, again, his research is purely theoretical and has not been published or peer-reviewed by anyone in the medical field, and that he worries about the parents being comfortable with their kids’ vaccines. Sears should worry about keeping children alive rather than making parents comfortable.
If Sears’ approach still seems appealing, please keep in mind that he is currently on probation for writing a doctor’s note for a child who was then exempted from all childhood vaccinations. So, even though he is still a doctor, the Medical Board of California ordered almost 3 years’ probation for Sears. When looking for advice about vaccines, I would definitely recommend not asking the doctor on probation for an accurate explanation.
Now, the most common excuse for the anti-vaccine movement is that vaccines cause autism. This idea became popular because of an article published on The Lancet written by Andrew Wakefield suggesting that the MMR vaccine causes Autism. Nonetheless, Wakefield’s article is fake and has been disproven. In fact, the article on the original website has big bold red letters that indicate the article has been retracted. If Wakefield’s research sounds interesting, understand that Wakefield’s medical license was revoked due to his failed research and that to follow the advice of a former doctor is not at all recommended. Along with this, the idea that vaccines cause allergies has also been retracted.
Vaccines are proven to be incredibly important for today’s society, so the fact that some people believe vaccines are not necessary is laughable and confusing. There are no benefits that come from not being vaccinated. The anti-vaccine movement makes as much sense as Alicia Silverstone, the actress from Clueless, saying that vaccines are unsafe. It doesn’t.
Oriana Gonzalez is a third-year literary journalism major and gender and sexuality studies minor. She can be reached at email@example.com.