Modern science has proved time and time again that childhood vaccinations are not only safe, but also effective in eliminating the prevalence of diseases such as smallpox, measles, and polio. So far, smallpox is the only disease to have been completely eradicated by the administration of a vaccination. It is estimated that the development of the smallpox vaccine saves approximately 5 million lives annually. With that being said, why do so many parents continue to opt against vaccinating their children? Some parents base their opposition to vaccines on their general mistrust in the government regarding the ingredients that go into the vaccinations. Others are simply persuaded by the mass amount of misinformation that has been made available to them.
The main reason that so many parents opt out of vaccinating their children is due to the assumption that vaccines are linked to the development of autism. However, anyone who has done their research realizes that the only study ever published that supported this ideal was quickly rejected when its author, Andrew Wakefield, was found to have falsified his data. His study only included 12 participants, all of which were guests at his son’s 10th birthday party. He paid the children to donate their blood for research. He was immediately stripped of his medical license. Wakefield’s study was published in 1998, and to date, there are still hundreds of individuals who advocate him, including celebrity Jenny McCarthy.
Ever heard the phase “correlation does not imply causation?” This statistical phrase infers that a correlation between two different variables does not necessarily mean that one causes the occurrence of the other. For example, what if I were to say that the prevalence of autism drastically spiked at the same time that the amount of hormones in meat and dairy products did? Does that necessarily mean that consuming hormone treated meat products causes a child to develop autism? I did not think so, but this example is just one of many that proves how easily we are convinced by logical fallacies and intellectual biases that are presented to us from insignificant information such as this.
Next, I would like to pursue the idea that if a parent decides not to vaccinate their child, that it is nobody’s business but their own. Do not get me wrong, everyone has the right to their own beliefs and opinions, but the decision to not vaccinate your child does not just effect your child. Many children are unable to get vaccinated, either because they are too young, or because they are too immunocompromised to do so. The health of these children can be jeopardized when the number of children who are not vaccinated surpasses a certain threshold. When this occurs what is known as “herd immunity” is compromised, and as a result, preventable diseases get the opportunity to manifest in the public. Diseases like measles, which is entirely preventable, then has the ability to infect approximately 102 people in 14 different states as it did in March 2015. It is just not logical to not take the necessary actions to eliminate the chance of getting a preventable disease.
Of course there is such a concept as “natural immunity.” This is the idea that an individual acquires immunity to an illness only after contracting it and successfully getting through it. Natural immunity is legitimate. The human body undoubtedly does a terrific job fighting off future illness by creating antibodies. Personally, I would much rather take the five seconds that it takes to receive a vaccination. That way I do not have to risk my life suffering through a dangerous illness in order to gain immunity. Of course, this is all for the possibility that I even survive it and have the chance of becoming infected a second time.