Vaccination Nation

Ella Caneva

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Whether you’re scrolling through Facebook or other social media, or just catching up with the news in general, it is made known that there has been a recent measles outbreak. This has affected Washington, with more than fifty cases and New York with a total of fifty-five in 2019 alone. To put this into perspective, the new year has already more nationwide cases of measles than all the reported cases in 2010, 2012, and 2016. With these statistics, it is not surprising why so many are concerned about this disease since it was once completely under control. The repulsive symptoms of this disease and the fact that it is one of the biggest mortality contributors to children makes it clear that an outbreak containing this illness should be taken very seriously. 

Social media and news platforms have reported accusations claiming that the reason for this epidemic is because of those parents who do not vaccinate their children. While it is a problem that some choose to avoid vaccinating themselves and/or their loved ones entirely, it is also important to take into consideration that there are other factors that go into an outbreak such as this one, involving vaccinations. For instance, rather than avoiding it completely, some are simply just unaware of the fact that in order for the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine to be most effective, you must get two vaccinations on separate occasions instead of getting vaccinated once. Furthermore, some who are travelling into our country, who have not been vaccinated, may carry or have the disease and spread it to others who have yet to be vaccinated. 

A reason why some are against the MMR vaccination in particular, is because in 1998, a study conducted by Dr. Wakefield claimed that the MMR vaccine is linked to autism, inflammatory bowel disease, and other health risks, especially in children. This study was published in The Lancet, known as one of the best medical journals, and created a cause to be fearful of this vaccine. However, what many do not know is that Dr. Wakefield was paid to try and find a link between the vaccine and autism by the Legal Aid Board (now known as Legal Services Commission), a law company whose goal was to create lawsuits. Not only that, but the study also only involved twelve kids, which is not as accurate in comparison to a study involving a thousand kids.  

 Consequently, Dr. Wakefield lost his medical license and in 2010 the study was taken down from The Lancet. Although there have been no links to autism discovered since then, researchers continue to try to find connections.  

However, this seems to be something that people today are still wrestling with, including a very outspoken, American anti-vaccine activist, Jenny McCarthy. In a debate with Dr. Oz, she claims that the research for finding a link between autism and the MMR vaccine should not be discontinued by comparing the rates of autism from 1986 (when the MMR vaccine began to be recommended) to today. The counter argument to this position would be that technology for diagnosis has increased since then. Not only that, but autism is not a disease you can catch unlike the extremely contagious measles disease. Dr. Tanya Altman, a best-selling author and pediatrician, says “It’s so contagious that nine out of ten people will catch measles if they are in the same room as someone who has measles”. Disregarding both arguments, from many, specifically parents, on social media, it seems that they would rather risk having a child with autism rather than one that has died from a disease that could have been prevented from a vaccination. 

In other words, from multiple public sources, including the famous Mikhail Varshavski, a practitioner of family medicine widely known as Doctor Mike, the benefits of vaccines outweigh the risks. The risks are certainly not entirely dismissed; however, they are put into perspective, especially during a time of outbreak. Moreover, some really cannot get vaccinated because of an immuno-deficiency and other health related issues, which gives all the more reason for those who are capable of getting vaccinated to protect them through herd immunity, which occurs when a high population become immune to a disease, primarily through vaccinations. 

Since the outbreak, more than six times as many people were vaccinated for measles from January 13 to February 2, according to a spokesperson for Washington States Department of Health. Whether this is an effect of peer pressure from social media or individual concerns, this increase in vaccinations is very beneficial not only to the individual, but also to everyone around them as well. 

Ultimately, it is important to be proactive when dealing with an outbreak of a disease, such as keeping up with the recommendations provided by the health department in your state and spreading awareness to ensure maximum health for you and your community.  

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