Are Anti-Vaccinator Parents to Blame for the Return of the Measles?

What was once eradicated in the early 2000s has now returned with a vengeance. Hundreds of people across the United States have been affected by a measles outbreak that began in December of 2018. Measles is a viral infection that is spread through the air when water droplets are released when a carrier of the infection coughs or sneezes. Symptoms of the infection include a cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes, sore throat, fever, and a red, blotchy skin rash. The infection can be prevented through the MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) vaccination, and there is no currently no treatment to cure the infection; however, there are medicines available to reduce the symptoms.

A measles outbreak is characterized by at least 3 outbreaks in a state, which is when the Center for Disease Control releases a report warning the state that the people are at risk of infection. On April 11th, the CDC confirmed that cases of measles have been reported in 21 states within the U.S. including New York, California, Georgia, and Florida. The CDC stated that “the majority of people who got measles were unvaccinated.”

This measles outbreak is just one example of how parents’ perceptions of vaccines fail to lead to their child’s vaccination. In today’s society, many parents believe that numerous vaccines cause autism, while others think that vaccinations are unnecessary. Whether their views are related to a personal experience with a vaccine, based off of celebrity views like Jenny McCarthy, or formed from false studies like the one published by former British doctor Andrew Wakefield, anti-vaccinator parents have done a disservice to unvaccinated children.

After talking with five students around campus, four students said that they basic vaccinations such as Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, or DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough), while one student said they were unsure of their vaccination history. Cam Ciolfi ‘19 offered his thoughts on vaccines explaining that he thinks that “vaccines are necessary to stop disease; however, I’m sure they have increased the cancer percentage.” Cam added that even though he believes that certain vaccines can cause health problems,  the parents that are refusing to vaccinate their children are “silly.” He also thinks that “public places should continue to enforce the rule that unvaccinated children are not allowed to enter the building in the states that are dealing with the outbreaks.”

Like Cam, Ethan Jones ‘19 sees vaccines as “good for society because they prevent diseases from becoming a widespread problem.” Ethan admitted that while he doesn’t know much about the background of vaccines, he is aware that “vaccines can help maintain the eradication of certain diseases such as polio” and “without vaccines, there’s a chance that these previously eliminated diseases could come back.” He sees the parents who refuse to vaccinate their children as “selfish because they are worrying about their own kids’ health rather than the health of the community.”

Olivia Van Horn ‘19, on the other hand, disagrees with Cam and Ethan, but rather sides with anti-vaccinators. Olivia explained how she “doesn’t really think vaccines work that well because I’ve seen someone get a vaccine and then become sick compared to someone who didn’t receive it and remained healthy.” When asked how she felt about the parents who are refusing to vaccinate their kids due to their negative views of vaccines, she expressed that she “doesn’t believe it’s bad for people to refuse vaccines because not everyone will agree on the same thing” and that her “mother is an example of a parent who is not a strong believer in vaccines.”

Scientists have shown that the chances of a patient developing harmful and lasting side effects from a vaccination are very low; however, along with any other medication, there is always a possibility that the patient will experience minor side effects. Regardless of one’s views about vaccinations, it has been scientifically proven that the benefits provided by vaccines outweigh the potential cons. As anti-vaccination movements continue to rise, more deadly outbreaks like the measles will emerge and threaten the lives of millions of people around the world.