We are a little over a month into 2015 and already there are more cases of measles than we have on average in a given year. The CDC has reported that there have been 102 cases of measles in the U.S. between Jan. 1 and Jan. 30. Back in 2002, measles were declared to have been eliminated from the Americas.
In 2008, there was an outbreak of measles in California which was linked to a seven-year-old girl who had taken a family trip to Europe. The final report by the CDC confirmed that the 11 cases that arose during this outbreak were in children who were not vaccinated, either because they were too young or their parents had refused to have them vaccinated.
In 2013, 20 members of a megachurch in Texas contracted measles when they went overseas for a mission trip. The church had been advocating that its members abstain from receiving vaccinations for fear that they cause autism. After the outbreak, the church changed its stance on vaccinations.
In 2014 alone there were over 23 outbreaks infecting over 700 people with the disease. The CDC reports that a majority of the cases happen because people were not vaccinated.
These outbreaks are a serious problem, and the anti-vaccine movement is the one thing in correlation with all of the recent outbreaks. The measles vaccine has been shown to be 99 percent effective after being received and followed up on. So why are people refusing to get vaccinated?
The main reason given by “anti-vaxxers” is that the vaccine causes serious mental health problems. This claim can be linked back to a study done by the discredited former surgeon Andrew Wakefield. Wakefield published a fraudulent report linking autism to the MMR vaccine.
His claim was taken as fact by news media, but was widely disproved and discredited by the scientific community. There is absolutely no link between autism and the measles vaccine.
Parents, however, latched on to this baseless rumor, and since 2002 a strong anti-vaccine movement took root in communities across the country. These parents are fearful of their children becoming autistic or having other similar mental health issues even though autism and other illnesses like it cannot develop suddenly; they’re genetic.
Most public schools require that the children who attend be fully vaccinated. The anti-vaxxers believe that parents should have the choice to let their children be vaccinated or not. This is the argument that Sen. Rand Paul and Gov. Chris Christie have used to justify being anti-vaccination.
This argument has one massive problem, and that is that not being vaccinated puts everyone else’s children at risk. When a large enough section of the population is not vaccinated against a disease, it disrupts the herd immunity that develops when everyone is vaccinated.
All of our rights, whether it is freedom of speech, freedom of religion or whatever else, relies on the idea that by exercising those rights we do not cause undue harm to anyone else or put other people at risk. The risk of infectious disease and death is one of the worst forms of risk or harm that could befall anyone.
Not vaccinating your children puts both your child and everyone else’s child at risk. The measles vaccine is 99 percent effective. For the disease to be eliminated it requires that everyone possible be vaccinated.
Vaccinate your kids and get vaccinated yourself. It is your responsibility as a parent and as a citizen.