Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

What’s the deal with the anti-vaxxers?


In the 10th century B.C., ancient China began to fight the smallpox virus with the process known as inoculation. This process initially involved the injection of a less lethal version of the virus, which would result in a lessened illness. If the patient survived, they would have an immunity to the smallpox virus. This method was then brought to early France in 1763. The French government, despite the popularity of inoculations, banned the process as care was not taken to quarantine the inoculated.
Later, in 1796, a successful and less harmful vaccination for the smallpox was created using the ‘cowpox’ strain. In 1924 scientists all over the world were successful in discovering vaccinations for tuberculosis, diphtheria, tetanus, smallpox, and close to solving many others.
From then on until the early 2000’s, the public opinion on vaccines waxed and waned, but slowly the people chose vaccination. In 2000, measles (a viral rash) was eliminated from the United States, no cases reported by US citizens and any case noted was brought in from abroad.
However, in 2013, the measles virus returned, and it hasn’t been eradicated again since. A disease previously eliminated returned almost entirely due to the sheer ignorance of those known as “Anti-Vaxxers.”
In 2007, actress Jenny McCarthy announced to the world that her son had been diagnosed with autism and that vaccinations were the sole cause. She became the spokesperson for the anti-vaccination (anti-vax) movement in the United States.
The anti-vax movement has risen to large popularity, with sites like Facebook and Twitter being major platforms for this movement. There have been 2,164 cases of measles since 2010. Some can be attributed to travelers abroad, but a majority can be attributed to the increased number of unvaccinated individuals.
The worsening situation occurs with parents refusing vaccinations for their children, who subsequently attend school. In the U.S., per parent request, children can be exempted from school-mandated vaccinations in 47 states. California, West Virginia, and Mississippi are the only states that do not allow students to attend without vaccination. Of those 47 states, 17 allow vaccination exemption based on the parents’ personal beliefs, regardless of religious beliefs.
The anti-vaccination movement does have talking points, with the most common argument being that: vaccinations inject harmful chemicals and materials into children and mandatory vaccinations impinge on the religious freedoms protected by the constitution. These arguments, however, are about as sound and solid as a slice of swiss cheese.
Vaccines are derived from the viruses they mean to treat. However, medicine has advanced a lot from the initial inoculations over 3,100 years ago. The measles vaccine, for instance, is known as the MMR vaccine and is made from weakened or inactive versions of measles, mumps, and rubella viruses which are non-infectious and harmless. Almost all vaccines are made from the benign version of the parent virus.
Although, the First Amendment protects the right to freedom of religion, historically, this is limited only when the rights of one individual impinge on the rights of another. Refusal to vaccinate a child with the MMR vaccine leaves the child 35 times more likely to contract measles. When this unvaccinated child goes to their public school, it leaves the other children at a higher risk of contracting the same virus, by proxy of just being in the vicinity of the contagious virus. Thus, just by using one’s rights to refuse a vaccine, the same individuals endanger the health of everyone around them, especially those who rely on herd immunity.
The anti-vaccination movement is dangerous. It causes previously eradicated diseases such as measles and tetanus to become problems once again. These diseases are preventable and by mere refusal to vaccinate based on misinformation from celebrities and social media, they are slowly making a comeback.
Informing oneself on vaccines and the danger of anti-vaccination is key to solving this slowly worsening mindset. Do not get your information from Facebook. Trust the physicians and scientists who devote their lives to the safety of the community. The more infectious diseases which have historically plagued the world cannot make a reappearance, and their statuses as eradicated diseases are easily kept, as long as the community at large begins to trust vaccines once more.
Cartoon by Cassie Talbot.

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What’s the deal with the anti-vaxxers?