Vaccines And Vaccination: Should It Be Mandatory

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Imagine yourself as a parent in an event where you must decide whether or not to vaccinate your child. You’ve read on the Internet about the rare cases where vaccinations have resulted in negative side effects, but you’ve also researched on its countless benefits. You wonder whether the good outweighs the bad enough to put your child’s life in the hands of vaccines. In some occasions, parents are unsure about the benefits of vaccines due to the Internet’s exposure to the negative side effects that rarely occur, while others pose the “individual rights” standpoint. In reality, vaccine’s sole and successful purpose is to effectively fight, prevent, and completely eradicate infectious diseases as well as promote widespread immunity. Because of this, it has been proven to be beneficial to start vaccinating people at a young age as well as mandate the requirement of children getting vaccinated in order to enter schools. Therefore, even though it may seem as an infringement of individual rights, it is advisable for children to get vaccinated because they have been proven to save lives, protect everyone from the exposure of diseases, and protect future generations.

Vaccines have been around for hundreds of years starting with the creation of the first vaccine for smallpox to now having various vaccines that protect people from measles, polio, hepatitis, and whooping cough to name a few. Diseases that once killed thousands can now be contained. Even so, outbreaks, pandemics, and epidemics still occur worldwide. The reason for these devastating events started when the population split between pro and anti-vaccination groups. The encouragement by states to vaccinate children in order to enter public schools, with certain exceptions, began when James Madison signed into law An Act to Encourage Vaccination in 1813 (“Background of the Issue,” 2016). Later in 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court case Jacobson v Massachusetts led to the skyrocketing of the movement for states to pass the vaccine mandate (“Background of the Issue,” 2016). It was this that angered the public as many parents decided to opt out of vaccinating their children.

When parents opted out of vaccinating, tragic consequences began to occur including disease outbreaks, pandemics, and epidemics. In 1925, a smallpox epidemic occurred in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was stated by the American Journal of Public Health that the epidemic occurred because “out of the 386 cases [of smallpox], 327 had never been vaccinated” and 59 had been vaccinated either five or ten years previously (“The History of Vaccines”, 2017). In 1964, a massive rubella pandemic occurred in the U.S. that led to a total of 12.5 million cases of rubella, 2,000 deaths, and affected more than 20,000 babies and children. Those affected were left suffering from deafness, blindness, and mental retardation, while mothers suffered miscarriages and abortions due to the infection (“The History of Vaccines”, 2017). Another grievous consequence that occurred was the nationwide measles outbreak from 1989 to 1991. A reported 1,500 children fell ill and 9 deaths occurred solely in Philadelphia, where the outbreak hit the hardest. According to the CDC (2015), “most of those [sickened by measles] had not been vaccinated”, and it was also reported that the “areas experiencing outbreaks among preschool-aged children indicated that as few as 50% of children had been vaccinated against measles by their second birthday” (“Measles”, 2015). In the end, out of all the fatalities that occurred during the measles outbreak, a majority of them occurred in individuals who had not been vaccinated. As a result from these findings, it has been proven that low vaccination rates lead to more outbreaks. Therefore, what can be done in order to raise vaccination rates so that outbreaks don’t occur?

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There are many reasons why vaccinations are required for children. For one, with the increase of vaccine distribution, fatalities associated with diseases, such as the flu, among children and teens is preventable at a higher rate than without vaccines. This is achieved with the help of government-funded programs that provide vaccines to children that cannot afford them. Programs as such include the Vaccines for Children Program (VCP). As described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014), the VCP has firstly “contributed directly to a substantial increase in childhood immunization coverage levels” and secondly has protected “babies, children and adolescents from 16 serious diseases including measles, mumps, whooping cough, chickenpox, flu and diphtheria” (“20 Years”, 2014); all of which have killed children, adolescents, and adults in previous decades. With the help of the VCP program, and other government-funded programs, vaccines are accessible to all children and therefore increase vaccination rates. With an increased vaccination rate in those who previously didn’t have access to them, the uncontrollable spread of diseases can be contained. Statistically, the VCP program has increased immunization coverage for children, which has therefore shown an increase in protected lives from deadly diseases that once threatened many. The implementation of the VCP program has helped in immunizing more children so that fatalities from diseases preventable by vaccines remain at a low percentage nationwide.

In order to contain the spread of diseases and protect those who are unimmunized, a large percentage of the population must be vaccinated. In some cases, people are unable to get vaccinated because they’re too young, allergic, or have other medical reasons. Either way, those who are unimmunized are at a higher risk of getting sick from a disease. Herd immunity emphasizes the idea that vaccinations not only help those receiving the vaccine but also stop the spread of disease that would affect the unvaccinated. In more specific terms, vaccinating children reduces the risk of affecting the healthy adults and in the long run helps maintain everyone’s health. It must be noted that as more people opt out of vaccinating, the risk of outbreaks increase. Consequences of this occurring have been proven before. But in order to understand the validity of herd immunity, a study conducted in Bangladesh by the International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research must be analyzed. As Dr. Ali concluded (2005), the tested “killed oral cholera vaccines confer significant herd protection to neighboring non-vaccinated individuals” (Ali, M, 2005). In other words, an oral vaccine consisting of killed whole-cell cholera was tested on its ability to protect those receiving the vaccine directly as well as protecting the unvaccinated indirectly; results found that both populations were protected from cholera. In the end, Dr. Ali’s study provided significant evidence to support the idea that herd immunity not only protects the some that get vaccinated, but also all from infectious diseases. It must be emphasized that there is a threshold for herd immunity to be successful, and opting out of vaccinations not only affects one person, but possibly an entire nation.

Another benefit of vaccinations is that in vaccinating everyone now, future generations would be protected from the exposure of the same diseases faced in today’s world. To understand this point, the time when smallpox used to be, as described by the authors of World Health Organization (WHO), the “world’s most devastating disease known to humanity” as well as the number one killer of children about a century ago, must first be recalled and analyzed (“The Smallpox”, 2010). Then it must be realized that with the help of vaccines, smallpox was “officially declared globally eradicated in 1980” (“The Smallpox”, 2010). In the end it makes sense that the smallpox vaccine no longer is required, because the disease doesn’t exist anymore. Other diseases are on their way of becoming eradicated as well, such as polio and measles. At the time, polio has been eliminated in the U.S. since 1974 and eliminated in the western hemisphere since 1994 (“Polio Elimination”, 2016). Measles was also officially declared eliminated in the Americas in 2016, after the CDC and Pan American Health Organization developed a successful strategy plan in 1996 (“Measles, Rubella”, 2015). From these statistics, it is known that the containment, elimination, and eradication of diseases are possible through the administration of vaccines. Therefore, by continuing to vaccinate people, other diseases could also be eradicated, and future generations could be protected from the diseases that this nation faces today.

One of the reasons people are hesitant about vaccinating children is because of the infamous Andrew Wakefield vaccine scare of 1998. Andrew Wakefield had published a research paper linking autism to the MMR vaccine. What still isn’t publicized is the fact that numerous scientists discredited Wakefield’s findings, charged him with three-dozen charges of “fraud, ethical violations, and scientific misinterpretation”, and took away his license to practice (Rao, T. S. S., 2011). Countless journals have published articles on Wakefield’s fraud and misconduct, including the Lancet, where the article was originally published. Other possible concerns include worries of why immunizations are required to start at such an early age and whether or not infant natural immunity is enough to protect them from diseases. The reason that vaccines are highly recommended for children as early as two months old is because children are more “susceptible to diseases at a young age, and the consequences of these diseases can be very serious and even life-threatening for infants and young children” if not vaccinated (“Infant Immunizations”, 2016). Therefore immunizing the youth serves to provide immunity at a young age as well as protect them from deadly diseases that attack their bodies differently than adults because of their developing immunity. On the other hand, waiting to immunize children is also not advisable, since again children are more susceptible to various diseases that their bodies don’t know how to fight off yet. Children are also exposed to numerous situations where germs could be spread, such as at school, and if not vaccinated could not be prevented from getting sick. Lastly, children indeed have “temporary immunity from [their] mom during the last few weeks of pregnancy” but only for the diseases to which the mother is immune (“Infant Immunizations”, 2016). These antibodies passed from the mother also do not last long, and in the end leave babies vulnerable to diseases.

The debate on vaccinations has been going on since the implementations of the vaccine mandate in all states, and then intensified with the autism scare of 1998. Anti-vaccination groups began refusing and encouraging parents to turn away from vaccinating their children. Consequences began to jeopardize this nation as disease outbreaks, pandemics, and epidemics occurred throughout. It must be emphasized to the anti-vaccination groups that opting out of vaccines doesn’t only hurt those who make this decision but also hurts everyone around them. Herd immunity is successful when the disease threshold is reached. It is also important to note that vaccines undergo countless research studies every year that prove vaccines save lives, protect the “herd” from the spread of disease, and protect future generations by aiming to eliminate the fatal diseases of today. Government funded organizations, herd immunity, and other statistical research about the successes of vaccines further exemplifies the safety and importance of vaccine administration. When deciding whether to vaccinate children, it all comes down to asking which decision will grant safety, health, and overall happiness for the general public?

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