Mandatory Vaccinations: An Essential Tool in the Safe Guarding of America’s Health

Mandatory Vaccinations:
An Essential Tool in the Safe Guarding of America’s Health

The first vaccine for smallpox was invented and introduced in 1796, and since that time it has been a controversial medical topic. When vaccinations were first proposed in the 18th Century the public felt uneasy about the science behind the medicine. How could infecting a sick individual with a different disease cure them? Many people were also suspicious at first because of their unknown long-term effects, which is still true today.  Throughout history we’ve seen that vaccinations have been proven effective in preventing serious diseases and illnesses.   It is argued whether the risk of possible side effects associated with the vaccines out-weighs the risk of developing the disease.  In recent years, the incidence rate of these diseases has decreased, and a number of parents have decided against vaccinating their children due to the fears of side effects, most commonly, autism.  On the contrary, others have linked certain outbreaks to these groups whose members claim vaccinations are unsafe and ineffective.

Below is a chart that displays the number of reported measles cases in the United States from 1974 to 2014 according to the World Health Organization.

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This graph is a clear representation of how much the measles vaccine has helped us conquer the disease. The measles virus affected and killed thousands of people every year in the United States, but since about 1995 we have been able to significantly curtial the number of cases reported each year. Something noteworthy to consider while looking at this graph is the slight increase in 2014, after years of nominal reported cases. This increase indicates that recently, more people have been compromised by the disease because of the lack of vaccinations.  In 2015, California experienced a measles outbreak whose numbers climbed to over 100 new cases.  Health officials cited “unvaccinated individuals as a main contributor to the disease’s spread” (Anderson).  This specific case, and many more, raises the question of whether or not the government should mandate vaccinations.

Certain vaccinations need to be required by the government to ensure the health and safety of all of its constituents.

Diseases like measles, mumps, whooping cough, and meningitis are easily spread and very deadly.  From the mid 1900s to today, pandemics have occurred throughout the United States as a result of these diseases, killing hundreds of thousands of people.  The US Centers for Disease Control recommends that children should receive vaccines that protect them from a slew of frightening diseases like mumps, measles, chicken pox, and meningitis by his or her second birthday (Winsten).  Vaccines are recognized as the most valuable, effective, and cost efficient medical tool in history.  According to National Geographic, smallpox was the most devastatingly infectious disease to ever exist; however with the invention of the vaccine, smallpox was reduced and finally eradicated in the United States and across the globe.  Vaccinations like this are especially protective against the certain diseases that impact children the most (Calfee). Vaccinations are not only effective, but also safe.  They have been used for many years without any proven major side effects.

Is This Medicine Safe?
It is argued that there is no way that vaccinations can be safe for children as young as a newborn, yet researchers have found that a baby’s immune system can easily handle the vaccines (“Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism”). The immune system has an exceptional capacity and the moment a baby is born the immune system begins fighting off the antigens in bacteria, viruses, and fungi, so a baby can easily withstand exposure to the antigens in vaccines (“Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism”).


 

Ever since their development, vaccines have been the most controversial and widely debated medical invention.  Many people believe there is a link between vaccinations and autism, or other major side effects. In the past 10 years the number of children diagnosed with autism has risen by 78 percent (Wakefield).  Wakefield is a former doctor who believes that the increasing number of vaccines administered is directly related to the increase in children diagnosed with autism. In the article “Evidence Shows Vaccines Unrelated to Autism” it is noted that signs of autism are first noticed when a child is 18-24 months old. Because most children have already received their vaccinations by this age, parents tend to jump to the conclusion that the vaccines are the cause of their child’s altered behavior.  Research shows that genetics are a big factor in whether or not a child is diagnosed as autistic.  The mutations associated with autism are found in the genes that control brain development. Eric Courchesne, an autism researcher and professor, along with his colleagues at the University of California, San Diego, have established that children with autism have architectural disorganization in in their brain tissue.  The organization of the tissue happens in the second trimester of a mother’s pregnancy. This means that the disorganization that causes a child to develop autism begins way before a child is born, or ever receives a vaccine (“Evidence shows”).

The Cultural Pushback

Other controversies surrounding mandated vaccinations involve the idea that if the government mandated certain vaccines, the American people’s freedom and individualism would be greatly compromised.  Government officials and various health departments face a difficult challenge: respecting the rights and freedoms of individuals or protecting the public welfare (“Vanishing Vaccinations”).  Some libertarians argue that required vaccines would be a violation of liberty because “agents of the state inject substances into someone’s body against his or her will” (Murphy).  They insist that when someone is vaccinated the “primary beneficiary” is himself or herself; therefore it should be their right to choose. A policy that accepts voluntary vaccinations and grants exceptions to getting vaccinated causes more harm than requiring people to get a vaccination.  Libertarians claim that it should be their right to choose whether or not to get vaccinated because they are the ones being put at harms risk, however “no individual has the right to expose other individuals to that risk” (Meyer).  Once an individual’s actions are causing harm to others and not just themselves, it is no longer their right to choose, which is why these mandated vaccines are necessary for the welfare of the country as a whole.  Another reason why vaccines should be required is that if enough people choose to not get vaccinated and the herd immunity rate falls low enough, we can expect nation wide pandemics (Meyer).

The last main controversy relating to the mandatory vaccinations is that they would conflict with individual’s religious and philosophical beliefs.  Almost all of the states in the United States provide exceptions for those whose beliefs contradict with certain vaccinations.  Specific vaccines may be developed using human tissue cells, which is an ethical dilemma to some (“Cultural Perspective”).  The Catholic Church understands the importance of vaccines, however they desire for members of the church to receive an alternate to any vaccines that are produced using cell lines from aborted fetuses, if they are available.  Other religious view the body as a sacred place and should not be contaminated withPicture chemicals, blood, or tissues from certain animals.  They would rather be healed by God or natural means rather than the vaccines. In recent years, exemptions from mandatory vaccines on the basis of religion have risen.  As a result of the contested vaccines, infections spread quickly through small church communities because they are all unvaccinated (“Cultural Perspective”). While it is important to acknowledge those who wish to not vaccinate because of their religious beliefs, it is also pivotal that they understand the possible consequences of their decisions.  There have been many cases of infectious diseases rapidly spreading through small, unvaccinated religious communities.  In 1990 there was a significant measles outbreak involving Philadelphia schoolchildren. These children were members of churches that relied on prayer instead of vaccines to heal.  In 1994 there was another measles outbreak in a different church community that also opposed vaccinations.  The flare-up started with one sick teenager, and the illness spread and created significant outbreaks in both Illinois and Missouri.  Lastly, and more recently, a measles outbreak occurred in another religious community in Indiana.  Once again, the outbreak was caused by an unvaccinated individual who infected others in the community.  Although it is hard for the government to force vaccinations upon those who refuse due to religion, health officials warn parents that their children, if unvaccinated, have a higher risk of catching an infection that is preventable by vaccines (“Cultural Perspective”).

Conclusion

Although there may be some exceptions, the consequences of people not being vaccinated are too serious to overlook or ignore.  When people choose to not vaccinate, herd immunity is greatly impacted.  Herd immunity is the concept that unvaccinated individuals, like the immunocompromised and very young babies, will still be protected against diseases if a significant majority of the population is vaccinated.  This vaccination level is generally agreed to be at about 90 percent of the population to protect against outbreaks in the United States (Winsten).  A result of the declining herd immunity, many vulnerable populations are prone to suffering harm or even death. In the future, the exemption process should be carefully modified to keep people from opting out of required vaccinations for the reason of convenience, but still allowing the exemptions for those individuals with serious convictions or medical reasoning (“Vanishing Vaccinations”).

Mandated vaccinations, while controversial, are a necessary tool in the prevention of deadly diseases and the safe guarding of public health in America.  There are so many deadly diseases and infections in this world that have come and gone, only to come back again.  Most of these diseases are easily spread, extremely fatal, and yet easily preventable with a simply, and safe vaccine.  Despite a flurry of misinformation regarding vaccines and Autism, no credible connections have been made.  Vaccines have been used safely for over a hundred years to stop diseases in their tracks, and we should not be less diligent or complacent just because of their success.

Bibliography/Works Cited

Anderson, Monica. “Young Adults More Likely to Say Vaccinating Kids Should Be a Parental Choice.” Pew Research Center. N.p., 02 Feb. 2015. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/02/02/young-adults-more-likely-to-say-vaccinating-kids-should-be-a-parental-choice/ Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

Calfee, John. “Junk Science and the Anti-Vaccine Fraud.” American Enterprise Institute. 11 Jan. 2011. http://www.aei.org/publication/junk-science-and-the-anti-vaccine-fraud/ Website. 23 Nov. 2016.

“Cultural Perspectives on Vaccination.” History of Vaccines. The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, 7 June 2016. http://www.historyofvaccines.org/content/articles/cultural-perspectives-vaccination Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

“Measles – Reported Cases by Country.” Global Health Observatory Data Repository. Global Health Organization, 12 Jan. 2016.  www.apps.who.int/gho/data/view.main.1520_62?lang=en Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

Meyer, Randoll John. “Mandatory Vaccinations Can Be Compatible With Liberty.” FEE Freeman Article. N.p., 1 July 2016. http://www.fee.org/resources/mandatory-vaccinations-can-be-compatible-with-liberty/?utm_medium=popular_widget Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

Murphy, Robert P. “Mandatory Vaccinations Are Incompatible with Liberty.” FEE Freeman Article. N.p., 2016. http://www.fee.org/resources/mandatory-vaccinations-are-incompatible-with-liberty/ Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

“Smallpox, Smallpox Information, Infection Facts, News, Photos — National Geographic.” National Geographic. National Geographic Partners, LLC., n.d. http://www.science.nationalgeographic.com/science/health-and-human-body/human-diseases/smallpox-article/ Web. 06 Dec. 2016.

“State Vaccine Requirements – National Vaccine Information Center.” National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC). N.p., n.d. http://www.nvic.org/vaccine-laws/state-vaccine-requirements.aspx Web. 06 Dec. 2016.

“Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2015. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/concerns/autism.html Web. 06 Dec. 2016.

“Vanishing Vaccinations: Why Are so Many Americans Opting out of Vaccinating Their Children?” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2004. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15568260 Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

Vidula, Mahesh. “Individual Rights vs. Public Health: The Vaccination Debate.” Angles. MIT, n.d. http://www.web.mit.edu/angles/2010_Mahesh_Vidula.html Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

Wakefield, Andrew J. Callous Disregard: Autism and Vaccines — the Truth behind a Tragedy. New York: Skyhorse Pub., 2010. Print.

Winsten, Jay, and Emily Serazin. “Rolling Back the War on Vaccines.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, 2013. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324039504578260242982589914 Web. 06 Dec. 2016.

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3 responses to “Mandatory Vaccinations: An Essential Tool in the Safe Guarding of America’s Health

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