Opting out of vaccines is harmful to society at large
Parents opting out of vaccinating their children endangers both their children and the population at large. Anti-vaxxers often claim that not vaccinating their children will not have any effect due to the majority of the U.S. population being fully vaccinated, which is a concept referred to as herd immunity.
However, that immunity is dwindling with the recent rise in numbers of those unvaccinated by choice.
Typically, the people who face the most consequences for these parents’ actions are not their children, who don’t deserve for their health to be put at risk either, but medically vulnerable groups. These groups consist of newborns, the elderly and people with unrelated medical concerns that weaken the immune system.
We cannot allow a shallow desire for individual liberty based on pseudoscience to overpower an easily solvable public health crisis.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of unvaccinated children under the age of 2 increased from 0.9 percent of children born in 2011 to 1.3 percent of children born in 2015, amounting to a jump of 0.4 percent.
Such a small percentage may seem inconsequential, but with approximately 4 million babies being born in the United States each year, that equates to about 52,000 of those babies not receiving their vaccinations throughout childhood.
That number is significant enough to pose a threat to public health, particularly in communities where that number may be highly concentrated.
Parents who choose not to vaccinate their children often cite a 1998 article that claimed there was a link between the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and autism in children.
Even within the report they could not find evidence for a causal relationship, however, and later studies in the two decades have since debunked the theory. Unfortunately, the discourse surrounding it has refused to die out, and there are still proponents of the theory to this day.
The result is an increasing number of individuals who, despite there being no scientific or medical basis for neglecting to vaccinate their children, choose not to.
The World Health Organization, states that herd immunity requires a minimum of 95 percent of the population having all necessary vaccines in order for the unvaccinated to have little risk of catching such diseases.
In theory, that 5 percent or less of unvaccinated citizens should be reserved for the medically vulnerable groups who have legitimate basis for not receiving all necessary vaccinations.
Though rare, there are children who cannot get certain vaccinations due to severe allergic reactions or particularly weak immune systems. When being exposed to the diseases vaccines could prevent, this population would be at an even greater risk of long-term health complications or death than those unvaccinated by choice.
Furthermore, parents who can both afford and have immediate access to vaccinations are ignoring the health and safety of children who lack these resources. According to a CDC study, the segment of the population most likely to not be fully vaccinated is children who live in rural communities or are uninsured.
These children, despite federal programs such as the Vaccines for Children Program that seeks to vaccinate the uninsured, do not have equal access to vaccinations, unlike the typically wealthier anti-vaxxers who largely started the trend.
Parents who do not vaccinate their children because of personal or religious convictions put not only their children but the medically and financially vulnerable at risk of health crises that we cannot afford or condone.
Parents who do not vaccinate their children because of personal or religious convictions not only put their children at risk of health crises, but the medically and financially vulnerable, as well. This allows for the unnecessary spread of disease that cannot be condoned.
Opinion columnist Adison Eyring is a media productions and political science sophomore and can be reached at [email protected].