Anti-vaccination movement harmful to society


David Delgado//The Daily Cougar

Before modern medicine, disease was one of the deadliest forces throughout even the greatest civilizations. The bubonic plague nearly wiped out Europe in the Middle Ages; smallpox and measles devastated Native Americans as Europeans settled the continent. Even today, diseases like whooping cough and malaria still kill hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

But thanks to the hard work of doctors and their discoveries, deadly diseases have been largely overcome in countries like the U.S. In 1980, the World Health Organization declared that smallpox had been eradicated. Disease has become less prominent, and treatment is available from doctors in every major city for the diseases we haven’t eradicated yet.

Although we still deal with cancer, heart disease, obesity and other ailments, Americans are fortunate enough to have access to high-quality health care that isn’t available in many parts of the world. Yet with all the progress that has been made, some people still do not trust those responsible for the eradication and treatment of deadly diseases.

Anti-vaccination sentiments have grown throughout the U.S. as some have become cautious and fearful of being vaccinated and having their children vaccinated. Some parents have concerns that their children may have allergic reactions or be one of the rare cases that react negatively to vaccines. While rare side effects can occur, the number of non-medical exemptions throughout the U.S. has grown in numbers thanks to anti-vaccination movements.

Those advocating against vaccination are led by names like Andrew Wakefield and Jenny McCarthy. These advocates believe and insist that vaccines are a cause for the rising number of autism cases throughout the U.S. However, Wakefield and his studies that “discovered” the link have been discredited by his peers. Not a single study was able to replicate his findings.

In fact, the British Medical Journal’s Editor in Chief Fiona Godlee described Wakefield’s study as “a deliberate attempt to create an impression that there was a link by falsifying the data.”

In spite of this discreditation, anti-vaccine proponents have continued to share their anger and blame for vaccines. The Council on Foreign Relations recently released an interactive map detailing locations of disease outbreaks that were preventable from vaccinations — many of which were excessively large throughout Europe and the U.S.

Measles, a disease that was previously eradicated from the U.S., has seen a recent outbreak of more than a dozen people in New York.

Whether those in the anti-vaccine movement are simply blinded by personal anecdotal horror stories or unaware of the scale of how the disease affected people before vaccinations, it is clear that they are unwilling to listen to evidence. As a result, the danger in which they place their children and the children around them is sad.

Electrical engineering sophomore Theodore Rodriguez said he is in favor of mandatory vaccinations.

“Personally, I think it’s a good idea, but only because it’s mainstream,” Rodriguez said. “It’s best that the entire population takes them or doesn’t. And since it’s mandatory, I think it’s a good idea that everyone take it as opposed to half and half.”

Rodriguez touches an important point. Vaccines are not 100 percent effective. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the MMR vaccine is estimated to give 95 percent of those receiving it immunity to mumps, measles and rubella after their first shot. Then there are some children who cannot receive vaccinations because they have allergies. These facts make it even more important that those who can receive vaccinations do their best to stay up-to-date with them.

The immunity of children and people who cannot receive vaccinations is dependent on those who can and do. The lack of complete effectiveness of vaccines also makes it important for everyone to get vaccinated. When even a small percentage of people go without vaccinations, they put the health of those around them at risk.

Marketing senior Blake Moody said he understands vaccination fears, but insists that people listen to their doctors.

“At a certain level, you have to trust specialists. It’s awfully pretentious to think you know better than a doctor concerning your child’s health,” Moody said. “I think trust is the main issue, and trusting experts is hard for a lot of reasons. You have to put your pride away and listen.”

Although not all vaccinations are mandatory — such as the flu vaccine — those that are mandatory are required for students to enroll in school. Students who enrolled at the University under the age of 22 are familiar with receiving the meningitis vaccine before attending classes. Although students can opt out of receiving the vaccine for reasons of conscience or religious reasons, I urge students to receive recommended vaccinations if they are capable.

It may be easy for many of us to look at how healthy our friends are and fool ourselves into believing that doctors are incorrect in their recommendations or that we know more about our children’s immune systems than experts.

The truth is that most of us have not studied biology for the many years experts have. To ignore the advice of the medical community on vaccinations in favor of personal opinion isn’t only a disservice to yourself — it puts children, peers and the doctors who may have to treat you at risk.

The University Health Services website has a schedule for recommended vaccinations for adults and children. If you are a student who has chosen not to follow medical advice for personal reasons, please take a moment to reconsider the consequences for those around you and yourself as well. Do a favor to those around you and get vaccinated.

Opinion columnist Shane Brandt is a petroleum engineering junior and may be reached at [email protected]


  • Great article- it’s refreshing to see college students who get it. Intelligence is knowing your limits and when to defer to others. True wisdom is knowing what you don’t know. For example, I’m a pediatric nurse, and while I educate my patients on the importance of vaccines, I do not claim to know as much as an immunologist. Like the students said in the article, “It’s awfully pretentious to think you know better than a doctor concerning your child’s health.”
    At an age where it’s common for young adults to think they’re invincible, I’m pleased to see that many are speaking up for science and encouraging public health awareness.

    • The rates of infant mortality, and even the very definition are markedly different from country to country. You are comparing apples to oranges.

    • Well, the bit about the U.S. giving two to three times as many vaccines as Japan is false, but if one is going to complain that the U.S. has about the least-effective way of providing health care, it’s worth noting that vaccines are subject to a cost-benefit analysis before being recommended. Let’s consider MMR:

      “[T]the net present [2004] values (net savings) of the MMR vaccination program from direct cost and societal perspectives were $3.5 billion and $7.6 billion, respectively.”

      Preventing disease is cheaper than treating it. Who could have guessed?


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