Vaccines Are The Most Effective Way to Prevent Disease


Vaccines Are The Most Effective Way to Prevent Disease

By Bernice Chen, Opinions Editor

When he turned 18, Ethan Lindenberger went onto Reddit and asked how he could get vaccinations against the wishes of his anti-vaxx parents. Months later, on March 6th, he talked about his story to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. “There seem to always be two sides to a discussion,” Lindenberger said in his testimony. “But that is not true for the vaccine debate.”

Lindenberger is a senior at Norwalk High School in Ohio, one of 18 states that currently allow parents to opt out of getting their kids immunized for personal or moral reasons. Nearly all states also give exemptions for parents that hold religious beliefs opposing vaccines. Enabled by the laws in Ohio, Lindenberger’s parents consistently opted him out of vaccinations whenever his school requested that he receive them.

The debate over immunizations, including whether or not states should allow exemptions for vaccines, has recently come into the spotlight again. This is due to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting 206 cases of measles throughout 11 states just in the first two months of 2019. To put this number in context, the number of measles cases reported during the entirety of 2018 was 372. Outbreaks (where there are three or more cases of a disease in a certain area) have already sprouted up in six different states, including Texas.

Yet, even as the CDC also informs that the measles vaccine is 93% effective against the disease, at least 20 states have introduced bills this year that would make it easier to avoid getting immunized. Measles, which used to be the leading killer of children in the world, was declared eliminated from America in 2000 because of the vaccine’s introduction in 1963. Unfortunately, as a result of states passing laws that allow vaccination opt-outs, measles is finding its way back into the country. Washington officials, who have already declared a state of emergency for the outbreak, found that 63 out of the 73 people infected were not immunized for the disease.

There are several different reasons why people avoid getting vaccinated. Many are distrustful of pharmaceutical companies and believe they hold financial incentives to poison the treatments. But at the same time, as worded by registered nurse Meggy Doodle, Big Pharma also makes every other medication used in hospitals. “Science has PROVEN [vaccines are] the most effective method of controlling the spread of disease and giving you and everyone around you the best chance of NOT DYING from something preventable,” Doodle debunked in a viral Facebook post. Others oppose immunizations on the basis of religion, though most major scriptures and doctrines don’t actually object to vaccines. Instead, perhaps the most contested argument is that of the safety of vaccinations for recipients. In fact, a survey done in 2013 found that the majority of pediatricians said parents refusing vaccines for their children did so because of their skepticism about the vaccine’s usefulness and safety.

The emergence of this specific concern is mostly due to misinformation. During his appearance before the senators, Lindenberger explained that his mother was fed false knowledge about immunization safety by organized anti-vaxx groups online. Anti-vaccine publications and media, for example, have often espoused beliefs that getting vaccines leads to contracting autism or other neurological disorders. Yet multiple reports conducted by parties such as the CDC, Danish researchers in 2002 and this year, and the Institute of Medicine’s Immunization Safety Review Committee agree that except in extremely rare circumstances, there is no causal relationship between immunization and brain damage. Worries of other, more physical harms resulting from vaccinations have also been disproved by groups like the World Health Organization.

This isn’t to say that vaccines are 100% safe and will never have side effects. Any medication in existence holds possible health risks, and immunizations are no exception. There are definitely people out there who are allergic to vaccinations or cannot receive them because of other health issues. For everyone else, however, the benefits of vaccines greatly outweigh the potential harms. Before vaccines were invented, the only hope of disease immunity was to contract the illness and hope that you would survive its symptoms. Now, most immunizations protect around 80-99% of recipients and prevents those around them from catching contagious diseases carried by unvaccinated people. All vaccines are carefully reviewed by scientists, doctors, and governments to ensure that they are safe for fighting all kinds of illnesses, such as the flu, polio, smallpox, tetanus, etc.

Every year, two to three million deaths worldwide are avoided because of immunization. 1.5 million more could be prevented by increased vaccine coverage. For the sake of individuals and the communities around them, governments and organizations must work to inform citizens about the true necessity of immunization and tighten the exceptions that allow people to avoid it. Vaccination is the only way to control outbreaks and permanently eradicate diseases, and ought to be regarded as the life-saving medication it is.