A recent outbreak of measles at Disneyland caused the re-emergence of the anti-vaccination debate, but this time, with more skepticism. Vaccination opponents have not previously come under such an enormous amount of criticism, since measles were thought to have been effectively eradicated in the U.S. since 2000. Beginning in December of last year, 150 cases of measles disease have been reported, with 39 cases thought to be contracted at Disneyland.
The number of parents choosing not to give their children the measles MMR vaccination has risen noticeably in the past years. In the state of Minnesota, the number of parents filing conscientious objections to school-based vaccinations increased from 607 to 1,959 in the 2004-2005 school year. Many parents base their objections on a published study which was later debunked and retracted that the MMR vaccine causes autism. Some doctors have decided not to treat patients who refuse inoculations amid the new outbreak of measles, and oddly enough, a bill was recently introduced in New York that allows parents to refuse vaccinations for their children based purely on philosophical reasons.
Some U.S. parents were moved by reported cases of immediate childhood autism after MMR injections, and remained firmly against vaccination, which were believed to have indirectly harmed children’s well-being. Parents tend to place more confidence in anecdotes from people outside of medical academia, as these stories add a human aspect to the measles, which had rarely been mentioned since 2000.
This fear of potentially altering a child’s development based on these assumptions is hardly a rational decision. Refusing to vaccinate one’s children not only means potentially exposing those children to the measles, but also potentially exposing other children to the measles as well. This kind of social irresponsibility is unjustifiable in an age where the medical technology to easily eradicate these life-threatening illnesses exists and has worked for decades.
Also, parents who have children with health complications that prevent them from taking vaccines live in constant fear that their sons and daughters might be exposed to measles someday. These parents justifiably plead for other parents to vaccinate their healthy children in order to protect the well-being of their own as well as American kids as a whole. This distinguishes parents who don’t vaccinate their children for concrete medical reasons from those who do so for hypothetical, ungrounded reasons.
When public welfare comes into the equation, vaccination for children should be a civic obligation, since every child deserves an equal chance of protection from fatal diseases and some parents should not impose the risk on other parents’ children by failing to provide vaccination for their own kids. Moreover, an enormous volume of media studies and research conducted in the U.S., the U.K. and Japan all shared a consistent result that there is no evident linkage between vaccinations and the development of autism.
After all, it is undeniable that vaccinations have prevented countless cases of measles, but of course, what people will never see is what has been prevented.
Jenny Dao ’17 email@example.com is from Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. She majors in political science and economics.