CP Editorial: There should be no debate over vaccinations

Vaccines save lives. They have been improving the quality of life for years, yet parents still debate perceived benefits and disadvantages of vaccines. Frankly, there shouldn’t be a debate. Unfortunately, many parents disagree.

“We have seen the trend of unvaccinated children for a long time,” Andrea Warner, a communications representative from Boone County Public Health Department, said.

Some parents have anti-vaccine beliefs because of personal and religious doctrine, but many decisions are based on myths that simply aren’t true.

The most common myth is that vaccines cause autism. Many studies have been dedicated to the supposed link and no correlations have been found. Autism Speaks is an organization that encourages all parents to vaccinate children. It was founded by Bob and Suzanne Wright in 2005 and is the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. The Wrights are grandparents of an autistic child and are dedicated to funding research and raising autism awareness.

Another common myth is that unvaccinated children do not put vaccinated children at risk. They do. When parents choose not to vaccinate children they are actually negatively impacting entire communities. The concept of “herd immunity” is based on the idea that if a significant portion of a community or “herd” is vaccinated, then the community is immune. In order for herd immunity to be successful, 80 percent of the population must be fully vaccinated. With the rising number of vaccine exemptions being requested by parents, herd immunity is threatened. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 38,000 children have been exempted from receiving recommended vaccines.

In the first six months of 2011, CDC recorded more cases of measles in the U.S. than years prior to 1996. Eighty-nine percent of those that contracted measles in 2011 were not vaccinated. Parents need to put ignorance aside and recognize they are a part of something larger than themselves.

Parents argue that because diseases such as smallpox and polio have been insignificant for a long period, their children are no longer in need of protection. What parents fail to recognize is that vaccine success is why we no longer see these diseases. Prevention is possible because of vaccines.

However, parents are not the only ones to blame. The U.S. health care system needs to communicate the importance of vaccines more effectively in order to squash counterarguments. It can no longer be assumed that all parents recognize vaccine necessity.

Parents are not informed of the recommend vaccinations until their baby’s two-month doctor visit. At this time, children are recommended to receive the pneumococcal, DTaP, Hib, polio, rotavirus and hepatitis B vaccines. By this time parents have already been exposed to ridiculous vaccine myths flooding the Internet. Doctors should inform parents of the vaccination advantages early in pregnancies.

It is crucial that young children and those with weaker immune systems receive vaccinations, but older children also need the protection provided by vaccines. As children mature, they are more susceptible to contracting diseases such as meningococcal meningitis. Updated vaccinations are necessary in order to stay healthy. Jobs, hobbies, travel and chronic health conditions can weaken immunity over time. As societal immunity changes, the U.S. vaccine schedules alter in response. Although some are annoyed with additional vaccinations updates, they reflect current research and have a positive impact on children’s health.

There are a few legitimate reasons that specific children should avoid vaccinations, such as vaccination allergies. But, a personal or religious refusal from a parent does not carry the same level of legitimacy.

According to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, 2.1 million people die of vaccine preventable diseases worldwide. This is often due to a lack of vaccine availability in developing countries. The U.S. has more necessary vaccinations available than any other country, and parents should take advantage of it.

The disadvantages of not vaccinating children are far greater than any supposed benefits of refrainment. All states require certain vaccinations in public schools, which includes pre-school through college institutions. Private institutions may also issue their own vaccination requirements. These vaccinations usually include Tdap (pertussis booster), polio, DTaP, MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella), hepatitis B, and varicella (chickenpox). Choosing to opt out of vaccinations puts a child’s education and the learning environments of other children at risk.

CDC and Georgia Tech University developed a catch-up immunization scheduler for children 6 years and younger who have not received vaccinations. Catching up on vaccinations is a complex task, which is why it is recommended that children receive vaccinations at a young age. However, it is never too late for adolescents to be vaccinated. The Adolescent Immunization Scheduler can be used to assist children 7 to 18 years.

Learning institutions, the government, doctors, researchers and science agree on vaccine necessity. Select parents choosing to not comply with science and facts are completely unreasonable. Yes, parents who do not vaccinate children are a minority in the U.S.- for now. More parents need to stand up for pro-vaccine and children’s health before the minority becomes the majority. The vaccine debate needs to come to a stop.

Elizabeth Johnson

About the Author Elizabeth Johnson

I am pursuing a degree in science and agricultural journalism with an emphasis in agricultural marketing. I hope to work in corporate public relations post graduation. I have a passion for communications and anything and everything Mizzou. My dad is a CAFNR alumnus with a degree in agricultural economics, and my mom graduated from the College of Education. Both of my parents grew up on family operated farms and in rural agricultural communities. This was the main factor in my decision to pursue a degree from CAFNR. I wrote for Corner Post during Fall 2013 and had no writing experience prior to that. I now have a new appreciation for investigative journalism and am excited to continue practicing it.