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Anti-vax epidemic: More than a laughing matter

May 6, 2019

          If you have an Instagram or Twitter, you’ve surely seen the plethora of vaccination memes across both platforms. Vaccinations have been a topic of discussion for quite some time, and for good reason. Many of the outbreaks and diseases are highly preventable with the use of vaccines, but where do we cross the line in enforcing people to get them?

         In order to better understand the topic of vaccinations, we need to learn more about them and hear both side’s perspectives.

         The first vaccine ever created was made by Edward Jenner in 1796 as a way to protect against smallpox. Since then, vaccines for many illnesses such as diphtheria, tetanus, polio and chickenpox were created to prevent them. Some diseases have even been eradicated due to vaccines. Medical organizations such as the CDC, FDA and AMA all state that vaccines are safe and helpful in preventing disease.

         But recently, vaccines have been coming under fire for their possible side effects. According to the CDC, all vaccinations present the threat of a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). But this only occurs in about one per million children vaccinated.

         “You are 100 times more likely to be struck by lightning than to have a serious allergic reaction to the vaccine that protects you against measles,” said Chief Medical Correspondent for CNN Sanjay Gupta.

         Many religions prohibit the use of vaccines, and exemption from vaccines for religious reasons is a policy in all 50 states. What many people don’t understand is that not every person has to get vaccinated to prevent outbreaks. “Herd immunity” is a term that refers to a certain percentage of a population being vaccinated against a disease, causing an outbreak to be unlikely. This allows those who cannot be vaccinated due to religious or medical reason to be unvaccinated but not risk getting or spreading illnesses.

         But when the number of people vaccinated becomes too low, herd immunity is no longer in effect and outbreaks become possible. In 2019 alone, there have been multiple outbreaks of diseases that hadn’t been prevalent for a long time, such as measles and mumps. This puts everyone in danger of contracting the disease that could have easily been prevented.

         In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, there was a concern of vaccines possibly causing autism in children. Media outlets took the possible link and ran with it, causing international panic and a decrease in children being vaccinated. But the paper that linked autism and vaccinations has since been redacted due to fatal flaws in the research, and it has since been determined that vaccines are not a direct cause of autism.

         So while it’s nice to poke fun on the internet, vaccinations and the debate around them is a serious topic with serious consequences. Being educated on both sides of the issue is important, but many can agree that vaccinations are one of the most important inventions of all time in terms of health. If people continue to not vaccinate their children, we could be affected by diseases we haven’t seen since the last century.

 

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