Parenthood comes with many responsibilities, one of the most important ones being providing for the health and well-being of your children. “Providing for the health and well-being of your children,” though, is a tall order. Sure, you can take the obvious precautions, like child-proofing the cabinet under your kitchen sink and limiting the amount of sugar your children consume. What about the less-obvious choices, though, like deciding whether or not to vaccinate your children?
You would think that immyour children from deadly diseases would be one of the obvious decisions, wouldn’t you? Why would you play Russian roulette with the health of a young child soley dependent on you? For some parents, it seems as if it’s not that obvious. These parents, who go by the popular moniker “anti-vaxxers” in the media, decide not to vaccinate their children against common (but oftentimes potentially-fatal) diseases like chicken pox, measles and Hepatitis B, for a number of many reasons. One of the most-touted reasons is the belief that modern-day vaccines can lead to the development of autism and other developmental issues in children who are immunized. Citing studies and anecdotal evidence, anti-vaxxers claim that they are doing right by their children when they forgo vaccinations. But are they, really? Here are four reasons why the anti-vaxxer campaign, which is growing in numbers and strength at an alarming rate, might not be all it’s cracked up to be.
The Science Isn’t There
Many of the scientific studies that anti-vaxxers cite when defending their views cannot stand up to scientific scrutiny. Take the case of Andrew Wakefield and his 1998 study claiming a link between autism in children and the measles vaccination. The paper was partially retracted after questions regarding its tiny sample size – only 12 children – and its ability to be reproduced with the same results were unable to be answered, and was finally completely refuted by the scientific community when it was discovered that Wakefield manipulated the results to skew towards a positive correlation. It still continues to be cited by proponents of the anti-vaxxer movement, which includes actress Jenny McCarthy, despite the fact that none of the findings are considered to be scientifically accurate.
…But The Conspiracy Theories Are
Vaccines manufactured in the US for exportation are being intentionally tainted to spread AIDS and infertility in other countries. Vaccines contain aborted fetuses as an ingredient. Liberal elites are using vaccines to manipulate and reduce the earth’s human population as a response to the global warming crisis. Gardasil directly explains an increase in sexual promiscuity in teenage girls who receive the vaccine. These are all theories that many members of the anti-vaxxers believe hold water, and which they use as reasoning to forgo vaccination schedules. While your Average Joe might not have the resources to prove or disprove these theories, some of them seem so far-fetched that to subscribe to them while simultaneously ignoring decades of scientific research seems counter-intuitive to reason.
There Are Other Members in the Herd
The concept of herd immunity is a simple one: the more individuals vaccinated within a population, the less the likelihood that those who are not vaccinated will come into contact with the disease, thus limiting the chain of infection and disrupting the spread of the disease if it was ever to gain momentum. It’s a vital form of protection, especially for individuals who are too young or whose immune systems are too compromised to receive vaccinations. That’s why this current outbreak of measles in the US is particularly frightening; children under the age of vaccination are potentially being exposed to individuals who did not receive the vaccine and are infected by measles, a disease that was once virtually wiped out in the US. Many anti-vaxxers are affluent and able to afford the expensive hospital bills that treating a disease like measles can generate, but for parents of lesser economic means who end up with a child infected by measles because they were too young to receive the vaccine, having to pay back hospital bills of that magnitude can be devastating.
Simply put, there’s a reason why most people who receive vaccines do not end up contracting the illnesses that the vaccines are supposed to immunize individuals from. Many harmful and devastating have been almost eradicated through the implementation of vaccination programs – polio, which affected a staggering number of individuals during the height of its epidemic, being one of them. The scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of vaccines is there, in spades, while there’s just not enough evidence to support that the “risks” of vaccines outweigh the benefits they can provide.
As a parent, it’s up to you to decide whether or not to vaccinate your children. Before you make a decision, do some research and speak to a trusted health professional. It’s not just your children’s lives you’re affecting, after all.