Colin Sheeley

Vaccines are available for a number of diseases, and they’re a crucial component of public health efforts.

Andy Hudlow, Opinions Editor

The first known historical reference of Polio was found in the form of a hieroglyph in Ancient Egypt. The drawing depicted a figure with one normal leg and one leg shrunken in a fashion that medical historians thinks resembles Polio. Even though this is the first known historical record of Polio, many scholars also believe that Polio was a disease that has been affecting humanity dating all the way back into prehistory.

For thousands of years, humans were confronted with  Polio, or a disease like Polio, that would infect them, or more likely their children under five years old, and there was nothing they could do about it. They could only wait for the disease to go away and hope for the best.

Then in the 18th century, something happened, the medical procedure spread of inoculation spread from India through the Ottoman Empire to the Western World. Skip forward another couple centuries and vaccinations are cheap, accessible, and widespread throughout all of the developed world. Pocketes of Polio remain in Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan, but throughout the vast majority of the world, diseases preventable by vaccines are coming close to being eradicated.

With that being said, it would be natural for a person to wonder, why was there an outbreak of Measles at Disneyland towards the end of 2014? Why are many forms of preventable diseases making a resurgence in the modern, developed U.S.? Well the answer is simple, some parents think they have the right to put their own children, and other people’s children, in danger.

This “Anti-Vaccination” movement, or “Anti-Vaxxers,” as they’re called, base their opposition to vaccines primarily off of a study conducted by then–Dr. Andrew Wakefield in 1998 that linked vaccinations in children to autism. I’ll be the first to admit that the prospect of a child getting autism through a vaccine is terrifying, that is, if it were true. It would be completely terrifying if it were not proven to be fraudulent and untrue and Wakefield was not stripped of his license for misleading the public.

Beyond one study that was proven fraudulent long ago, Anti-Vaxxers have almost no facts to back their dangerous decisions up with. Nowadays, they resort to phrases like, “Health cannot come through a needle,” or, “It’s natural to get Polio/measles/pertussis.” Nevermind the fact that it’s also natural for 5% of children who contract Polio to die.

There’s also the fact that there are people in the world who live in developed countries who can’t get vaccines because they are immunocompromised, or unable to receive vaccines because their immune system is too weak for one reason or another. Those people don’t have a choice whether or not they receive a vaccine, but those who do have a choice and forgo it anyway put them in danger anyways.

So why do we, as a society, make it legal for parents to put their own children, and other people’s children, in danger? The answer is quite simple: the vast majority of people don’t trust scientists, or their publications. Only 12% of people believe that scientific journalists produce valid information, and 78% think that most scientific findings and research are influenced by political ideology.

The sources for anti-vaccination arguments have either been disproved or withdrawn from scientific validity. So when the question comes to these anti-vaxxers as to why they still persist in endangering their children and other’s, the response comes, “I don’t know, I’m not a scientist.” Of course you’re not. So listen to the ones that are telling you that what you are doing to your community is harmful, and above all, ridiculous.

There is a sweeping infection of fear that views the scientific method as a religion. Not only do we need to encourage vaccination against these easily preventable diseases, but also discourage the rising pandemic of disbelief in science. The facts are there. The willingness to accept them, however, is not.