Vaccinations a must, in medicine we trust

By Editorial Board

Vaccinations will remain a major point of contention between those who do and those who don’t believe in science for the foreseeable future. With measles making its way into recent headlines amid a U.S. outbreak, it seems that many need a refresher on the necessity of immunization. However, forcing people to face cold, hard, scientifically proven facts is becoming more and more difficult with the increasing popularity of anti-vaccination ideologies.

More than 195 cases of measles—the single most infectious and contagious disease—have been reported across the country after an outbreak occurred at Disneyland in December 2014, according to a Jan. 29 New York Times report. Yes, the Happiest Place on Earth is the hub of what could very well become an epidemic if parents and the government do not wise up. 

Congress should make immunizations for preventable diseases mandatory for children under the age of 2—the optimal age, according to the Center for Disease Control—as it has become evident that those who choose to opt out of or those who claim they cannot afford vaccinations are now becoming public health troglodytes. Vaccinations should be required because the reemergence of measles, a disease that was declared virtually eliminated in 2000, is unacceptable.

Higher education households, low-income households and religious communities are the most likely to deny vaccines altogether or under-immunize their children, according to a Feb. 3 International Business Times report. The individuals in these groups exist in small geographical clusters across the country, such as Northern California’s Marin County, according to the report. Though these clusters may seem insignificant, they are not, because one unvaccinated child is all it takes to create a national public heath crisis.

The hope is that parents do not willingly put their child in danger, but it is worrisome that any parent would not want the best possible medical care and method of disease prevention for their child. Vaccinations are the most effective medical care and method of prevention for children. To deny basic science is irrational and negligent. It may very well be that parents believe their child’s immune system is enough to ward off infection, but when that child is taken ill by a disease that could have been completely avoided with proper vaccinations and goes on to infect others, it should be criminal because the failure to act amounts to reckless endangerment.

However, there is also no excuse for parents who claim they cannot afford to vaccinate their children because the CDC’s Vaccines for Children Program provides vaccines to clinics and doctors’ offices across the country, that then administer vaccines to eligible children free of charge. 

For those who are actively choosing to ignore the facts because this blog said this or that neighbor said that, the government should prioritize awareness and education, as science literacy is clearly an issue in this country. That said, it’s not ignorance of science on the right; it is simply anti-government rhetoric. 

Regardless, the ethics of not vaccinating a child should be considered, and the government in turn should require immunizations regardless of religious, political or philosophical claims. 

With an irrational fear of Ebola still looming, the lack of rational fear for a very real outbreak of measles is disconcerting—particularly because cases have now been confirmed in the Chicago area, according to a Feb. 6 Chicago Tribune report. When a preventable disease reemerges, it is time to take stock and reevaluate how the U.S. has regressed to a time where a once antiquated disease is a clear and present danger. When a disease that kills thousands every year in countries without the medical capabilities the U.S. has reemerges, it is time to make the tough but easy decision of requiring vaccinations.