EDITORIAL: Vaccinations are about more than personal choice

By Editorial Board

In 2000, measles was considered an eliminated disease due to the efficacy and widespread use of the MMR vaccine. According to an April 16 CNN report, in the last 19 years, cases of measles have increased to the second-highest level in a quarter century, with more than 555 cases reported in the U.S. within the first three months of 2019 alone. At least seven confirmed cases have been reported in the greater Chicago area as well, according to an April 16 WQAD report.

In a CNN interview, Dr. William Schaffner, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, attributed the jump in measles cases to the anti-vaccination movement, which has been gaining popularity and has turned back the clock on a previously eliminated, potentially fatal disease. Though it may be easy to believe vaccines are no longer necessary in the late stages of herd immunity, we must remain vigilant and aware that without vaccines, any number of diseases could once again invade the population.

If this were a conversation about personal choice, those against vaccinations for any reason would have every right to refuse. In the U.S., people have the right to make decisions that may be detrimental to their own health, safety and well-being. We may choose to take on the complications and costs associated with an illness for ourselves.

Patrick Casey

But nobody has the right to make that decision for anyone else. Anti-vaccine views are on the rise across the nation, and we must combat them with education about the efficacy of vaccines. Without vaccines—or even with a marginally reduced vaccinated population—diseases that were once a distant memory could come rearing back into public health.

Vaccinating is about more than protecting your own body from measles or another disease. It is about protecting those at risk, particularly young children and those who have compromised immune systems. Dr. Manish Sadarangani, director of the Vaccine Evaluation Center at the British Columbia Children’s Hospital, explained in an April 2016 interview for the Oxford Vaccine Group that 90-95% of the population must be vaccinated to prevent the spread of a highly-contagious disease such as measles. In the interview, he points out that before the measles vaccine, every person who contracted measles would be responsible for infecting 10 or more others.

It is the responsibility of individuals to see themselves as part of a group choosing to protect those who cannot protect themselves. We can agree as human beings that the health and safety of our communities is our personal responsibility. Protecting those most vulnerable among us is a call every person who is able must take up by choosing to get vaccinated and by vaccinating their children. Saving the lives of people who cannot be vaccinated is our obligation, one we must not let be clouded by misinformation or anti-science views.