Vaccines: Don’t Believe Everything You Read

James Gathany

Zoie Chan, Staff Writer

Recently, vaccines and vaccination have been under fire for their perceived potential for harm rather than help. Communities of “anti-vaxxers”, people who are against the use of vaccines, have sprung up in both internet forums and in real life, protesting for the right to withhold their children from getting vaccinated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diseases previously forgotten thanks to vaccines, (such as diphtheria, mumps, measles, whooping cough, and many others) have been making a resurgence in places far and near, such as the current measles outbreak in Brooklyn, New York. The dismissal of vaccines’ positive effects and emphasis on its one in a million side effects have named anti-vaxxers one of the top threats to global health in 2019, according to the World Health Organization. But why do they think that vaccines are out to get them? How are they getting this misinformation? And most importantly, why are they wrong?

The recent hysteria over vaccines started when a study came out saying that vaccines were linked to autism. Despite it being refuted several times over, this lit a spark within the hearts of anxious parents in what would become the great forest fire of the anti-vaccination movement. Although it goes without saying that most parents want the best for their children and want them to be safe from any potential harm, outside influences have made them think that immunization is the grim reaper lurking in their children’s veins when it is very much the opposite. According to The Method, one common argument against vaccines is that there hasn’t been enough research on the topic and that vaccines are a way for pharmaceuticals to make huge profits. Some also argue that people aren’t educated enough in the side effects of vaccines and how prevalent they are. However, what they don’t take into account is how much vaccines have revolutionized the standard in health from the era before their creation to now.

According to Forbes, the morbidity rate from the pre-vaccine era to the most recent reports in the US as of 2007 for diseases such as diphtheria, hepatitis B, mumps, polio, smallpox, and others has reduced by at least 74 percent. Despite the clear benefits reaped from the usage of vaccines, there is still anxiety regarding their side effects. There has been a big emphasis on the potential for an anaphylactic reaction, a life-threatening response to vaccines. Anti-vaccination advocates have used this as an excuse for withholding themselves and their children from getting them, and although it is a valid concern, the chances of having this reaction are very low. According to WebMD, 33 people out of 25 million had this response to a vaccine. Even if you have an allergy to vaccines, medical professionals will find you a way to stay safe from life-threatening diseases.

Now, how did the anti-vaxxer movement gain such traction? Many believers in the cause were influenced by social media. According to The Atlantic, if you look up the word vaccinations on Facebook, you will be pelted with anti-vaccination propaganda. Coincidentally, this is also the social platform that houses the Vaccine Resistance Movement, a community of very vocal and largely middle-aged people who advocate for an alternative to vaccines. Social media and its permittance of fake news sources have played a central role in the huge growth in the following of anti-vaccination groups within the past few years, and it is where these followers organize to protest their right to withhold their child from vaccination. According to The Washington Post, a teen whose mother prevented him from getting vaccinated said that she got the information from Facebook. He stated that the social media site was the only place she relied on for information, identifying it as the root cause for her ideology. Many other people share his story, and it is the same ignorance which they operate on that influences the recent outbreaks of previously eradicated diseases.

Other people’s immunity is no excuse to withhold your kid from vaccination, as people with immunodeficiency are still extremely susceptible to diseases. Their health, as well as the wellbeing of many others, ride on the proven ability of vaccines to keep people safe. With a world putting bigger emphasis on education, we must make sure the sources where we get our information are credible. For the good of all people.