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Throwback Thursday: That’s Not How Science Works: Vaccination Edition –

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.


 

Childhood vaccinations have been preventing disease and saving lives of children for over a century. Yet only in recent decades has vaccination become a question, a choice, rather than a must. The root of the vaccine debate lies in the question of personal freedom versus the effect on those around us of not vaccinating. Parents should have to vaccinate their children, because the benefits of doing so far outweigh any potential risks. Many of these perceived risks are fictional, so the fear they cause is unfounded.

Orange-County, California has one of the highest personal exemptions rates in the country, at nearly 9% of kids being unvaccinated. This county has also had the most deaths from the measles outbreak that originated in Disneyland. “Rhett Krawitt is in remission…vulnerable to infection and unable to be vaccinated, turning him into an unwitting symbol of the need for herd immunity” (Schulten, New York Times). Rhett is just one example. Herd immunity is if 95% of a population is vaccinated or otherwise immune. The remaining 5%, those with immune disorders or other conditions making them unable to be vaccinated, will be protected because the disease will not be able to develop. When immunization rates drop too low, diseases can sneak in and cause an epidemic like the one seen with the measles. One reason people don’t vaccinate is because they think the disease is nearly eradicated already and there is no need; however, that only stands true when we vaccinate.

One of the greatest misconceptions about vaccines that lead to personal exemptions is the false notion that “vaccines cause autism”. To be clear, they don’t. The rumor that they do was based upon falsified research that has since been retracted and disproven. The side effects of vaccines are almost always mild, ranging from a fever to a rash, only in rare cases. Only the DTaP vaccine has a more common, severe side effect. One in a million cases can suffer paralysis or brain damage (CDC website). Even so, the risk you run in not getting the vaccine, which is to protect infants from whooping cough, diphtheria, and tetanus, is far worse than these rare risks.

Many people choose not to vaccinate because it is their “personal freedom” or because they “don’t want to overburden their child’s immune system”; however, people should have to vaccinate their children because the risks posed to both individuals and society by not doing so far outweighs the rare case of adverse effects from vaccination. As Dr. Snyder said to the Boston Globe “It’s a common theme that we see parents questioning scientific facts in the same way they would debate a political topic.” We shouldn’t let them.

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