On Friday, Feb. 8, a rally took place in the city of Olympia, Washington. The protesters, self-proclaimed champions of liberty and parent choice. These hundred few argued against a bill on the floor of the state legislature of Washington that would ban any and all non-medical exemptions for vaccinations. The law, of course, drew condemnation from these concerned parents who felt their civil liberties were being violated by being mandated to vaccinate their children, but is that truly the case? Are they truly victims or are they merely misguided in their pursuit of false liberty? I am inclined to believe the latter over the former. Vaccines serve a public good that can’t be so quickly disregarded simply because a parent believes they know their child better than a medical professional. It is especially saddening to this writer that so many use the facade of “personal choice” to cover the simple and undeniable truth. These people are putting lives at risk and if they actively and continuously refuse to vaccinate their children. The states ought to compel them with the full force of the law.
Currently, there are 17 states that permit non-medical exemptions for vaccines, many of which are religiously based and or philosophically based. Four percent of children in secondary education are not vaccinated due to non-medical reasons and in Oregon, 7.5 percent of kindergarteners are not vaccinated for the same reasons (CBS News). One of those states, Washington, is now attempting to remove these exemptions after 50 confirmed cases of measles breaking out in the state. However, some individuals oppose the measures and continue to refuse to vaccinate despite the fact that the measles vaccine has a 97 percent effectiveness rate (Evans, CBS News). The vaccine for the defense against Measles is known as the MMR vaccine, which has mild side effects and in some rare cases can cause seizures, however, these risks are incredibly rare and short term. A study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnical Information, a subsection of the National Health Institute, found that the risks of seizures associated with the MMR vaccine rested at a rate of 34 in 100,000 (Dr. Anne Berg, NCBI). Comparatively, if you are not vaccinated and are in contact with someone who is infected with measles, you have a 90 percent chance of being infected with the disease (Evans, CBS). This means that the people who are fearing things like seizures from MMR are taking their chances with a disease that is likely to infect them all. They are afraid of a threat that has less than a single percentage point risk of occurring. This can’t be permitted to stand. The MMR vaccine is exceptionally safe, with a minor risk like temporary sores, minor rashes, and fevers (CDC). I know this sounds scary to some, but the alternative is far worse. Prior to the 1963 development of the measles vaccine, there were approximately 500,000 cases of measles, 48,000 hospitalizations and 4,000 cases of brain swelling (CDC).
Thankfully, most people are vaccinating their children as evidenced by the fact that since 2013, vaccination rates went up by 12 percent. Conversely, vaccination refusals also went up from 2.5 percent to 4 percent between 2010 and 2016. If vaccination refusal continues to go up, it puts the herd immunity or collective immunity at risk. The measles herd immunity threshold is approximately 95 percent, meaning that if less than 95 percent of the population that can be vaccinated has not received the MMR vaccine, the likelihood of the disease spreading increases, putting immunocompromised people at risk (Helft and Willingham, PBS). Unfortunately, with the ignorance and fear mongering surrounding vaccines, vaccine rates for MMR rested at 91.1 percent for 2017 (CDC). The danger that comes with anti-vaxxer rhetoric is self-evident, and the consequences of their scientific illiteracy will be resting not solely on their shoulders, but on all of us, and they aren’t backing down anytime soon.
The Internet has provided them with a hive to spread their propaganda with Facebook being a breeding ground for their it. An example of this would be the Facebook page titled “A Voice for Choice” has spread numerous falsehood about vaccines with no substantiated papers or research to support their deceptions. More than 3,000 people have liked the page and have in all likelihood, more people than that have spread the lies (Caplan and Evrony, NCBI). These people will continue to spread their lies and unless the states step in to mandate vaccines, the damage will be immense. For the good of all people, vaccines must be mandated by law and this massive propaganda campaign must be counteracted anywhere it rears its ugly head.