This opinion piece does not express the opinions of the Teen Observer as a whole, only those of the authors.
BERKELEY, Calif. — August 2015, and kids are grudgingly readying themselves for the return of the school year. For most it means school supplies and last-minute, summer-homework cram sessions. For others, it’s accepting the anxiety of “will this be year?” The year for vaccinations.
An outbreak of measles in Disneyland brought state vaccination laws to the forefront of social and political dialogue. Nineteen were infected on what were intended to be fun trips to the amusement park. Outbreaks like these occur when “herd immunity” is lacking, meaning that enough people refused vaccinations to allow a disease to spread.
Yet, the Bay Area sees intense anti-vaccination action. In the 2013-2014 school year alone, 17,000 children went to school unvaccinated for philosophical exemption, while only 1,000 were exempted for medical reasons.
To prevent a local epidemic, a new law passed in California requires all students from pre-school to kindergarten to receive vaccinations with the exception of the medically compromised. These children rely on herd immunity to stay healthy, so a parent’s religion or beliefs are no longer grounds for exemption.
This law was not passed without opposition. Many parents have opted to homeschool children in order to avoid vaccines. These drastic measures were spurned by a now retracted investigation published by the British Medical Journal in 1998. The study by Andrew Wakefield has since been disproved in the face of opposition by the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Any reasoning parents could use against vaccines is invalid in the eyes of not the only U.S. government but also the United Nations.
But for some parents, it seems the protection of their children and others still comes second to a personal philosophy rooted in ignorance and false information. Like drunk drivers, the perpetrators put themselves and those around them at risk. Refusing to vaccinate not only endangers that child but those around him or her who rely on herd immunity to stay safe.
Feature image: Amanda Mills, USCDCP, Public Domain 2015.