By Dan Kersten
In 1998, Andrew Wakefield, a British surgeon and medical researcher published an article in The Lancet. In it, Wakefield claimed that the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine was linked to cases of colitis – an inflammation of the large intestine – and autism spectrum disorders. In the immediate aftermath, parents panicked and vaccine rates dropped dramatically. Investigations into Wakefield uncovered that he had not reported several conflicts of interest, violated many ethical codes, and his data could not be replicated. As a result, in 2010, Wakefield had his medical license revoked and The Lancet retracted his entire paper.
Worldwide, the paper is now regarded as a hoax – and a deadly one. Diseases like measles have made a comeback, most recently in the Disneyland epidemic in January 2015. The role of vaccination is to not only protect ourselves, but to protect others; importantly, those who cannot get the vaccine for legitimate health or religious reasons. Those unvaccinated can expose the ineligible people to the disease and, sadly, death.
Even after being disproven years ago, approximately nine percent of children were not vaccinated in the United States in 2013. There have been calls for the government to make vaccination involuntary, which is incredibly unconstitutional. People have the right to stand against vaccines. Therefore, I, too, have the right to call them morons. Yet, there are ways for the government to encourage vaccination. A great example is using the public school system, which have the right to deny admission to voluntarily unvaccinated children.
As someone who wants to enter the field of medicine, the vaccine debacle can be quite angering. Anti-vaccine advocates tend to be educated and have the financial means to have their children vaccinated. There should be no excuse for not vaccinating an eligible child. Furthermore, basing this decision off of a famous celebrity, like Jenny McCarthy, or some random person’s blog and not accepted medical research is irresponsible and unforgivable.
From my vantage point, anti-vaxer parents are willing to subject their child to the much greater possibility of harm from a preventable sickness than the smaller (but actually non-existent) chance that the child develops a mental disability. It seems as if these parents would rather a dead child than one with an autistic spectrum disorder; disorders that are not necessarily incapacitating. In fact, a person with an autistic spectrum disorder can live a full and wonderful life.
Medical professionals are trained to not subject patients to treatments that are incredibly risky. Vaccines have been used for decades and have had overwhelmingly positive results for humanity. This fear of vaccines, the idea that they can lead to autistic spectrum disorders, is completely unfounded. I encourage everyone to read the latest science on vaccines from a peer-reviewed journal, not a blog or a celebrity’s Facebook page. People may have the constitutional protections to believe what that vaccines cause autism or other diseases, but this does not mean that they are right.