Failure to vaccinate endangers innocents

The journey into parenthood is fraught with confusion as expectant mothers and fathers-to-be question their views on how to raise a child. Whether this journey began last month or three decades ago, many of their questions remain the same. Parents have to appraise practices such as breastfeeding, sleeping arrangements and whether or not children should be comforted when they cry. But recent years have brought a new debate into the fray: vaccinations. Do the benefits of vaccinating our children outweigh the risks, or should we advocate a return to the pre-vac world?

Sadly, such a world never existed. Throughout history mankind has relentlessly pursued ways to rid the human body of plague and pestilence. As early as 900 C.E. the first primitive form of vaccination was carried out in China to prevent smallpox by exposing healthy patients to the powdered form of smallpox scab tissue, usually placed up the nose. After the discovery of modern vaccination methods by Edward Jenner in 1796, patients in most places could be vaccinated for rabies, tetanus and polio, among others. The search for disease prevention is almost primal in its antiquity, and it has yet to stop.

Regardless, many still oppose the practice of immunization. Some do so on the basis of rejecting government interference in health, neglecting the reality of how much control governing bodies have in funding health programs and services for its citizens. Most critics deem it an irresponsible practice that renders its patients susceptible to more serious illnesses, most commonly autism. But while opponents generally posit that vaccination directly causes autism, the Autism Speaks website clarifies that “in rare cases, immunization may trigger the onset of autism symptoms in a child with an underlying medical or genetic condition.” Immunization in itself lacks the power to bring about a condition spontaneously in a child with no natural predispositions, and the study that created a sense of causation between vaccination and autism has since been debunked.

All medicine carries inherent risk. The list of possible side effects in commercials and magazine ads doesn’t inform potential patients of everything that will happen to them but everything that could happen. These problems only manifest if the body responds in a certain way to drug exposure.

On a larger scale, avoiding vaccination has the potential to put our children and those around them at risk for diseases that could be prevented otherwise. An Al Jazeera article chronicles recent outbreaks in both mumps and measles, despite the fact that with the introduction of vaccines in the 1960s, mumps cases went down 98 percent, and measles was almost completely eradicated in the early 2000s. As members of society, we’re not only responsible for our individual health but for the ways in which we affect public health. There exists an explicit understanding that we can’t incite violence against innocents around us simply because we feel like it, and it should also be understood that refusing to vaccinate our children has the potential to bring harm to them and those near them.

Medicine and the cures we’ve created for prevalent disease over time are not perfect, and the process of establishing specific treatments for medical ailments will always carry a varying amount of risk. We must appraise these procedures and its risks with the facts in mind, using them as tools in pursuit of better health.

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