Over the past few years, there has been a recent development of parents refusing to vaccinate their children. Vaccine hesitancy and refusal has become a major point of contention among adults today. Reasoning among people that refuse vaccines generally fall under four categories: religion, personal beliefs, philosophical reasons, safety concerns, and a desire for more information from health care professionals.
This suspicion towards vaccinations began in 1998 with an article published in The Lancet claiming that the MMR vaccine, meant for measles, mumps, and rubella, caused a series of gastrointestinal events that eventually led to the development of autism in all the children that have received the vaccine. The article was later retracted due to scientific misrepresentation and data skewing.
However, there are many individuals that still believe the fraudulent connection between vaccines and autism propagated by some researchers, and people today refuse to vaccinate their children. The fear of the effects vaccines may have on their children have made parents ignorant of the benefits of vaccines. As vaccine hesitancy and refusal become more popular, more people are beginning to follow suit. The dropping vaccination rates are creating a higher chance of future outbreaks.
In the interests of public health, vaccines are developed to defend against contagious diseases by imitating an infection. Vaccines build off of the immune system: your body’s way of identifying and removing foreign microbes. The human body also naturally has adaptive immunity- where B and T cells fight microbes and then remember how to respond in defense next time the same disease appears in the body. When vaccines are introduced to the body, with partial strength of disease or sometimes completely inactive, it triggers the body’s adaptive immune system. This is done to stimulate B and T cells into recognizing the disease, and knowing how to defend against it. The vaccination ensures that the disease won’t develop into the full disease, and have a stronger immune system response.
This year there was a measles outbreak in Washington state; there were 66 cases where 41 of the affected were not vaccinated, and 34 of the affected were ages one to ten. This is a situation that actually occurred, and can happen again if vaccination rates continue to drop. Herd immunity prevents outbreaks and protects vulnerable individuals, but this all falls apart when people stop getting vaccines. Essentially, widespread vaccination reduces the ability of a disease to circulate with fewer infected people because there are fewer people passing the disease.