Less than the election of conservative politicians whose religious ideology puts them at odds with the overwhelming majority of the country, elected by the people for the people seemingly to slash budgets, create endless circular arguments and do everything but govern the nation they have now been put in charge of at least a portion of. Less than the gutting of research by those same individuals for whom science, the science being explored, does not align with their moral, religious based value system, less than the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, attacks on anatomy physiology and biology taught to school age students centered around the topic of sex ed. focused on something other than abstinence, daring to explain birth control, how to access it. Increasingly our individual, personal choices are responsible for reshaping America to look like a developing country; no, not the obesity “epidemic” widening our waistlines, making us less capable of working and shorting our lifespans, not whether we smoke or not, exercise or not, drink too much, abuse prescriptions, take illegal drugs, actions physically only effecting ourselves. It isn’t our political policies, who we elect at the ballot box, effecting our public heath i.e. immigration, droves of sick people flooding over too porous borders bringing with them communicable, contagious diseases, even our tourism allowing people to go abroad, welcoming people who want to visit, though world travel is considered a factor. It’s bigger than the healthcare system, up until the affordable care act, dictating whether we sought preventative care from our primary doctor, or even had one based on could we afford it; a question even in treating minor ailments destined to become larger ones with no medical attention. No, this is one part parenting debate, one part personal freedom debate and a two part safety debate on, maybe you’ve guessed by now, vaccines. Balancing on the head of a pin it appears the questions are, are the immunizations meant to keep us safe from hitherto eradicated, nearly eradicated, fatal, debilitating childhood illnesses actually safe for children to take; do they cause other problems at times more devastating than the disease they set out to prevent? On the other side, public safety, when do decisions about vaccinations come out of the public’s hands and into the governments, medical authorities for the good of everyone? We are still trying to answer that, but ever since a now debunked doctor linked vaccine components, vaccine preservatives and the severe developmental delays associated with autism, parents have been on the warpath refusing to vaccinate their child to prevent the neurological disorder feeling its risk outweighs those of childhood viruses, including ones with lasting effects. Still more parents are looking at the sheer number of vaccines given to children in groups, several at a time, asking does my child really need that many immunizations; true it’s not the same as when we older millennials were kids; vaccines are added every few years an eye on improving overall public health. Chicken pox, hepatitis A and B, the controversial HPV vaccination, protecting against the virus that causes cervical cancer, all added since the mid 1980’s, shaping us into the country we see today; more and more parents saying no to vaccinations, more outbreaks of thought bygone era diseases putting us all at risk.
We’ve seen the anti-vaccine movement and rhetoric since the late 90’s when defunct doctor Andrew Wakefield first announced a possible link between select immunizations and autism in his, later proved fraudulent, study; what followed were news exposés exploring the validity of his statements, parents coming forward with their children saying the only thing different weeks before and after were the immunizations given, others claiming older children had reactions, some say poisonings, from vaccine preservatives, mercury once being used. Contributing to questions regarding the vast number of vaccinations foisted on kids by school age, this was a mere 3 years after the chicken pox as well as the hepatitis A vaccinations became available, the later aggressively recommended to people in high risk areas, then later for all children. Flames further fueled in the mid 2000’s by celebrity actor turned activist Jenny McCarthy whose son was diagnosed with autism she linked to vaccines using Wakefield as an example; though his work was discredited as early as 2004, immunization wary parents determined to find them harmful, determined to perpetuate their viewpoint in the name of keeping children safe from side effects, will doubtlessly quote the drastically high autism rates spiking exponentially in the last few years nationwide. However those numbers can be attributed to better detection, changes in classification placing all autism related disorders like Asperger’s syndrome under a blanket diagnosis autism spectrum disorder. Parents speaking vocally and passionately on their right to decide what’s best for their child, opting out or delaying when their child gets said vaccinations has been subject to rigorous debate, people falling on both sides, arguments holding no real tangible meaning until now, when we see the effects of less vaccination taking hold. Last year saw the worst measles outbreak in decades, having to retrain clinic doctors who had never seen the disease, larger metropolitan hospitals creating special isolation, clean rooms to see potentially infected patients, government officials putting out a plea to parents who have yet to vaccinate their appropriate age child to please do so, schools closing in some areas due to spread of infection, quarantining non-vaccinated students to prevent illness 2014 seeing the highest number of U.S. cases, in 20 years; 2015 is on track to be a repeat with the outbreak at Disneyland infecting select individuals from park goers to employees, numbers up to 70 infected, health officials telling the unvaccinated, including those too young for the shots to avoid the park for the time being. And it’s not the only, once thought eradicated nationwide, childhood disease making headlines for a mounting resurgence; whooping cough has also been on the rise within the last 5 years. Recently mumps was in the news when NHL star player Sidney Crosby was infected along with several members of his team, a preventable illness spreading though the entire league due to how easily it is transmitted especially in a full contact sport. Who could forget Angelina Jolie missing her directorial movie premiere because of the chicken pox; shocking really with all her humanitarian work across the globe, her travel to other countries promoting vaccinations, UNICEF funds to immunize the developing world she missed something as important as a chicken pox vaccine. Here at home the most devastating impact of those who refuse to vaccinate is to infants, those under 2 years too young for some shots exposed to harmful, deadly disease.
Still not only do we allow a religious exemption to those whom vaccinations conflict with their spiritual beliefs, interfere with the practice of their religious faith, several states have adopted personal belief exemptions a virtual, if I don’t want to I don’t have to excuse; states like Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, others only apply to daycare, preschool and nursery school, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin. Directly countering majority state laws saying a child must have specific immunizations to attend daycare, preschool or public school; just two states in the union, to our shame, down south known for their strange foods, limited education and overwhelming use of dialect, limit exemptions exclusively to medical reasons. There remains no federal law on the books making it a priority or rendering a final authority saying you will be vaccinated, unless that is medically impossible; current events glaring proof positive, as controversial as it sounds, vaccines should be mandatory because should a Jehovah’s witness refuse a blood transfusion, the only person they physically effect is themselves, perhaps the loved one, friend over whom they have power of attorney, right to make medical decisions on behalf of. When you refuse a vaccine, refuse to immunize your child, you put the other 300 million people in this country at risk for illness, serious, lifelong complications of contracting preventable disease, possible death. Surprising too is just how far into recent history you must look to find when these diseases were eradicated from US shores; outside 1950’s 60’s and 70’s generations who still see easily termed milder childhood diseases, chicken pox compared to the devastation of former epidemics like polio, as rites of passage, most younger people believe these diseases went out with the 1950’s and the historical polio vaccine, combo vaccines talked about by their grandparents. Yet actual eradication of polio didn’t happen until 1994, for measles the year 2000, mumps and rubella as late as 2005; it’s like we’ve forgotten what a vaccine is for. It’s not a government conspiracy to inflict autism, stunt the intelligence of the masses, subjugate them, kill off undesirable pockets of poor and immigrants; it’s to limit, eliminate major public health threats attacking our most vulnerable, children. It’s to prevent babies from having to live in an iron lung, today tethered to a respirator suffering a paralyzed diaphragm, whole body paralysis, varying levels of disability, the latter 3 listed above known to cause blindness, deafness, secondary infections pneumonia, meningitis, encephalitis leading to brain damage and death. Why was there a chicken pox vaccine created and added to the chorus of shots administered to children, beyond its high communicability infecting entire daycares, preschools, kindergarten classrooms, was its capability to also cause secondary infections meningitis, strep, the 100 to 150 kids who died yearly from the believed harmless childhood disease, viewed as much a rite of passage as the common cold. Why was there a push for a meningitis vaccine, why was there a rush to approve and acquire vaccines already used in Europe, why is it now mandatory incoming students have this immunization if they are going to live on campus, in the dorm; because, of several college campus outbreaks either killing students or leaving them permanently maimed when typically induced swelling cut off circulation, meaning the only way to save their lives was to sometimes cut off all 4 limbs. We’ve forgotten why all babies born in a hospital are given specific medicated eye drops, to prevent herpes infection of the eye possibly received traveling down the birth canal causing blindness. Ironic we don’t forget the benefits of medication when we beg our doctor for antibiotics we don’t need to treat our virus or when we pester them relentlessly for the drug we saw on a commercial for heart burn, when laying off the cheeseburgers and going for a walk once and awhile would better solve the problem, how many men over 50 want that little blue pill to feel 20 again.
Nor can you vaccinate everyone; there will be those who are allergic to common derivatives of vaccines, their active ingredients, people for whom individual vaccines are not recommended due to underlying medical problems. Another component, local clinics, particularly those serving poor, at risk, low income areas need to be sure they hold stock of necessary vaccines so parents don’t have to make extra return appointments to get their child’s shots, it isn’t missed by their pediatrician leaving children unintentionally without vaccinations, incomplete vaccination. Simultaneously better allaying parent fears lies not merely in expanding their education past the anti-vaccine fervor, propaganda and paranoia, it centers on better determination, testing of who could have an adverse reaction. Surpassing standard allergy, skin rash, intestinal distress all the way up to true, life threatening anaphylaxis causing hives, possible throat closure, and realistically attempting to discover who could have extreme side effects like seizures, brain damage, reactions routinely listed in drug commercials for cholesterol and diabetes drugs, blurred vision, muscle weakness, confusion indicating a serious, life threatening problem. Screen out these individuals virtually cutting the legs off the vaccines cause autism claim, preservatives in vaccines cause poising leading to autistic symptoms assertion; perhaps investing research into redesigning vaccines to remove, not the active preventive ingredients that will cause the body to produce required anti-bodies, but common allergens such as eggs, used in the MMR vaccine, rendering it impossible for people with severe egg allergies to take. Though much of the current measles outbreak and spread has been laid on the unvaccinated, improperly vaccinated travelers, usually U.S. citizens venturing to less developed parts of the globe, places where there is an outbreak, common among missionary and aid workers, little known to the American public, adults need booster shots too. Outside the last shots we receive beginning high school, mandatory meningitis vaccine for college dorm dwellers, we all know that if we cut our foot, leg, hand on a rusty nail or similar object we need to go to a hospital/clinic for a preventive tetanus shot, but it goes beyond that. Everyone needs a tetanus diphtheria booster in 10 year intervals according to the CDC. Much of the whooping cough epidemic sweeping through communities, at times closing schools, involves adults working in daycares, preschools, who have small children at home, without a pertussis (whooping cough) booster shot; thus exposing and infecting them, children then spreading it to each other. Said booster shot now recommended for all such workers, those living with an infant, small child younger than vaccination age. Older people need the Pneumococcal, pneumonia shot as well as the new shingles vaccination for people 60 and over. You may need to play catch up on vaccines because some of the ones for variations of hepatitis, chicken pox and meningitis were not available when you were a child and typically vaccinated. People vaccinated between certain decades may have been given a less effective version lessening their current immunity, before second boosters were added to the standard immunization schedule; people vaccinated before 1971 in the case of measles. Certain people’s immunity fades over time and they require booster shots to maintain their protection against disease, usually intensifying the older the person is; if you are worried, unsure you are being advised to consult your doctor. Doctors, who need to be aware of the adult immunization records of their patients, should be running routine blood tests to check immunity and r-vaccinating accordingly. In addition to mandating children be vaccinated no exceptions other than medical, educating the adult public on the vaccinations they need to keep them and their loved ones healthy, those traveling outside the United States should be mandated to see a doctor and confirm all immunizations and administer necessary, harmless booster shots for outbreaks of disease in their destination area. This is for both the safety of the traveler and anyone they may come in contact with, and should be international policy.
Negative vaccine perception doesn’t just come from the fraudulent idea they cause the devastating delays of autism, the rare extreme reaction, seizure and the like leaving lifelong debilitating effects, even years old stories some vaccines actually cause the disease, a myth about variations of the polio vaccine, but in our resounding puritanical moral perceptions. Take the newest vaccine for young people common name Gardasil, meant to prevent 3 to 4 strains of HPV (Human papillomavirus) most known to cause cervical cancer, yet also linked to genital warts, certain herpes strains, anal and penile cancers in men. First, because HPV is classified as a sexually transmitted disease the implication is you contract it, similar to original thoughts on AIDS, from, immoral, impure, i.e. premarital sex or perverse, unnatural sex acts, sodomy, oral sex deemed popular among gays, who are to the religious community an abomination. Secondly the recommended age for it to be administered, to those as young as 11, attempting to vaccinate them before puberty and their first encounter with sexual activity; which had many parents and again religious minded educators, social workers and so forth up in arms. Saying everything from it caused young people to think about sex, sexual activity far too soon, to it was another, hardly subtle message from adults, society giving teens the green light to have sex, to give in to their carnal whims, hormone fueled urges ignoring the consequences. In truth, teens will experiment with sex; that is a fact of life and the best defense against those consequences, STD’s, sometimes lasting and incurable, teen pregnancies, young single parents is education/information and the best medicine we can offer. All systematically attempted to be denied them because the morality police are terrified young people will learn about S E X, reproduction, possess an understanding of how their bodies work, because then” they would be going at it like rabbits,” despite countless studies proving the more information young people are given the later they end up having their first sexual experience. Where we see so much of the opposite is in places utilizing abstinence only sex education, morality, religious based guest speakers giving their opinions on the topic rather than medical, information based speakers sharing their insights. An unintended consequence of the religious mindset, the “fear of sex” mindset is teens are more apt to engage in oral sex owing to it not ending in pregnancy, because they have been lead to believe, thanks to their ultra-religious, conservative parents, the worst thing about sex is coming home pregnant, getting a girl pregnant. Hints a push shortly after Gardasil was mainstreamed to add vaccination recommendations for boys, young men following study data linking HPV transmitted via oral sex to male throat cancer. Also in truth, the catalyst behind creating an HPV vaccine was to stave off a virulent, deadly form of cancer, to easily improve overall public health, subsequently reducing, potentially someday eliminating one more communicable disease; extremely important with a disease like HPV, when other safer sex methods are only partially effective, like the condom, used in the bonds of marriage or not, because it does not cover the entire genital area where the virus can reside. Religiosity tainting the implementation of the HPV vaccine, coloring its purpose unfortunately falsely assumes a person’s, a teen’s first sexual contact, experience is voluntary; views held in spite of statistics on teen rape, date rape, sexual assault on college campuses, staggering numbers on sexual abuse effecting children infant to adulthood, knowledge of prepubescent, pubescent predators and the havoc they wreak on young lives. Knowledge that should push the HPV vaccine back to the infant shot stage, if at all possible, to protect all children, as any could become the victim of a predator; some who begin abuse while the child is still in diapers, horror stories of rape attempted on babies, a Missouri man was just arrested for having sex with a 10 year old in his house, alleged sex happening for 4 years making the child 6 when it started. Not wholly uncommon in abuse cases where the predator has unfettered access, with HPV it doesn’t even have to be what we think of as sex, a completed sex act, any genital to genital, genital to mouth contact is capable of transmitting the disease. Still primary assumptions remain HPV vaccination reads as a green light for teens to have sex, unfairly putting at risk again some of the most vulnerable.
Yes personal freedom, choice, choices of parents to decide what is, works best for their children, their family is important; however, it should not supersede overall public health when the asked for prevention is so noninvasive. You have a right to your personal freedoms and choices up and until you break the law, infringe on the freedoms and rights of others; you have a right to your religious beliefs and practices up and until you break the law or infringe on the rights and freedom of others. Better question, how does it not infringe on the health and well-being of others when you refuse to vaccinate yourself, refuse to vaccinate your age appropriate child? Adding to the conversation, we already contend with the growing prevalence of superbugs, infections against which we have no medical, antibacterial defense, causing people to literally die, infections that mean treatment with 2 or more usually not combined antibiotics increasing the chances of drug reactions, long term side effects, antibiotic resistant TB leading to a slow death, hospital born infections, drug resistant staff exc. Viruses like west Nile, Asian bird flu, swine flu more commonly known as H1N1 or the one last year targeting children’s respiratory systems, Enterovirus D68; viruses against which the only treatment is symptom management. Who could forget the fear likewise last year concerning Ebola on U.S. shores, the clamoring for a vaccine, any effective treatment, intense questions about why there wasn’t already a vaccine since it has killed millions in Africa over the years, was simultaneously doing so across countries there, part of how it came to this country, an eventual inevitability. Vaccines that don’t happen without extensive research dollars spent by developed nations who can afford it, facts forgotten when the conservative, supposedly educated, affluent parents popping up across the country refusing to vaccinate their kids also vote for budget slashing, small government politicians, as long as they won’t force them to immunize their kids. Under these circumstances, Observing the current medical climate, with the new mysterious polio like paralyzing virus happening out west, why wouldn’t you vaccinate against the things we can prevent; why not eradicate where we can vs. the developing world where many, many children don’t make it to their 5th birthday. And not all of it stems from malnourishment and bad water; scores die yearly for a lack of the vaccines we take for granted, think we can opt out of and no harm will come to us, our children. Considering the current medical climate of increasingly hitherto unknown diseases, why would you want to be party to reviving age old diseases few doctors have seen and don’t know how to treat? This is how we must view vaccines, as a lifeline, a preventative, a hope, not a conspiracy theory.