Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 189 cases of measles in 2013. This year so far, there were at least 53 reported cases in 10 states. But in 2000, the disease had been almost completely eliminated. In addition, mumps had until recently faced a significant decrease, 98 percent, since the introduction of its vaccine in the 1960s. However very recently, there are at least 45 reported cases of mumps in Ohio State University, including 18 more cases affecting people outside of the university. Throughout the past decade, there have been thousands of outbreaks in many states.
Why are completely preventable diseases such as mumps, measles and more making a comeback? The anti-vaccination movement can take a large part of the blame. Those who are at the forefront of this movement are mostly parents who are health-conscious, who are politically and religiously conservative, or who fear that vaccines lead to autism.
The most outspoken and notable anti-vaccination activist is actress Jenny McCarthy, who claims that vaccinating her son caused his autism. But what McCarthy, along with other autism-fearing parents, does not seem to realize is that this theory has been debunked by numerous medical associations. Andrew Wakefield, a British former surgeon and medical researcher, is notorious for his now-discredited 1998 study on how measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccines lead to a bowel disease and autism. Wakefield has since been banned from practicing in the United Kingdom and is not licensed in the United States. A study published last year in the Journal of Pediatrics alongside another study released in 2004 by the Institute of Medicine state that there is no direct correlation between certain vaccine types and autism.
Parents for anti-immunization also believe their children are protected through herd immunity.
Herd immunity implies that if a large percentage of the community is vaccinated, then those few who are not protected are less likely to become infected because there is little opportunity for an outbreak. But if more people believe they are protected by this, and more people are saying no to vaccination, then chances of outbreaks of these once extinct diseases increase. And that’s exactly what’s been happening.
Despite hard scientific evidence, parents like McCarthy will continue to be irresponsible. Not only are they placing their own children in danger of these completely preventable diseases, but they are endangering the rest of the public’s health, as evidenced by the recent mass outbreaks of these diseases – diseases that faced complete eradication almost 10 years ago.
Parents should become more rational and do their research before giving into the hysteria around vaccines. Vaccinations have kept previous generations healthy. The paranoia around them is not only ridiculous, it’s dangerous.