Thanks to the widespread use of vaccinations, a phenomenon called “herd immunity” exists among thoroughly inoculated communities.
Herd immunity describes a level of vaccination coverage that is elevated enough to prevent the spread of a disease within any given population. Achieving this widespread immunity is one of the only ways of protecting specifically vulnerable members of society. This particularly susceptible percentage of people includes immunocompromised groups such as: newborn babies, the elderly, and those suffering immunologically debilitating diseases or who are affected by impairing medical treatments. However, herd immunity is a fragile system.
As the well-known phrase goes, “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” The same concept can be applied to herd immunity, in that it is only as effective as the population’s proactivity allows it to be. Using the example of the Measles virus, which was known to have been eradicated in the U.S. by 2000, a society must vaccinate at least 95 percent of its population to maintain herd immunity.
Evidently, the 145 victims of a 2015 Measles outbreak in Disneyland accounted for a vaccination rate of no higher than 86 percent, and possibly as low as 50 percent. This case in and of itself is proof that any dangerous disease can be brought back into society simply due to the carelessness, ignorance, and selfishness of a few individuals who choose to disregard the vaccination guidelines advised by highly reputable organizations and institutions, such as the CDC,the WHO, and UNICEF. The neglect of the constraints for herd immunity can and has proven to produce extremely unfavorable ramifications.
A popular argument against vaccines, and perhaps the most common misconception, is the widespread notion that modern vaccines are linked to the causation of Autism. This stir in medical skepticism was initially brought on by British doctor Andrew Wakefield, when he published a report claiming a link between the MMR vaccine to Autism. Under the rouse of scientific study, Wakefield and his colleagues were able to sway the opinion of the uneducated public, in order to support subsidies from an anti-vax law firm, and further his popularity and credibility amongst the general public. Wakefield based his theories off of a handful children who began to show the first symptoms of Autism one month after receiving the MMR vaccine. According to an article written by the Division of infectious diseases in response to Wakefield’s publication, “?50,000 British children per month received MMR vaccine between ages 1 and 2 years—at a time when autism typically presents— coincidental associations were inevitable. Indeed, given the prevalence of autism in England in 1998 of 1 in 2000 children, ?25 children per month would receive a diagnosis of the disorder soon after receiving MMR vaccine by chance alone.
” This study, based off of the misrepresented (or even altered) medical histories of eight autistic children, was identified as fraudulent, and Wakefield’s medical licence was revoked. The paper was subsequently retracted by 10 of the 12 authors included in its conception, as well as the medical journal that published it. In 2014 a meta analysis of ten studies that included over 1.
2 million children found no relationship between Autism and the MMR vaccine. Another minor concern regarding certain strains of vaccines was the risk associated with Thimerosal– an antibacterial compound used effectively in most vaccines for the past 150 years. Because of its 50 percent composition of Ethylmercury, the chemistry of Thimerosal was released in the 1997 US Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act, which required that any trace of Mercury in FDA approved products be identified and quantified. The FDA found that children may be exposed to up to 187.
5 mg of Mercury within the first six months of life. Despite the absence of data suggesting harm from quantities of ethylmercury contained in vaccines, in 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Public Health Service recommended the immediate removal of Mercury and derivatives of Mercury from all vaccines given to young infants. Paul A. Offit, of the DIDCH, explained that “Wide- spread and predictable misinterpretation of this conservative, precautionary directive, coupled with a public already concerned by a proposed but unsubstantiated link between vaccination and autism, understandably provoked concern among parents, which led to the birth of several anti-mercury advocacy groups. Consistent with this, a study performed by scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention years later showed that mercury in vaccines did not cause even subtle signs or symptoms of mercury poisoning.”Online support for the anti-vax movement is a prime example of fake news. It is unconscionable for parents to put their trust in a discredited doctor or the internet followers he has attracted at the expense of their children’s health and the health of other children.
In 2007, there was an increase in anti-vax rhetoric from popular celebrities and internet personalities. The use of their major platform was immediately followed by an increase in preventable illnesses (152,763) as well as an increase in preventable deaths (9,028), between June 3,2001 and July 18,2015 which were documented by the CDC. I will close with these words of advice: Vaccinate to Protect yourself, to protect your children, and to protect those who are unable to protect themselves.