By Sophie Condron
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Recently, the topic of vaccines has made prominent headlines due to a measles outbreak that began in Southern California. Cases of serious illnesses such as measles have been growing in number. In 2000, no cases of measles were reported in the United States, whereas just last year, 644 cases of measles were reported.
With the recent outbreak, the number of measles cases is likely to be even higher this year. Although approximately 92% of the United States’ population is vaccinated, there are still pockets of people who opt not to vaccinate or to delay vaccinations.
“I’m a little shocked that we are having a discourse about the efficacy of vaccinations,” said Republican John Weaver in a Time article. “It’s a shocking development. Our party has a reputation that’s grown as being anti-science, and now we’re going to be anti-public health?”
A vaccine is an agent that confers immunity to the body against a specific illness. Studies show that vaccines are very effective in illness prevention. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 16 vaccinations. Many parents consider vaccines a routine event for their kids.
There are a handful of parents who choose not to vaccinate their children. Some fear that vaccines put harmful toxins into their children’s bodies while others feel that vaccines are not helpful. Unvaccinated children are at risk for contracting lethal illnesses like measles.
A recent outbreak of the measles in Disneyland sparked a debate in the United States. Unvaccinated people were exposed to measles when a sick, unvaccinated family entered the park. To date, there have been 67 reported measles cases that stem from this single exposure.
Illnesses such as the measles are highly contagious. Some people are unable to get vaccines due to medical reasons and rely on others in the community to be vaccinated. Despite evidence that shows vaccines reduce the likeliness of becoming infected with specific illnesses, some still decide to opt out of vaccines.
Vaccination has become a hotly debated political topic as well as a medical one. Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey and a potential Presidential candidate, expressed concern over the government taking away a parents’ right to make vaccination decisions for their children.
Christie was quoted by Time Magazine as saying, “Mary Pat and I have had our children vaccinated and we think that it’s an important part of being sure we protect their health and the public health. I also understand that parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well, so that’s the balance that the government has to decide.”
The issue of whether vaccination should be a choice when widespread public health is involved is likely to be an ongoing debate.