By Daniel Palmieri

Ever since the measles outbreak at Disneyland, California in early January,

the media has constantly been covering the issue of parental choice in vaccination.

Much of the debate has not been focused on the effectiveness or safety of vaccines,

but rather whether a parent has the right to choose whether or not their child gets

vaccinated. By covering this aspect, vaccinations have been transformed into a

partisan issue. In opposition, the public hears Rand Paul stating, “I have heard of

many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound

mental disorders after vaccines.” In favor, the public hears Elizabeth Warren’s

powerful defense of vaccines during a common Senate hearing. Right here we find

one of the roots of the problem: vaccines are not and should not be a partisan issue.

Vaccination rates are overall fairly high for much of the country, reaching around

91% for the mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) vaccine in children 19-35 months.

This already shows us that vaccination rates are not really divided across party

lines, so why are we trying to make this into a partisan issue? However, this begs the

question: across what line are people divided in regards to vaccinations?

Statistically, it has been difficult to draw the line, because there is no unifying

“factor” that separates the anti-vaccine movement from the rest. The only unifying

statistic is that most of them tend to be well educated and come from wealthy areas,

such as the Silicone Valley. A WIRED investigation looked into twelve different

daycares in the Silicone Valley, to find that half had under average vaccination rates,

rates too low for herd immunity.

 

Herd immunity brings me to my next point about the anti-vaccination

movement, and it is without a doubt the most problematic. Herd immunity

represents a vaccination rate amongst the population, usually around 95%, that is

required for a disease not to infect those who cannot be vaccinated for medical

reasons or otherwise. There are children with immuno-compromising conditions,

such as certain forms of leukemia, which prevents them from being vaccinated. This

is not a choice for these children; they depend on kids around them being

vaccinated to avoid becoming sick. While a normal child can usually survive

measles, even after a week of miserable rashes and coughing, these children who do

not have functioning immune systems would likely die from a measles infection.

Much of the anti-vaccination movement cites the right to decide their child’s medical

treatment and overall liberty of choice, but they seem to have forgotten the real

definition of liberty. They believe that liberty is simply being able to do whatever

they want, simply because they want it; this is not the liberty that was defined by

our Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence cites that we are

endowed “with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the

pursuit of happiness.” The anti-vaccine movement that cries for the preservation of

liberty forgets the fact that they cannot take away another person’s right to life and

“the pursuit of happiness.” Should an immuno-compromised child have to stay at

home from school because too many kids at his school are unvaccinated, which puts

him at risk of a life-threatening infection?

 

An accurate comparison to this situation would be drunk driving. Of course,

some people believe that they would be able to drive with an blood alcohol content

above the legal limit, but should they be allowed to surpass this limit just because

they believe it does not damage them? The fact of the matter is that this small

amount of self-control ultimately ends up protecting those around you: when you

drink, you put other in danger. Vaccines are, frankly, very much the same. One may

think that his child does not need to be vaccinated because there are “alternate”

ways to protect him, but that is completely irrelevant. You are still putting other

people in danger by choosing to not vaccinate your child; the facts are frankly

irrefutable. Overall, vaccination is by no means a partisan issue; it’s a matter of some

people trusting consistently disproved research, and thinking that’s worth putting a

child’s life in danger.

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