For almost as long as vaccines have been around, there has been some type of controversy surrounding them. Although there is medical and scientific evidence that shows that vaccines help people to not contract harmful, deadly and infectious diseases, there have been questions raised on their effectiveness, safety and the push towards mandatory vaccination.
The Two Sides of the Vaccination Debate
The growing popularity in public perception of vaccine controversies and a push towards anti-vaccination has contributed to a substantial increase nationwide of many preventable diseases. All of the below information was gathered from vaccines.procon.org, a nonpartisan, nonprofit website.
Pro Mandatory Vaccination
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, vaccines save 2.5 million children each year from preventable diseases. The measles vaccine has decreased childhood death from measles by 74%. They also claim that the harmful ingredients in the vaccines are safe in the amounts used in each shot. According to Paul Offit, MD, the dangerous ingredients, thimerosal, formaldehyde and aluminum, though harmful in large doses, do not equate to the amount of bacteria, viruses, toxins and other harmful substances that a child is exposed to in one day of normal activity. Vaccines are also tested for ten or more years before they can be licensed and released to the public and are monitored by the FDA and CDC.
Sanjay Gupta, Chief Medical Correspondent for CNN and a neurosurgeon, stated “You are 100 times more likely to be struck by lightning than to have a serious allergic reaction to the vaccine that protects you from measles.” Ellen Clayton co-authored a report for the “Committee to Review Adverse Effects of Vaccines” that refuted many perceived drawbacks of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine stating, “The MMR vaccine does not cause autism… The MMR and DTaP do not cause Type 1 diabetes. And the killed flu vaccine does not cause Bell’s palsy, and it does not trigger episodes of asthma.” They also state that having the “critical portion” (92-94%) of people in a population vaccinated provides “herd” (community) immunity and prevents outbreaks of dangerous diseases like measles and polio. Through vaccines, Earth has eradicated smallpox and has almost eradicated polio. These diseases were a main source of death throughout the twentieth century. Other diseases that vaccines exist for have not been eradicated yet, so it is still necessary to get vaccinated to fight against contracting the harmful diseases.
Con Mandatory Vaccination
The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), a highly controversial organization, believes that vaccines might be linked to learning disabilities, asthma, autism, diabetes, chronic inflammation and other disabilities. MMR and the DTAP may be associated with long-term seizures, coma, lowered consciousness and permanent brain damage – although this is difficult to prove with the rarity of reactions.
Barbra Low Fisher of NVIC is strongly against mandated government vaccination because of the possibility for a slippery slope, “If the State can tag, track down and force citizens against their will to be injected with biological products of known and unknown toxicity today, there will be no limit on which individual freedoms the State can take away in the name of the greater good tomorrow.” Ron Paul stated in an article that, “intimately personal medical decisions should not be made by government… Freedom over one’s physical person is the most basic freedom of all, and people in a free society should be sovereign over their own bodies. When we give government the power to make medical decisions for us, we in essence accept that the state owns our bodies.”
Another issue with government mandated vaccination is that vaccines are against many people’s beliefs. For religious, moral or suspicious reasons, many people believe that vaccines are harmful, natural is a better way and that the FDA and CDC are not trustworthy enough to regulate and administer safe vaccines. With the invention of vaccines, most of the diseases that they target have almost disappeared and a lot of these diseases are relatively harmless to begin with, like chicken pox.
Bills for Increased Regulation on Vaccination
Many different states across America are proposing bills in order to encourage residents to vaccinate their children or suffer some type of consequence for choosing to not vaccinate. This nationwide movement towards mandated vaccination is moderately due to the recent measles outbreak spread at Disney Land. This outbreak it can be partially attributed of the rise in people who have chosen to opt out of vaccines. Some public health experts believe these types of outbreaks, and possibly ones involving more serious diseases, could become more common if people aren’t vaccinated.
California’s SB 277 would make shots mandatory for students attending public and private school, unless they have a doctor’s note. If they do not obtain a note, they have to be home-schooled or enrolled in independent study. The bill would also eliminate vaccine exemptions due to personal beliefs and religion. Due to these new restrictions in California, San Francisco saw the percent of kindergarteners not being vaccinated drop from 7.8 percent to 6.5 percent in one year. New York is also proposing a similar bill, S 4733, that could require parents who chose to not vaccine their children to have proof that they were warned of the possible side affects of not vaccinating by a doctor. In April, Vermont passed a bill, H 98, which eliminated vaccine exemptions.
Texas has had nine bills introduced in 2015. Some of these are similar to those aforementioned and others are different. HB 1593 would require all public schools to provide parents the number of students enrolled that are not fully vaccinated. SB 547 would require posting of exemption numbers on the Internet by schools and the Department of Health. HB 212 would allow minors 14 and older in the Texas Juvenile Justice System to consent to vaccination. SB 538 would expand police powers to detain individuals suspected of exposure to communicable diseases. And SB 298 would add a new meningitis vaccine mandate for public school students.
This map shows the allowed school vaccine exemptions by state.
Bills for Decreased Regulation on Vaccination
Washington, Oregon and North Carolina have recently made headlines for being three states that denied bills that would increase vaccine regulation in their states. In Washington (HB 2009) and Oregon (SB 442) bills that would have made it more difficult for parents to opt out of vaccination for their children failed. Each bill would have taken away an exemption from parents, personal or philosophical beliefs in Washington and religion in Oregon. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a long time vaccination critic, stated, “I don’t think it’s appropriate to force people to undergo, to have their children undergo a medical procedure in this country. I think it’s against the tenets of our country,” after the bill in Oregon failed.
A petition started when government mandated vaccination was brought up titled “Prohibit Any Laws Mandating the Force and Requirement of Vaccinations of Any Kind” which at the date of this article had 130,813 signatures, which made it reach its goal to get a Whitehouse response. The petition wants to make sure that there is no legislation passed that mandates vaccinations for kids to attend public schools or daycares and also covers adults who work in the private and public sector.
Below are all of the bills pertaining to vaccinations in the US right now.
There have been media attempts to portray the real risk of not vaccinating your children, two recent ones were Law and Order: SVU and Sesame Street. The SUV executive producer, Warren Leight, joked “We’re doing our job by making every parent in America feel anxious about everything,” when addressing a recent episode that had measles outbreak in a school where many children were unvaccinated. He further stated, “We started to read these articles that said the lowest rate of kid vaccinations are in desperately poor third-world nations and Napa Valley. There was something horrifying about that. People are voluntarily putting thousands of kids at risk because they decided they know more than medical science. We were intrigued by this.” In April, the US Surgeon General went onto Sesame Street and urged Elmo to get a vaccine after explaining the health benefits of being vaccinated. You can view the segment here.
This is a difficult subject for me to have a concrete opinion on. I do believe that everyone should be vaccinated in order to promote the wellness of humanity and to protect future generations from harmful diseases. Vaccinations have been proven many different times to be safe and an easy, cheap way to protect the masses. I can’t imagine what the world would be like if we still had smallpox or polio as prominent factors in our civilization. I also believe that it is unfair for the people that do not vaccinate their children to more or less depend on the rest of humanity being vaccinated in order to prevent outbreaks and dangers to their unvaccinated children. That being said, I don’t support complete mandated government vaccination. I think many of these bills are useful for attempting to promote vaccination and if you truly believe in not vaccinating, then you have some options that will continue to protect society as a whole.