Anti-Vax? More Like Anti-Facts.

Jake Salomon, Contributor

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Vaccinations are something that a lot of people living in the modern world take for granted. Diseases that once killed thousands and decimated whole villages are now avoidable with a simple injection. These vaccinations greatly improve society and protect us from medical catastrophes. They are considered one of the top ten greatest accomplishments of modern medicine.

However, there is a group of people, called anti-vaxxers, that are against the vaccination of American children. Some of these people are more Libertarian in their argument, saying that they do not like that the government mandates what shots American children are to receive. Gina Cecchi, a supporter of vaccination reform and resident of Sacramento, says “I don’t think that the government should be telling parents what health decisions to be making for their children.”

Others have skepticism about the actual vaccines themselves.

There is a surprisingly large amount of anti-vaxxers in Marin County. In fact, Kaiser Permanente records that Fairfax is one of the top 10 cities in California with the highest percentage of citizens who have the means to get vaccinated but don’t. This statistic was reinforced by Dr. Chung, a pediatrician I spoke with at Kaiser, San Rafael. In other words, the people who go to Kaiser from Fairfax are vaccinated at a significantly low rate. This is a major issue that is taking place in our backyard.

Many conspiracists were quick to criticise vaccines when they first came out. The first vaccinations took place in France in the early 1800’s where Edward Jenner was able to prove that he could prevent a child from getting smallpox if he introduced a small piece of the disease to the child.

Many parents did not love the idea of purposely infecting their children with a disease, and they were understandably scared of the outcomes. They had no reason to trust Mr. Jenner and feared that vaccinating their kids would put them at risk.

However, that was the 19th century. Today, anti-vaxxers claim that vaccinations are not worth the risk, the government is trying to control us, and some even go as far as to say that the mercury used to preserve the vaccines can cause autism.

Let’s tackle the latter of those three first. Ms. Cecchi told me that, “Some medical doctors are against it because of the rate of autism.” However, there are no studies that show any correlation between vaccinations and higher autism rates. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts it, “There is no link between vaccines and autism.”

Anti-vaxxers argue that vaccines are leading to higher autism rates because the autistic rates have increased dramatically in recent years. However, correlation does not always mean causation. The recent rise in autism rates is purely a result of increased technology and awareness that allows doctors to properly diagnose autism cases that they may have previously missed.

As for the argument about it not being worth the risk? I strongly believe that an argument on the basis that actually getting a serious and potentially deadly disease is rare, therefore I should not do anything to prevent it is extremely weak. That is essentially the same thing as saying there is a low chance that my house will burn down, so I am not going to buy any property insurance. It’s all fine and dandy until your house burns down or you get paralyzed from the neck down by polio.

Many anti-vaxxers share a viewpoint that what they choose to do medically for their children is not other people’s business. However, it is. Vaccinations do not have a 100% success rate and that is known in the medical community. For example, many people get the flu shot yet will still get the flu, be it a different strain or not. Therefore, kids who are not vaccinated put those who are at a risk. That risk may be small but is still larger than what it would be if all kids were vaccinated.

“I believe there are [health risks] and I believe we don’t know all of them yet,” says Sarah Ladd, a Marin County resident who is against vaccination mandates.

Although there is some disagreement among the general public on the topic of vaccinations, the medical field has made up its mind on the subject. “Vaccinations save lives. People don’t really remember these diseases because we don’t see them very often anymore, but they are still deadly,” says Dr. Cindy Chung, a pediatrician at Kaiser.

Developing nations in Africa and other continents are plagued with diseases because they lack the resources necessary to vaccinate their citizens.

Do we really want America to digress to a point where citizens are scared of diseases?

There have been recent measles outbreaks on the West Coast caused by unvaccinated children, but they were not widespread. For example, in January of this year there were 50 confirmed cases of measles and 11 suspected cases in Clarke County, Washington. This area also happens to be an anti-vax hot spot, prompting people to scramble to find vaccinations. Imagine the damage an outbreak like this would have done before people could be vaccinated. Vaccinations greatly benefit our society, and the notion that we have outgrown the need for them is highly illogical.