Anti-vax parents put their kids and others at risk

A decision that affects everyone


(Collegian file photo)

By Ana Pietrewicz, Collegian Columnist

The ever-growing debate between parents who vaccinate their children and parents who don’t has started to have repercussions beyond arguments on Facebook.

According to the Center for Disease Control, before the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine was introduced in 1967, there were 186,000 reported cases of mumps in the United States. Following the introduction of the two-MMR dose vaccination in 1989, cases of mumps in the U.S. decreased more than 99 percent to only a few hundred cases per year. However, there has been a gradual increase in reported outbreaks of mumps in the U.S. since 2006. This coincides with the rise in popularity of the anti-vaccination movement.

So-called “anti-vaxxers” believe that vaccines are detrimental for a myriad of reasons, but the most commonly cited reason is the myth that vaccines can cause a child to develop autism. However, the paper published by Andrew Wakefield in 1998 which claimed to have discovered a link between vaccines and autism was retracted, and Wakefield was stripped of his medical license. Despite this, many parents continue to skimp out on vaccines for their children as a result of this report. Anti-vax parents should be held responsible for the danger that they cause to their own children, as well as others who may come into contact with diseases.

Until they become legal adults in the U.S., children have no say in whether or not they are vaccinated. Their parents make the choice for them. But more and more of those parents are choosing to keep their kids unvaccinated. The CDC reports that increasing numbers of kindergarteners are being exempted from state and school-required vaccines for nonmedical reasons – as many as 7.6 percent of kindergarteners in the state of Oregon did not receive required vaccines in 2017. Granted, some families cannot afford health insurance which will cover their vaccines. However, the CDC promotes a program called Vaccines for Children, which “provides vaccines at no cost to children who might not otherwise be vaccinated because of inability to pay.”

With programs like Vaccines for Children in place, there should be no excuse for a child to remain unvaccinated. Parents who do not vaccinate their children are careless and imprudent. This is not to mention the danger they introduce to children who actually cannot get vaccinations due to legitimate medical reasons, such as allergies or certain diagnosable syndromes. If a perfectly healthy child skips out on vaccines because their parents simply don’t want them to be vaccinated, they risk contracting deadly illnesses and infecting those children who are not vaccinated for legitimate reasons.

Some parents take anti-vax ideals to the extreme, including Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, who took his nine children to a so-called “pox party”. A pox party is where multiple children are exposed to another child who has contracted chicken pox in an attempt to have the healthy children contract the disease and thus become immune to future bouts. in a radio interview, Bevin said “They had [chickenpox] as children. They were miserable for a few days, and they all turned out fine.”

This mindset is extremely dangerous, and the practice of these “parties” is extremely dangerous as well. Even a disease as common as chickenpox can lead to severe complications or even death in previously healthy children. Instead of simply giving their children a one-time vaccine for chickenpox, anti-vax parents would rather risk serious life-altering consequences. Vaccines are government mandated for a reason: so that potentially deadly diseases which had previously been controlled or even eradicated do not return.

The simple truth is that vaccines save lives. It is disheartening to think some parents would choose to endanger their children because they are afraid that vaccines will make their child autistic, based off research which has since been proven false time and time again. This is not only false, but morally reprehensible. To not vaccinate your children for the sole reason that you don’t want them to develop autism implies that you would rather your child risk being sick or dead than autistic. This is irresponsible and suggests that these kinds of parents are not ready for the burden of raising a child. Vaccinate your kids, for their sake.

Ana Pietrewicz is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]