Opinion

Vaccines for children: Parents should choose lifesaving treatment

In the year 2000, measles was eradicated from the Unites States. The highly contagious respiratory disease, spread through the air, used to claim the lives of hundreds, sometimes thousands, each year in the U.S. Nearly every child experienced it at some point in their lives, and some developed deadly complications. Thanks to the scientific efforts throughout the 1960s and development of the measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR vaccine, the preventable disease practically disappeared from the United States.

However, recent headlines about the return of measles have made Americans across the country frantic. An outbreak traced to Disneyland in Orange Co., Calif., and cases in 15 other states have once again brought the hotly debated topic of vaccination into the national spotlight.

We The Threefold Advocate believe that, unless the vaccine poses a legitimate health risk, everyone should be vaccinated, especially for highly contagious and potentially deadly diseases like measles. The reason for this is because of the need for herd immunity, a term referring to the idea that if enough people are vaccinated, outbreaks will be contained due to the immunity of the majority.

For measles, the herd immunity threshold (the percentage of immune people needed to keep a disease from persisting) is 83-94 percent. The nationwide rate of vaccination for kindergartners (the age at which most children receive their second dose of the MMR vaccine) is about 90 percent, and is unfortunately much lower in some pockets of the country. Because of the declining vaccination rate, the formerly eradicated disease is flaring up again.

Why are parents refusing to vaccinate their children against this preventable disease? Many, such as the Amish, do so for religious reasons. Others want to raise their children in an all-natural environment with no drugs or medicine. There are still others who believe that vaccines cause autism, a now discredited idea. Some of these children cannot be vaccinated due to medical conditions.

While each person is entitled to their own opinion, this becomes a problem when someone’s personal choice endangers others. Because the herd immunity threshold has dropped so low in some areas, unvaccinated children previously protected by others are falling ill. Many unvaccinated children have been sent home from school so they will not catch or further spread the disease.

We The Threefold encourage those on both sides of the vaccination debate to verify their facts and consider the health and well-being of others. The overwhelming number of problems that unvaccinated children could cause far outweigh the mostly-invalid claims by anti-vaccine proponents.