For the majority of Americans, vaccinations are an accepted part of life. From the time we are born, we get the recommended booster shoots to ensure we are protected against diseases such as hepatitis, measles, rubella and mumps. These vaccines are considered safe for all persons, yet in recent years, many parents have chosen not to partake in vaccinating their children. The result has potentially led to a sudden outbreak of measles in the United States, a disease thought to be eliminated from the nation as of the turn of the 21st century.
How could 80 cases of measles suddenly appear in an area that had eradicated the condition? The answer may lie in the fact that some parents are refusing to protect their children via vaccination. Regardless of their concerns about vaccinating their infants and toddlers, they may be missing the underlying point of vaccinations. In essence, vaccinations aren’t merely for the individual receiving the shots; they also play a role in public safety.
How Not Vaccinating Puts Others at Risk
When a child isn’t vaccinated, he or she can become a carrier for a disease like the measles. Even if the child never comes down with a case of measles, the virus lies within the child. Thus, when that child is exposed to a person with a lowered immune deficiency, such as a newborn, an elderly person, a male or female with HIV, or another similar condition, that person is at risk of contracting measles.
Schools deeply understand the role that vaccinations play. That’s why they require vaccinations, although parents can often opt out due to loopholes. Alternatively, moms and dads may decide to home-school or cyber-school instead of having their kids attend traditional schools. A study of public schools with lowered populations of vaccinated students shows their populations are more susceptible to diseases thought to be wiped out, or nearly wiped out, among youngsters.
Why Jeopardize Generations of Children and Adults?
All we have to do is look through the annals of history toward the earlier part of the 20th century to understand the value of science winning over infections and diseases. Once, polio was a scourge that threatened everyone; the fear that a child or adult would contract the disease ran rampant. Now, polio is but a memory, a footnote in our experiences as a people. That’s thanks to polio vaccinations developed after scientists spent their blood, sweat and tears to make the world safer.
While measles may not strike the terror that polio does, the recent outbreak is a reminder that it can return if we are not vigilant. Part of that vigilance involves vaccinations to protect the populace. When groups of people are not vaccinated, it’s only a matter of time before conditions once tamped down become strong again.
Photo: Teddy Kwok