By Akash Kumar
In early 2019, the United States faced an intense outbreak of measles, a disease that scientists declared eliminated in 2000. The recently resurfaced virus can be caused by either of these reasons, as stated by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention: an increase of travelers who get measles abroad, or communities that don’t immunize themselves against measles. In our modern era, we are facing a crisis of families who don’t vaccinate themselves or their children due to personal beliefs which are often misled. This seemingly unprecedented phenomenon is led by people known as anti-vaxxers who believe that vaccines have harmful side effects. Despite this belief, scientists agree that immunizations are ethical and do not cause the repercussions that some claim.
The anti-vax movement has existed since the early 1800s because of a distrust in science. Today, more and more people are choosing to not vaccinate their children or themselves for a provenly untrue reason. One prominent anti-vaccine figure is Andrew Wakefield. In 1998, he published a paper in which he claimed that the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines had ties to autism. His medical research was debunked and he has been exiled from the medical community due to his dishonest work. After his paper was published, however, the damage had already been done. For example, statistics from the United States National Library of Medicine said that the vaccine rate in the United Kingdom dropped from 92 percent in 1996 to 84 percent in 2002. Similarly, many anti-vaccine activists are using forms of social media in order to sway the minds of the public. It is a provenly terrible idea not to vaccinate yourself because the side effects of vaccines are minimal, while the benefits are life-changing In addition, if you choose not to vaccinate yourself, you are taking the risk of spreading diseases to other people.
My solution to the immunization crisis would be having our public figures and doctors spread the crucial message to hesitant parents. In an op-ed piece written by Dr. Rahul Parikh, he meets with his regular patients and realizes that they are behind on their vaccine schedule. After speaking to them a bit more, he realizes that they apprehensive about vaccines.
“Rather, these were what the medical community calls Vaccine Hesitant Parents, or VHPs: a middle ground of caring, pragmatic parents who don’t reject vaccines outright, but worry about them,” Parikh writes. Vaccine hesitant parents are proof that we are not doing a good job of thoroughly educating parents about the benefits of immunizing children. With so much social media interaction, parents can easily grow afraid of vaccines with a quick glance at the screen. Not only should it be our medical professional’s responsibility to listen to the public’s concerns and help people get immunized, but public figures can also spread the word with their diverse fanbase. Even after constantly showing evidence to anti-vaccine leaders that vaccines are important, they don’t listen. The reality is that we must be educated enough to listen to the facts, rather than the outright lies of people such as Wakefield.