Vaccinations should be required for public school enrollment

March 4, 2015 — by Fiona Sequeira and Saya Sivaram

Disneyland: the happiest place on earth. That is, until it becomes the source of a measles outbreak.  

Disneyland: the happiest place on earth. That is, until it becomes the source of a measles outbreak.  

The outbreak prompted Sens. Richard Pan and Ben Allen to present a bill to California legislature making it more difficult for parents to opt out of vaccinating their children.
Vaccinations should no longer be a personal choice, but a government requirement. They are a civic duty that involves the health and strength of our entire nation.

It’s terrifying to witness unvaccinated elementary schoolers wading into the ranks of young schoolchildren, endangering the health and safety of their peers. It’s widely accepted that young children do not have the best hygiene in the world. The immunity that they receive from their vaccinations is one of the few forces keeping most students from suffering severe illnesses like the flu and MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant staphylococcus aureus).

While many anti-vax parents harbor misconceptions about the effects of vaccines, they seem to disregard their responsibility not only to their child but to the children of others whom their ideas are endangering. With the recent outbreak of measles in Southern California, it has become all the more pertinent to enforce nation-wide vaccination requirements on vaccinations to students throughout the country.

Since the first case in December, California has confirmed 104 cases and, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the disease has spread into 27 other states, resulting in a total of 644 cases in the U.S.  

For a while, it was conceivable to believe a connection existed between vaccines and autism, a conception perpetuated by a 1998 article in British medical journal The Lancet. That report was later proven false by at least 13 studies, and all claims were retracted.

Somehow, despite these revelations, the belief in the dangers of vaccines has caused parents all over the country to utilize “personal belief exemptions” to avoid vaccinating their children. This has led to an alarming 9 percent non-vaccination rate for measles in the U.S., lower than that of Bangladesh and Somalia.

While some countries are fighting governmental and terrorist restrictions on their health care, affluent cities in the United States, especially on the West Coast, are willingly sacrificing the general well-being of their population by avoiding vaccines due to irrational suspicion about their malignant effects.

Since the outbreak of measles, a flowchart has been circulating social media, detailing the irrationality of the parents who refuse vaccinations. One of the most applicable paths discusses the sources from which these rumors stem. Celebrities and the mass media seem to be the largest advocates for restricting vaccinations. And of course, whatever a celebrity says has to be true.

Actress Jenny McCarthy is one of the biggest anti-vaccine proponents, and she was recently quoted saying, “Yes, a wave of 12 children with measles in San Diego is a troubling thing. But, there are more than 20,000 children in San Diego with autism! 20,000 vs. 12?”

Well, judging by the fact that there is no link between vaccines and autism, it’s not unreasonable to say that both are pretty troubling numbers.

Another justification that many anti-vaccination parents use is that of herd immunity. This theory describes the effects of large scale immunization and the reduced rate of exposure that results from it. Parents assume that if all other kids are immunized, then their kid should be able to evade vaccinations and still only have a minimum amount of exposure.

This flawed logic actually further endangers the herd, as 92 to 94 percent of the population needs to be vaccinated for measles in order to preserve the health of the general populous. As more and more people stop getting vaccines, this percentage decreases, rendering herd immunity useless. In Colorado, there is only an 81.7 percent  rate of immunization, according to the CDC.

One of the major areas of concern is schools where there are several ways for students to evade vaccines through methods such as “personal belief exemptions.” All students attending a public school should be required to receive proper immunization.

The state of Washington has already taken steps in the right direction, with Gov. Jay Inslee working to eradicate nonmedical exemptions in public schools. While some parents may consider this legislation stringent or even radical, it’s simply responsible.

The bottom line is that the measles outbreak in California was avoidable, and easily so. With this experience under our belts, it is only logical that the country takes immediate steps to pass preventative legislature requiring vaccines. These laws have the opportunity to save lives, prevent widespread illness and promote public health by making our schools safer.

Besides, if we allow unfounded medical myths to dictate our health system, we would still be bleeding people to ward off the evil spirits that made them sick.

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