My vexation with vaccination antagonists

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FILE - This Feb. 6, 2015, file photo, shows a measles, mumps and rubella vaccine on a countertop at a pediatrics clinic in Greenbrae, Calif. A measles outbreak near Portland, Ore., has revived a bitter debate over so-called “philosophical” exemptions to childhood vaccinations as public health officials across the Pacific Northwest scramble to limit the fallout from the disease. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee last week declared a state of emergency because of the outbreak on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

FILE – This Feb. 6, 2015, file photo, shows a measles, mumps and rubella vaccine on a countertop at a pediatrics clinic in Greenbrae, Calif. A measles outbreak near Portland, Ore., has revived a bitter debate over so-called “philosophical” exemptions to childhood vaccinations as public health officials across the Pacific Northwest scramble to limit the fallout from the disease. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee last week declared a state of emergency because of the outbreak on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

Within 2019’s first couple of months, a health epidemic has already spread nationwide. According to NPR’s Jonathan Lambert, 11 states have reported cases of measles, a highly contagious and potentially life-threatening illness, “and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking three outbreaks (defined as three or more confirmed cases) in New York City, New York state and Washington state.” The most troubling aspect of this predicament is that it was wholly preventable; had more people been given a mere shot in the arm, they could have easily protected themselves and others from medical maladies. Such a scenario illustrates the dire downsides of rejecting scientific evidence and decrying the merits of vaccinations.

So, why might a vocal minority buy into the belief that vaccinations are harmful? Well, in 1998, now-disgraced Dr. Andrew Wakefield headed a publicized report linking the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine with autism outbreaks. About a decade ago, this report was officially retracted on account of reckless experimental procedures, thereby losing all scientific credibility. But much like the racist birther conspiracy surrounding President Barack Obama, which was also disputed completely, enough people have bought into the questionable theory to create a negative connotation around its subject and stir chaos. In addition to rejecting unfounded hypotheses, I implore you: Can we stop acting like autism – or Obama possibly being born in Kenya, for that matter – is such a tragedy or crime against humanity? Given genetic permutations and the Earth’s territorial layout, some humans are bound to have autism and/or originate from Africa, and members of each subset have accomplished incredible feats. Ultimately, we must inject ourselves with common sense to arrive at reasonable conclusions.

Some may also feel religiously or philosophically obligated to reject vaccinations. However, I must ask: How ethical or moral is it to buy into offensive conspiracy theories, endanger others people’s lives needlessly or act selfishly? I find one’s decision regarding vaccinations quite comparable to a woman’s right to choose; if you don’t want to get vaccinated (or if you want to give birth to your baby), then good for you, but that doesn’t give you the right to impose your agenda onto others, especially given that their decisions won’t impact you directly and may be affected by extenuating circumstances. On a related note, those old enough to defy their anti-vax parents’ wishes should absolutely do so. Your parents may threaten to kill you for getting vaccinated, but this is a comically moot point because they’re already killing you by barring you from routine medical care! Besides, your parents should care more about your general well-being and proactivity as opposed to any “defiance” that you display.

The language surrounding vaccination-related legislation poses problems, too – particularly the negative connotation a “mandate” has versus the positive connotation an “exemption” has. For example, rarely would you propose a non-sarcastic “mandate” to visit Six Flags with your friends on a nice summer day, nor would you like to be “exempt” from winning the lottery. But sometimes, such pleasantries have legitimate downsides (e.g. the risk of fatal or otherwise injurious amusement park accidents, compromised financial security after a lottery win), and less pleasant things are good for us (e.g. a little kid eating their vegetables or waiting until age 16 to earn your driver’s license).

Before sounding too much like a broken syringe, I’ll briefly address some legitimate reasons why people oppose vaccinations. As I’ve implied, some genuinely lack the knowledge to determine that vaccines are highly beneficial; so it’d be more productive for the media – and society in general – to clearly outline such benefits instead of shaming those who decide against getting vaccinated. For others, vaccinations would prove too costly in a financial and/or health sense; in these special cases, we should consider alternative solutions. Furthermore, some fear that the federal government and large pharmaceutical companies will profit greatly from an immunization uptick, but this isn’t necessarily a negative outcome if we’re rewarding them for operating within the public’s best interest (and consequently motivating them to continue doing so). Finally, the rare instances of vaccinations backfiring don’t constitute a wholesale ban of the practice.

Ultimately, pro-immunizers must carefully concoct the ingredients of their logic-based argument. And to those readers who remain vehement anti-vaxxers: I advise that you take your shot against something that truly harms society, for your refusal to accept scientific evidence bleeds of delusion and you certainly aren’t immune from illness or the truth.


Michael Katz is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email michael.katz@uconn.edu.  

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