Lindsay Grizzard is a junior double majoring in Political Science and Medicine, Health, and Society, and minoring in Classical Guitar Performance. She enjoys participating in campus newspapers and political organizations; she is the editor-in-chief for The Vanderbilt Torch, treasurer for Vanderbilt Students for Choice, and an editor for the Vanderbilt Historical Review. In her free time she enjoys hiking and participating in her sorority, Alpha Omicron Pi.
There has been a dramatic resurgence of illness among our nation’s children, a primary example being the 2013 outbreak of measles in New York City. Even though measles was considered wiped out in America in 2000, there was an outbreak where over 160 cases were reported throughout the year. How did this happen?
The root of this problem is lack of vaccinations. While most vaccines are readily available and inexpensive, parents have been choosing not to vaccinate, and the results are frightening. Diseases that are easily preventable by vaccines, such as measles and chicken pox, are regaining footing as a serious threat to our children and their schools.
Anti-vaxxers have been attacking vaccines for years; from the ingredients within the vaccines to the side effects, this group has been spreading faulty science for decades now.
The fact is, vaccines are safe, and they work. Most vaccines are between 90-99% effective. The only side effects proven to result from vaccines are typically mild; they are limited to soreness at the injection site and sometimes a slight fever.
The anti-vaccine movement makes outrageous claims about vaccines and links to other diseases. However, the science their studies is often faulty at best. Several official studies have proven there is no link between vaccinations and Autism. Another concern, febrile seizures, has also been disproven. Vaccines actually lower the chance of febrile seizures occurring in children, because they severely reduce the chance of contracting measles, mumps, or other problems which can cause fevers. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (or SIDS) has been another rallying cry for the anti-vaccine movement; but the science has shown that there is no link between SIDS and vaccines.
One cause of concern even for people who support vaccination is the fear of getting too many vaccines at once. The recommended vaccine schedule published by the CDC is safe, and it does not reduce the effectiveness of the vaccines.
Because vaccines are a public health issue, we need federal legislation to mandate basic vaccines for every child who is able to receive them. California’s Health and Safety Code was amended in 2012 by Bill 2109, which requires that children receive certain vaccinations in order to attend public or private schools, child care centers, and nurseries. California schools and child care centers must enforce immunization requirements and keep immunization records of their enrolled children. Even though exceptions were still allowed for religious beliefs, this law led to a 20% decrease in unvaccinated children.
This needs to be the framework that the federal government requires each state to follow. We need federal legislation that mimics California’s plan. Congress should introduce legislation that encourages states to require their schools, public and private, to ensure that their attendees receive vaccines. This can be done through the carrot or the stick: offering more federal funding to states’ school systems which meet these requirements, or threatening to withdraw current funding from states who refuse the requirements. This will help with absences in schools, and more importantly, will help American children stay free from disease.
Vaccines have worked to eliminate disease before. In 1974, whooping cough was effectively eliminated in Japan, because 80% of children were vaccinated. However, that percentage dropped to only 10% in two years when a rumor spread that the vaccine was contaminated. The next year, an enormous outbreak occurred – over 13,000 cases were reported. When the government began requiring the vaccine again, the number of reported cases dropped back down.
An outbreak shouldn’t have to happen for children to get vaccinated. Polio and diphtheria have been almost eliminated in the United States, because of the CDC’s work in encouraging vaccinations. America has the ability to be a modern country where deaths from preventable diseases are few. Taking action now won’t solely help our children. By taking steps to eradicate these diseases, we’ll be helping our grandchildren and their grandchildren live in a safer, healthier world