Bian: Not vaccinating your child should be illegal

Andrea Bian, Assistant Opinion Editor

In 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared measles to be eliminated in the United States. By 2014, the U.S. saw 667 cases of measles, and has already seen 159 cases in 2019 as of Feb. 21.

The debate around vaccines seems to be intensifying more than ever. But with increasing advancement of scientific research, it should be dying down. How could a completely preventable disease return in just several years?

The World Health Organization has ranked vaccine hesitancy as one of the 10 most serious threats to global health in 2019. New York state saw 170 cases of measles from September 2018 to January of this year. In my hometown of Portland, Oregon, measles cases are spreading due to a lack of vaccinations in southwest Washington state. Out of the 50 states, Oregon had one of the highest rates of nonmedical vaccine exemptions among kindergarteners in the 2012-2013 school year.

Flawed studies linking vaccines and autism have been debunked repeatedly. This is nothing new — the benefits of vaccines in eliminating diseases have been known to far outweigh their risks. Severe reactions to vaccines are shown to be extremely rare; the CDC says they occur in less than one out of every million doses for the diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis vaccine (DTaP). “These are so rare it is hard to tell if they are caused by the vaccine,” the CDC website says.

It’s extremely frustrating to see outbreaks of preventable diseases occur not only in my home state but across the U.S. At this point, with such overwhelming evidence proving that vaccines are useful in eliminating diseases and ensuring herd immunity, nonmedical exemptions to vaccines should be prohibited by the government.

For children and adults who require medical exemptions to vaccines, due to illnesses or allergic reactions, a failure to vaccinate is a failure to protect them from diseases due to circumstances out of their control. Not vaccinating children should be viewed more seriously and for what it is: an endangerment to other people and a voluntary exposure to potentially dangerous diseases.

The fight against vaccines is a concerning addition to the general trend of disbelieving proven scientific research. The internet has been inundated in recent years with hundreds of websites and articles dissuading parents from vaccinating their children. The CDC’s efforts to counteract this trend of pseudoscience have been generally weak.

Given that vaccine hesitancy is one of the main threats to global health around the world, the government and the general public should absolutely be taking vaccines more seriously. Vaccines work. They are proven to keep people safe. To believe anything else is to buy into flawed science and make a conscious decision to endanger others.

Andrea Bian is a Medill first-year. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.