Vaccines are essential for a healthy society

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GettyImages462420488

In 1796 Edward Jenner developed the first vaccine. This vaccine was for smallpox, a disease that had been eradicated in the wild by 1980. A vaccination for measles became available in 1963. Measles is the fifth disease to be eliminated from the Americas, following smallpox (1971), polio (1994), and rubella and congenital rubella syndrome (2015). In all five cases, the Region was the first in the world to achieve elimination. Measles continues to circulate in other regions of the world, and countries in the Americas report sporadic imported cases. Per the World Health Organization (WHO), smallpox was eradicated in the wild in 1980, although small quantities of smallpox virus officially still exist in two research laboratories in Atlanta, Georgia, and in Russia.

With the development of the polio vaccine, Jonas Salk single-handedly put the iron lung industry out of business. 

When I was a child the recommended vaccines were for smallpox, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio (OPV), measles, mumps, and rubella. For chicken pox, I had to play with the neighbor kids when they had it so I would get it and get over it. I would not wish the experience of chicken pox (and an increased risk for shingles as an adult) on anyone. In the Army I received these vaccinations and more when I arrived at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. 

My son, born in 2000 was vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, polio (IPV), Hib, Hepatitis B, varicella, and Hepatitis A. As a pre-teen he was vaccinated against HPV after I consulted with my family doctor. In my doctor’s words, “It prevents [certain types] of cancer and it would be irresponsible not to have him vaccinated.” Before he entered college he was vaccinated against meningitis.

According to the Pan American Health Organization

  • At the global level, measles continues to be one of the leading causes of death among young children, despite the fact that there is a safe and effective vaccine to prevent it. There is no specific antiviral treatment against the measles virus.
  • Before widespread vaccination began in 1980, measles caused 2.6 million deaths a year throughout the world, 12,000 of them in the Americas.
  • Between 1970 and 1979, Latin American countries reported about 220,000 cases of measles a year.
  • There has been a 95% drop in cases over a 35-year period, from 4.5 million cases in 1980 to approximately 244,700 in 2015.

During the relatively short history of vaccines, we have seen smallpox eradicated worldwide, with polio, measles, and rubella being eradicated in the Americas. Now that progress is threatened by anti-vaxxers.

Ignoring the science behind vaccines, parents who gain their knowledge from questionable sources on the Internet are refusing to vaccinate their children. They claim religious reasons, or personal exemptions for their children. They not only risk their own children’s lives, but the lives of children and adults with compromised immunity. 

In Kentucky

An 18-year-old high school senior is suing the Northern Kentucky Health Department for banning him from school and sports during a chicken pox outbreak. He refuses to get vaccinated because of his “Christian faith,” so the Health Department refuses to let him attend school or play sports.

I do not recall any bible verse, or religious tenet that states, “Thou shalt not vaccinate,” but that does not stop the father from stating the ludicrous:

Bill Kunkel, Jerome’s father told WLWT, that he doesn’t believe in the chickenpox vaccine and that “they’re trying to push it on us.” He told the station that they object to the particular vaccine because he believed it was derived from “aborted fetuses.””And of course, we’re as Christians, we’re against abortion,” Kunkel said.

I should not even have to write this, but the chicken pox (varicella) vaccine is not made of aborted fetuses

The chickenpox vaccine is a shot that can protect nearly anyone who receives the vaccine from catching chickenpox. It’s also called the varicella vaccine, because chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. The vaccine is made from a live but weakened, or attenuated, virus.

I wish I could say this was the height of anti-vax stupidity, but sadly it is not

Not long ago, a 4-year-old boy died of the flu. His mother, under doctor‘s orders, watched his two little brothers like a hawk, terrified they might get sick and die, too. 

Grieving and frightened, just days after her son’s death she checked her Facebook page hoping to read messages of comfort from family and friends. 

Instead, she found dozens of hateful comments: You’re a terrible mother. You killed your child. You deserved what happened to your son. This is all fake – your child doesn’t exist.

The attacks were from those who oppose vaccination.

What kind of person attacks a grieving mother over the death of her child? The attached article from CNN is horrifying to read—the comments, and attacks by the anti-vaxxers are disgusting by any standard. 

Vaccines are safe, and effective, and do not cause autism. They have been in use since the 18th century and have saved millions of lives. Not vaccinating your child should be considered child abuse. The only exceptions should be for those few who cannot be vaccinated for valid medical reasons. Science has given us the the power to wipe out diseases that have caused pain and misery throughout human history, diseases that have wiped out entire societies. To not vaccinate is morally, and ethically irresponsible. 

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