Anti-vaxxers held a protest in front of the Fountain Valley Public Library in December 2019. (Photo by Katy Nguyen)
Fountain Valley High School

Opinion: Vaccines work and everyone needs them

Vaccines are one of the most groundbreaking medical advancements ever. They improve the quality of life for everyone, training our bodies to develop immunity to deadly diseases, and are in no way dangerous.

In recent years, however, the antivaccination movement has gained traction, consequently threatening public health. It’s as dangerous as it sounds and it needs to be stopped now.

The antivaccination movement is, for many reasons, “the epidemic of stupid” and selfish.

Anti-vaxxers often claim that vaccines are linked to autism spectrum disorder, citing the work of Andrew Wakefield.

Wakefield, a British ex-physician and father of the antivaccination movement, popularized the supposed link between autism and vaccines in a now-retracted 1998 study published in the medical journal The Lancet.

His work has been thoroughly discredited and to this day, there is no scientific evidence to support the theory that vaccines cause autism.

This isn’t the only instance of the movement’s lack of credibility. Advocates of the anti-vaccination movement turn to the Internet and a quick Google search for information instead of relying on factual scientific information from credible sources.

“I’ve come to realize that a Google search isn’t really researching,” a former anti-vaxxer told California Healthline. “Most times, you’re not reading an entire study, but only the abstract.”

There are many home remedies and practices that circle around the Internet and are popular among anti-vaxxers, but these methods are rarely supported by science.

What’s hypocritical is that anti-vaxxers say vaccines are dangerous, yet fail to understand the dangers of not being vaccinated and irresponsibly practice DIY remedies.

The danger that these anti-vaxxers put themselves and their children in also has severe consequences for the public’s health and safety.

Thanks to vaccines, diseases such as measles, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, tetanus and polio have been nearly eliminated in the U.S., and vaccines have led to the complete worldwide eradication of smallpox.

But now, such vaccine-preventable diseases are resurging, as seen in how measles made a comeback in the United States last year despite having been declared eliminated in the country in 2000.

A majority of the 2019 measles cases in the United States occurred in unvaccinated people. It’s possible that we’ll see more diseases return if the antivaccination movement grows.

While anti-vaxxers are part of the problem, it’s not just them we have to blame. The resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases is complex, and the main reason why anti-vaxxers and their children are able to slip through the cracks is because of lax state policies.

Seth Berkley, head of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, wrote in a CNN article that when measles “vaccination coverage drops below 95%, outbreaks are inevitable.”

The CDC recommends a 95% threshold for measles vaccinations but found that the national MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccination rate for almost four million kindergarteners enrolled in 2018 to 2019 was 94.7%.

All 50 states have legislation that requires certain vaccinations for students. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, however, 45 states and the District of Columbia grant religious exemptions and 15 grant philosophical exemptions from vaccinations.

Here in California, we have one of the strictest vaccination requirements in the United States. California Senate Bill 277, passed in 2015, removed personal belief, a common justification from anti-vaxxers, as a reason to be exempt from vaccinations required to enter private or public schools at elementary and secondary levels, including daycare centers.

Research proves that lax vaccination laws correlate with rising vaccine exemptions. All states should join California, New York, Mississippi and West Virginia in only allowing medical exemptions for vaccines, and even then such medical conditions should be valid and double-checked, even triple-checked, by healthcare providers.

In the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic, our physical health is more important than ever.

Moving forward, we have to take the necessary precautions to protect ourselves, and these must be strictly enforced to stop the anti-vaccination movement and its endangerment of all of us.