The Importance Of Childhood Vaccination Essay

1521 words - 6 pages

Since the introduction of vaccinations, medical science has managed to all but eliminate many formerly fatal and debilitating childhood illnesses in countries where the immunization of children is nearly universal. Diseases such as measles, mumps, diphtheria, rubella and polio have been relegated to a marginal status in developed countries with active immunization campaigns; smallpox is actually considered to have been completely eliminated from the earth, without a single case having been reported since roughly 1979 (“Childhood”). Largely centered around a study published in 1998 in the British medical journal “The Lancet”, there has been an upsurge in concerns of the safety of vaccinations and a resulting decrease in their usage. This has led to a somewhat anachronistic return of these diseases. In many developed countries, parents are relying on herd immunity to protect their children when they choose to forgo immunization over concerns about their safety. Herd immunity essentially means that when a small percentage of a social group “can't get certain vaccines for medical reasons, or some children are not able to respond to certain vaccines. For these children, the immunity of people around them is their only protection” (“Childhood”). While some parents' concerns over the safety of vaccinations are based upon the well-intentioned desire to keep children safe from autism, the act of choosing to not vaccinate their children actually causes far greater damage by exposing them to acquiring potentially life-threatening illnesses and removing a critical link in the chain of herd immunity.
Over the last 12 years, a growing population of parents have chosen to avoid immunizing their children with the misguided belief that they are protecting their children from the specter of autism. One of the most common concerns in this vein centers around the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella combination) vaccine. The concern over the MMR vaccine began when “In 1998, Andrew Wakefield and colleagues published a paper in the journal “The Lancet”. Wakefield's hypothesis was that the MMR vaccine caused a series of events that include intestinal inflammation, entrance into the bloodstream of proteins harmful to the brain, and consequent development of autism” (“Vaccine Risks”). This caused widespread concern over the safety of the vaccine in Great Britain, so much so that “After its publication, rates of inoculation fell from 92% to below 80%” (Deer). To plainly state the effects of even this small drop of 12%, “official figures showed that 1,348 confirmed cases of measles in England and Wales were reported [in 2008], compared with 56 in 1998. Two children have died of the disease” (Deer). A 2400% increase in the incidence of measles might have some hope of justification if the original study tying the MMR vaccine to autism were true. Sadly, a recent ruling by the second highest court in America, the United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit, re-affirmed the...

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