Anti-vaxers versus pro-vaxers. Passions run deep. Divisions are clear. In an increasingly segmented nation, it seems any type of debate turns nasty quickly. Of course the internet is ground-zero for venting anger and vilifying those with opposing opinions.
Many people believe that the anti-vaccination movement is new and a consequence of concerns about the large number of immunizations now given. But, vaccination concerns began shortly after the introduction of smallpox vaccination. And it started in England before it made its way to the United States.
Assistant professors Robert M Wolfe and Lisa K Sharp state “The British Vaccination Act of 1840 was the first incursion of the state, in the name of public health, into traditional civil liberties. The activities of today’s propagandists against immunisations are directly descended from, indeed little changed from, those of the anti-vaccinationists of the late nineteenth century.”
Anti-vaccination activity also increased in the United States towards the end of the 19th century; widespread vaccination in the early part the century had contained smallpox outbreaks, and vaccination fell into disuse. However, in the 1870s the disease became epidemic owing to the susceptibility of the population. As states attempted to enforce existing vaccination laws or pass new ones, vigorous anti-vaccination movements arose.
Towards the end of the 20th century, a wave of activity from anti-vaxers led to an increase in media interest in the arguments attacking childhood immunizations.
Main Reasons Anti-Vaxers Use for Their Stance
- There’s no proof that vaccines don’t cause autism.
- One study from England did show a link between vaccines and autism.
- There are lots of anecdotes about children developing autism after being vaccinated.
- It’s nobody’s business whether my children get vaccinated.
- Vaccines can “overload” a child’s immune system.
- “Natural” immunity is better than the immunity that comes from vaccination.
Now each of the above arguments come with ample scientific arguments as to their misrepresentations or non-scientific backing. However, the purpose at hand was to simply list anti-vaxers main arguments
Main Arguments of Pro-Vaxers
- Vaccination protects children from serious illness and complications of vaccine-preventable diseases.
- Vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles, mumps, and whooping cough, are still a threat.
- Though vaccination has led to a dramatic decline in the number of U.S. cases of several infectious diseases, some of these diseases are brought to the U.S. by international travelers.
- Outbreaks of preventable diseases occur when many parents decide not to vaccinate their children.
- Vaccination is safe and effective. All vaccines undergo long and careful review by scientists, doctors, and the federal government.
- If children aren’t vaccinated, they can spread disease to other children who are too young to be vaccinated or to people with weakened immune systems.
- We all have a public health commitment to our communities to protect each other and each other’s children by vaccinating our own family members.
Once again, this is a list that simply serves to outline pro-vaxers main arguments. The response of anti-vaxers to these arguments is not the purpose at hand.
Autism and Vaccinations
The purported “link” between autism and vaccinations seems to receive the most media exposure. This may be due in part to Andrew Wakefield, who is considered by many to be the “father” of the anti-vaccine movements. To a small group of anti-vaxers, he’s a hero who refuses to back down from his assertion that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccines can cause autism.
There must have been some handwringing among Wakefield and anti-vaxers when the nation’s largest autism advocacy group (Autism Speaks) updated its stance on vaccines and autism:
“Over the last two decades extensive research has asked whether there is any link between childhood vaccines and autism. Scientific research has not directly connected autism to vaccines. Vaccines are very important. Parents must make the decision whether to vaccinate their children. Efforts must be continually made to educate parents about vaccine safety. If parents decide not to vaccinate they must be aware of the consequences in their community and their local schools.”
This is a departure from the past, when the organization, which funded research into possible connections between immunizations and autism, has said it is possible that, in rare cases, “immunization may trigger the onset of autism symptoms in a child with an underlying medical or genetic condition.”
From January 2 to May 21, 2016, 19 people were reported to have measles.
In 2015, 189 people were reported to have measles.
In 2014, the United States experienced a record number of measles cases, with 667 cases; this is the greatest number of cases since measles elimination was documented in the U.S. in 2000.
- The majority of people who got measles were unvaccinated.
- Measles is still common in many parts of the world.
- Travelers with measles continue to bring the disease into the U.S.
- Measles can spread when it reaches a community in the U.S. where groups of people are unvaccinated.
It appears as if the anti-vaxers may slowly be succumbing to science.
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