March 18, 2015 Comments (0) Views: 3057 Chemistry, Education, Health, Miscellaneous

Op-Ed: What Anti-Vaxxers Owe Us

The antivaccination movement is in debt to the rest of us, but that debt includes more than the apology that we should continually be demanding for the revival of once eradicated diseases and the continued lies and propaganda. What else they owe us is an unceasing gratitude, for our continued composure and compliance with their nonsensical beliefs. Moreover, they owe us for our cooperation with the scientific and medical communities that allows them to hold their position with negligible harm. Their continued ignorance relies solely on the fact that the rest of us willingly receive our vaccinations, keeping them safe in the process. For this, they owe us the most profound of thank-you letters.

Though anti vaccination sentiment is not new, having existed as long as vaccines themselves, this current movement is special. The majority of it was born out of a false association of the mmr (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine with autism. The cause of autism is not fully understood; as such, it is conceivable that the lack of a catalyst to blame for autism is part of the growing popularity of this pseudo-scientific mindset. With other difficult afflictions such as cancer, we have things to blame, like smoking, too much tanning, or the simple bad luck after living a long life. Parenting or mentoring someone with severe autism, or even knowing someone whose life is made difficult by it is not easy, as with any ailment. A parent especially needs someone or something to blame for something that harms their child.


Early 20th century anti-vaxxer cartoon.

However, despite some form of empathy that can come from that knowledge, in the age of information, ignorance, particularly in something as important as vaccines, is still inexcusable. The association between vaccines and autism has been thoroughly debunked, and repeatedly. I have no need or want to debunk the association here because it has been done so exhaustingly that there is no argument left to be had about whether or not they cause autism. They simply don’t. The debate is over. Yet these people still exist and we need to banish this sort of thinking.

It’s one thing to make a decision about one’s own health that may be inadvisable or foolish when it doesn’t affect other people, but this does. Parents are putting their children at risk. Moreover, they are putting the rest of us at risk, as can be observed from the recent Measles outbreak in California. If these people were hurting only themselves by not getting vaccines, then I would be less strident in this opinion, but they are putting the rest of us at risk. Vaccines don’t work 100% of the time, and some people can’t get vaccines because of allergic reactions, or immunodeficiencies. It’s our duty to protect these people through herd immunity by getting our vaccines. Not getting vaccines for silly reasons is similar to having an STD, morally opposing the treatment, and then continuing to have unprotected sex.

jonas salk

Jonas Salk, inventor of the Polio vaccine, on the cover of Time magazine

Such is exactly what is happening with the anti-vaccination movement. These people are safe, because we are protecting them with herd immunity. People who oppose vaccinating themselves or their children are not feeling the repercussions of doing so because we are keeping them safe with our own immunity. If these people lived in a less developed nation without good medicine, they might have a different opinion. But they don’t. They live here, and they owe us so very much for our keeping them safe. Next time you meet an anti-vaccinationist, tell them, ”You’re fucking welcome.”

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