To Vaccinate, or not to Vaccinate?

Mikayla Hadlow , Staff Writer

In late January, the Georgia Department of Public Health confirmed three cases of measles in the metro-Atlanta area. All three cases were members of the same family, not vaccinated. There are no other reports of secondary instances at this time. The recent occurrence of a local outbreak spurs conversation on whether or not vaccination is necessary.

There are a few reasons why parents may refuse to vaccinate their children. The first being that vaccinations violate their religious beliefs when it comes to what is actually within the vaccine. For example, the rubella vaccine contains a human fetal tissue component, and others may contain animal-derived gelatin, both of which are against the Quran because they are not halal.  Another reason some parents choose not to vaccinate their children is due to concerns about the safety of the vaccine. Thimerosal, a mercury-based component found in some vaccines including, but not limited to, forms of the Influenza vaccine and Td (a booster vaccine for tetanus and diphtheria), has been claimed to be linked with autism, brain damage, and behavioral problems. Although popular media likes to spread these claims, the CDC explains that there has been much research conducted on a possible link between thimerosal and autism, and have concluded that there is no correlation.
Number of measles cases reported by year, according to the CDC.

Additionally, the CDC states that “[e]ven after thimerosal was removed from almost all childhood vaccines, autism rates continued to increase, which is the opposite of what would be expected if thimerosal caused autism.” It should be noted, however, that the influenza vaccination has been linked with a temporary paralysis called Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Some parents also believe that their children will develop a naturally better immune system through the contraction of preventable diseases, some do not see the preventable diseases as life-threatening if contracted, and some believe there is no guarantee a vaccination will work, so it is not worth the “risk.”

While some people opt out of vaccination, there are also those who see vaccination as a simple and obvious way to protect one’s health. Resident medical expert at Wheeler High School, Sharon Hunt,who had fourteen years in emergency medicine before moving to Georgia and has been teaching medical science classes for fourteen years, shares her opinion on the matter: “When you look at how medicine has been practiced historically–when we look at our periods in history where we’ve had huge numbers of people who have died from things like smallpox [and] influenza–the numbers are astounding and staggering, and we’ve made advances in medicine, and we’ve eradicated things like polio. We don’t worry about polio anymore because of the mass vaccination campaign. HPV virus is the number one leading cause of cervical cancer in women. We’re reducing that almost [to the point where] it’ll be gone because we’re not only vaccinating girls but boys, too. If we can eliminate things like measles, mumps, rubella, [and] tetanus, which are horrible, deadly diseases, why would you take that risk?” Why take that risk? She poses a valid question.
Reasons for delaying/refusing vaccines by the numbers, as reported by CNN

Although the topic of vaccination might not be at the forefront in the mind of a teenager, a few Wheeler students agreed to share their opinions on the issue. Taking one side of the argument is Kalonji Williams (11), who stated “It’s [vaccines] a myth, really. Somebody said something, and then it just flew around like there’s remedies for the cold, but there’s no one solid remedy.” Taking the other side of the argument is Jessica Duque (12),  stating that “a parents job is to protect their children, and by not getting your kids vaccinated, you are not doing your job as a parent. Instead, you are putting them in direct harm of contracting an easily preventable disease.” She explains that she cannot see a single good reason for someone not to vaccinate their child when the “risks” associated with vaccines are outweighed by all of the benefits of receiving them. There are other students who see the issue as more of an internet “meme” rather than an actual problem, making comments such as “There are definitely benefits to getting vaccinated, you know, like not dying at the age of ten”, Victor Araujo (12) jokes, and “What other way is there to fight smallpox besides using essential oils” says Seamus Fahy (12).

Although many students may view the matter as a serious issue, it is an issue of growing importance and individuals should work to educate themselves on measures they can take to reduce the risk of contracting these illnesses. In lieu of the outbreak, as well as being in the midst of flu season, The Georgia Dept. of Public Health suggests following these measures to minimize the risk of contracting a disease: Get vaccinated, take everyday precautions- such as washing your hands, avoid touching your eyes and mouth, avoid close contact with those who are infected, and clean and disinfect potentially contaminated surfaces and objects. “Be Vaccinated. The three people that have measles in Georgia, none of them have been vaccinated.” Sharon reiterates her belief that you should be vaccinated–against everything!