A measles outbreak in the US, Mexico and Canada in December 2014 was traced back to Disney theme parks. 147 people were reported sick, with 131 of those from California. No deaths were reported, but the event did trigger a national debate about vaccinations.
A lot of those who fell ill in Disneyland were not immunized against measles. Among the reasons cited for not getting vaccinated include personal beliefs and being too young to get the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. As of April 2015, California health authorities have declared the outbreak as over.
That said, there are still active measles cases around the country. Even in Canada, the province of Quebec reported on 159 people being sick and most belonging to tight-knit religious community with a low vaccination rate.
Public health officials haven’t pinpointed exactly who caused the Disneyland measles outbreak, but they believe it was someone who caught the virus and visited the park while contagious.
The issue of vaccination is still very much a big issue, particularly in North America where its pros and cons are still being debated despite research saying it’s fairly fine to have children vaccinated.
In February 2015, the Toronto Star published a sensational piece saying that vaccines are dangerous, however the paper later retracted that article. On the other side of the debate, TV host Jimmy Kimmel encouraged parents to have their children vaccinated and presented a mock PSA for vaccine-averse parents.
Tensions increased again when California governor Jerry Brown introduced a law which required all public schoolchildren to be vaccinated for public safety. Although doctors widely praised the move, detractors like actor Jim Carrey voiced their dissent. Carrey used the social media platform Twitter to say that Brown’s “fascist” law would “poison more children with mercury and aluminum.”
Both sides of the vaccination have passionate advocates and its clear the issue is far from over. But why do some people vouch for the effectiveness while others denounce it? Let’s look at the arguments for both sides of the issue.
List of Pros of Vaccinations
1. Vaccination leads to less chances of being affected by disease.
Vaccines have been developed since the 18th century, and even then, there was still outrage over it. For instance, the smallpox vaccine experienced some resistance as people were horrified that pus from the wounds of infected cows was used to create the vaccine. In the end, however, the vaccine saved many lives.
The way that vaccines work is that it uses a weakened version of a pathogen to mimic – but not cause – a certain illness in order to force the body to develop a defense against it. In that way, when a person contracts the said illness later on, their cells can recognize the disease and fight it off. In a way, vaccines are meant to combat future illness rather than fighting infections that are already present.
2. Vaccinations have eliminated a lot of dangerous diseases.
In 1979, smallpox was declared by the World Health Organization as being globally eradicated. In the same year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared that polio had been eradicated in the United States. However, there are still a few cases reported in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.
In the US alone, several diseases have been nearly eliminated by vaccines and these include:
- bacterial influenza
The sad part is that developing countries around the world still report of these diseases spreading. The reason spread rates are high in those parts of the world are the lack of vaccine supplies and limited funding for childhood vaccination services. As such, diseases such as whooping cough and rotavirus still abound.
3. Diseases don’t spread through vaccinated people.
UNICEG and the World Health Organization are continuously working to increase the vaccination rate around the world. They mostly focus on underdeveloped or developing countries as they tend to have low vaccination rates.
The goals to increase global vaccination rates is crucial for supporters as diseases can’t spread through those who have been inoculated against it. That is, if enough people get vaccinated, a pathogen will eventually die off if it couldn’t find a new host.
List of Cons of Vaccinations
1. The effectiveness of vaccines can’t be proven on an individual basis.
Anti-vaxxers, a term used to refer to those who are skeptical about the effectiveness of vaccines, argue that even those who have been vaccinates still catch the diseases they were vaccinated against. They have a point here as there is a chance for vaccinated people to catch a different virus strain than the one they were inoculated against. It’s this issue that forces people to doubt the usefulness of vaccines. For them, if it’s possible to still catch a disease with or without vaccination, then what is the point?
Then again, as mentioned above, getting vaccinated lessens the chances of getting a disease in the first place. If someone does get the symptoms associated with the disease they were vaccinated against, they will be less severe and the chances of survival are high.
2. Vaccination causes autism.
There is a lot of media attention on the link between autism and vaccines. For instance, thiomersal is an antifungal preservative used in small amounts in some multi-dose vaccines. The use of the substance was controversial for its mercury content. In 1999, the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics asked vaccine makers to not include thiomersal from vaccines.
This action was cause for concern on whether thiomersal was responsible for autism. Although that has already been disproven as autism rates continue to rise despite the elimination of the substance.
3. Drug companies and the government are in it for the money.
Governments and big drug companies are the institutions best equipped to conduct large-scale studies on the effects of vaccination, and they are the ones largely distrusted by the public which leads to conspiracy theories.
A lot of people don’t trust the medical industry and “Big Pharma” as they believe the dangers and risks of vaccines aren’t disclosed because of profits. In American Conspiracy Theories, Joseph Uscinski and Joseph Parent wrote “Conspiracy theories about vaccines are partially to blame for decreased rates of vaccination and an increased incidence of disease.”
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.