Are Vaccinations Even Necessary?
If someone would have asked me five years ago, if having a vaccine was important, I would have automatically said yes. Well, there are some people in the U.S, who would have then, and now, disagreed with me. Over the past decade, numerous people across the U.S have ostracized vaccines as unimportant, ineffective, and simply false gimmicks that perform the opposite of their duty. There are two sides; the people who reject vaccines and believe they are not justifiable nor necessary due to religious reasons, but on the other hand, there are people who believe that religion is not an exemption, to not receive vaccines.
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In the state of Oklahoma, there was a study conducted by the state’s health department, which showed that the percent of kindergartners, who were up to date with their shots, only increased by the slightest percentage since the previous year. (Board, T. O. E. 2019) However, there has been an increase in vaccine exemptions. “Exemptions can be granted for medical, religious or philosophical reasons.” (Board, T. O. E. 2019) Oklahoma’s overall exemption rate for kindergarteners was 2.6% from 2018 to 2019, 2.2% in 2017, and in 2016, the rate was 1.9%, which is just a mere 0.7% increase from 2016 to 2018-2019. (Board, T. O. E. 2019) This suggests two things; parents/guardians are not vaccinating their children for numerous reasons or vaccinations are not accessible to everyone as they should be. Either way, there is a disconnect somewhere. “State law requires kindergarten students to be vaccinated for several diseases including measles and chickenpox.” (Board, T. O. E. 2019) In the state of Oklahoma, it appears that mainly grassroots parent groups that the primary groups that are not vaccinating their children. Why?
This year alone, there have been more measles outbreaks amongst kids than in 1992, and this disease was even “declared eliminated in 2000”, because of the vaccine. (Board, T. O. E. 2019) This fact alone encourages the politicians such as the interim commissioner, Tom Bates to enforce the importance of vaccinating so that history will not repeat itself, with double the trouble. “We know that vaccinations are among the most effective ways to protect against serious diseases,” said Tom Bates, interim commissioner of the state Health Department. (Board, T. O. E. 2019)
One can agree that across the U.S., vaccinations are normal for most of us Americans, since birth. Vaccinations can even be said as part of the way we function as a nation, in order to help keep up with our health. Functionalism is a theoretical perspective based on the notion that social events can best be explained in terms of the functions they perform – that is, the contributions they make to the continuity of society. (Giddens, Anthony 2008) Vaccines are part of our functionalism as a nation because each state makes certain vaccines mandatory, and even nationally there are certain vaccines that must be updated in order to go to continue our education, from middle school up until entering college.
Dr. James Feiste of Carolina Kids Pediatrics is definitely one who agrees that vaccinations are part of how we keep our health in check, and that is starts from childhood. (Sibley, J. 2009) "While it's important to respect a parent's wishes, the best thing for these kids and everyone around them is to go ahead with getting them vaccinated." (Sibley, J. 2009) "Vaccinations are not some special drug to kill these diseases in the body," says Louis Pasteur. (Sibley, J. 2009) "More so, they act as a 'Wanted Poster,' directing the immune system to attack the virus before it causes any damage." (Sibley, J. 2009) “As the germ is killed or weakened before it is used to make the vaccine, it cannot make the person sick, according to the Center for Disease Control. (Sibley, J. 2009) Once administered, the body reacts by making protective substances called "antibodies," which act as the body's lifelong shield.” (Sibley, J. 2009) "Just look at the measles outbreak in California two years ago. Because one child wasn't vaccinated, it caused a ripple effect of the virus.” (Sibley, J. 2009) But while many parents are concerned about the correlation between vaccinations and autism or other disorders like Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), Feiste said those concerns haven't been proven. "The benefits outweigh the risks. Many people don't want anything interfering with the body's natural immune system or because of religion, but it really is in the child's best interest," says Feiste. (Sibley, J. 2009)
On the other hand, mother, Stephanie Gibbs, disagrees with Feiste’s remarks about the benefit of vaccinations, after her son Brayden had a life-threatening reaction to his vaccines. (Sibley, J. 2009) Gibbs suggests that there should be genetic testing to determine whether a child could have a reaction to vaccines in order to avoid a near-death experience. "Yes, I think vaccinations could be very beneficial after genetic testing (which insurance does not pay for) is done to make sure the immunization will not cause a reaction.” (Sibley, J. 2009)
However, Gibbs feels strongly that the cost of the testing will prevent the proposal from ever getting approved:
"All children should at least have a very simple genetic screen done prior to the start of vaccinations. This would give the parents some peace of mind. This could be offered as an optional screening and eventually be worked into a mandatory screening. This is the only way to test and see if your child will more than likely have a reaction." And now, because of the reaction, Brayden will be affected for the rest of his life. "My son has gone through extensive genetic testing that proved he had an actual allergic reaction to the vaccine that caused his brain to regress," she said. "He lost all ability to walk, talk, or control movements at the age of 12 months. It made him have continuous abnormal electroencephalographs (EEGs) that could cause a seizure disorder later in life." (Sibley, J. 2009)
Knowing a testimonial as powerful as Gibb’s, this brings into question the conflict theory, which argues that deviance is deliberately chosen and often political in nature. (Giddens, Anthony 2008) Even though this is a medical situation, the conflict in this shows how other people could possibly use her son’s situation to stop vaccinating their children, unless they are genetically tested.
For example, Washington state ranks 48th for getting kids age 19 to 35 months old vaccinated. (Sibley, J. 2009) In most states, vaccinations are mandatory, except in cases where it violates a family's religion; however, for people in Washington, parents just sign a waiver that states they have a "philosophical or personal objection" to the vaccination, making it easier to avoid the vaccination process. (Sibley, J. 2009) In Washington, only 69% of children in our area receive all the recommended vaccinations, which is below the national average of 77%, according to the Washington State Department of Health. (Sibley, J. 2009)
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In the year of 2017, a measles outbreak started in the Somali community in Minnesota and began spreading.' The linked-to low rates of vaccination against measles, due to brought anti-vaccine activists convincing the Somalian community that the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR) caused autism. (Reiss, D. R., & Diamond, J. 2019) During this time, there were studies in three continents spanning millions of children, yet they found no link between the MMR and autism. Yet, this did not stop these anti-vaccine activists from deceiving the Somalian community. “Vaccination rates in the community dropped from over 90% in 2004 to close to 40% in 2014.” (Reiss, D. R., & Diamond, J. 2019) Twenty-one of the unvaccinated children ended up hospitalized, leading to one of the reasons why the public health authorities paid over one million dollars for the outbreak. (Reiss, D. R., & Diamond, J. 2019) This raises the question of the possibility of a tort remedy available to those harmed by the incorrect claim that MMR causes autism. What happened in Minnesota will most likely not be the last outbreak, due to anti-vaccine misrepresentations. (Reiss, D. R., & Diamond, J. 2019)
Hence, just at the end of 2018 and the start of 2019 are marked by outbreaks of measles in New York, and even in Washington state, which we have seen has a record of not vaccinating children. (Reiss, D. R., & Diamond, J. 2019) Yet, some of the anti-vaccine groups continued to make efforts to convince parents not to vaccinate, even in the midst of the outbreak, New York and Washington. The areas that have some these anti-vaccine activists are called “hotspots”, because of their vulnerability to outbreaks. (Reiss, D. R., & Diamond, J. 2019)
At least as early as 2008, anti-vaccine activists focused on the Somali community in Minnesota. In November 2008, the anti-vaccine blog, Age of Autism, which promotes the view that vaccines cause autism, ran several articles describing the situation in the Somali community in Minnesota, emphasizing an alleged link between vaccines and autism. (Reiss, D. R., & Diamond, J. 2019) On November 19, 2008, J.B. Handley, co-founder of Generation Rescue—an organization dedicated to claiming vaccines cause autism and promoting untested cures like chelation for autism—penned An Open Letter to the Somali Parents of Minnesota. Part of the letter included; “For MMR vaccine, consider not giving to boys. At the least, delay the shot until a child is [two], and try very hard to break the shot up into three shots.” (Reiss, D. R., & Diamond, J. 2019) Other articles showed how closely involved anti-vaccine activists outside the Somali community working to convince the link between vaccines and autism. In 2009, Mr. Handley financed flights of members of the Somali community to attend Autism One, a conference devoted to promoting alternative, untested treatments for autism. (Reiss, D. R., & Diamond, J. 2019) In describing his experience of the conference, one father described how the conference solidified his beliefs, among other things, that “irresponsible vaccine administration can and did injure our kids.” (Reiss, D. R., & Diamond, J. 2019) Influenced by this conference, the father said that he and the other participants “will seek out all mothers of newborn babies and all new couples in order to educate them on potential hazards and what their rights are.” (Reiss, D. R., & Diamond, J. 2019)
Even Jenny McCarthy, a celebrity mom, led a campaign against vaccines. “She claims her son was cured of autism by changing his diet.” (Allard, N., Grande, A., Porter, E., Wagner, D., et al., 2009) She also claims that vaccines are responsible for the increase in autism diagnoses. (Allard, N., Grande, A., Porter, E., Wagner, D., et al., 2009)
Two major issues seem to rile up the anti-vaccine campaign the most. First, it seems that most babies are too young to get vaccinated for things like whooping cough, so they are depending on older children being vaccinated until they can get the protection they need. (Allard, N., Grande, A., Porter, E., Wagner, D., et al., 2009) Second, many parents who do not vaccinate point out that if everyone else is immune, their kids are not at risk, since there will be no one to catch anything from. (Allard, N., Grande, A., Porter, E., Wagner, D., et al., 2009)This is called "herd immunity" because the "herd" of children is generally immune, so the risk goes down for those not immune. (Allard, N., Grande, A., Porter, E., Wagner, D., et al., 2009) “But if you think vaccines are bad for your child, why would you basically be hoping other parents do something bad for their children?” (Allard, N., Grande, A., Porter, E., Wagner, D., et al., 2009)
This puts into question the idea of symbolism. Symbolic Interactionism is the theoretical approach in sociology, which emphasizes the roles of symbols and language as core elements of all human interaction. (Giddens, Anthony 2008) With the idea that since most of the kids already vaccinated, some parents believe that their kids will be “safe” from having to be vaccinated. This makes the “vaccinated kids” turn into these symbols of hope, so that other parent’s don’t have to vaccinate their children, but most importantly, their kids won’t be at risk to any potential the side effect(s) of some of these vaccines that are causing more harm than good. (Allard, N., Grande, A., Porter, E., Wagner, D., et al., 2009)
- Allard, N., Grande, A., Porter, E., Wagner, D., et al., Associated Press. (2009, January 4). Seattle News, Weather, Traffic & Sports: KIRO-TV. Retrieved from https://www.kiro7.com/
- Board, T. O. E. (2019, September 7). Oklahoma ScissorTales: Good and bad on vaccinations. Retrieved from https://oklahoman.com/article/5640587/oklahoma-scissortales-good-and--on-vaccinations
- Giddens, Anthony. Essentials of Sociology. New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 2008. Print.
- Reiss, D. R., & Diamond, J. (2019). Measles and Misrepresentation in Minnesota: Can There Be Liability for Anti-Vaccine Misinformation That Causes Bodily Harm? San Diego Law Review, 56(3), 531–580. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=139173949&site=ehost-live
- Sibley, J. (2009, May 13). Upstate South Carolina's leading news and information web site: The Journal, Upstate Lake Living. Retrieved from https://upstatetoday.com/
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