Proper immunization of children has avoided political conflict so far

By Brendon Bessette

Special to the Comment

 

The recent measles outbreaks across the United States should be worrying for BSU students who like living in a world where infants don’t contract easily preventable diseases.

The outbreak that hit Disneyland should be especially worrying; the happiest place on Earth turned into a breeding ground for over 100 new measles cases spread across 7 states. That may not seem like a lot, but it is cause for serious concern considering measles is a highly contagious virus that was considered eliminated from the U.S. in 2000.

The blame for such outbreaks, which resulted in over 600 cases last year, may be placed squarely on clusters of people who, to paraphrase a brilliant article published by The Onion last month, have taken it upon themselves to decide what eliminated diseases come roaring back.

These clusters contain people who refuse to vaccinate their children. Some of the more “moderate” members of such groups at least choose to delay vaccination schedules.

It is therefore no surprise that those affected by measles recently were not vaccinated for it. The reasons for refusing vaccinations are diverse, though either uninformed or misguided (or both).

The one exception would be for medical reasons – some children with allergies or severe chronic diseases cannot get vaccinated, and rely on herd immunization to protect them – something that is now disappearing thanks to the anti-vaccination clusters.

The surprising – and fortunate – thing about the antivaccine movement is that it does not appear to be politically polarized.

A person’s political views do not seem to be a good indicator of whether they are likely to refuse vaccinations; neither liberals nor conservatives have a monopoly on antivaccine views. Nor do education levels seem to matter; a 2011 Public Health Report showed that families opting out of vaccinations are more likely to be white, wealthy, and college-educated.

What this says about the views of my fellow Bridgewater students on vaccines, I don’t know.

I said these facts were surprising, but also fortunate. That the broader public argument over vaccines has not infected politics is a good thing, even though a handful of politicians have commented on the issue in recent weeks. And the reason why it’s a good thing is simple.

Allowing something like vaccine efficacy/safety to enter the arena of public political debate would only serve to make it look like there actually is a debate.

There isn’t – the safety and effectiveness of vaccines in preventing disease and infection is well established. When politicians choose sides, they appear to attach it to their broader political ideology. This politicizes vaccines which could have terrible consequences. From there, the antivaccine movement will demand equal time to present their case as if it actually deserves any.

This is evolution denialism all over again, and not something we should allow. The difference is that evolution denialism is not nearly as deadly.

 

This article was submitted by Brendon Bessette, a student at Bridgewater State University. If you

would like to submit an article, please email Editor-in-Chief Kayla Lemay at klemay@student.bridgew.edu.

 

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