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Should Society be Pro-Vaccination?
Lake Forest College
Lake Forest, Illinois 60045
When Edward Jenner invented the smallpox vaccine in 1796, it was a revolutionary breakthrough in the science field. The development of vaccines prevents morbidity, mortality, and public health costs due to infectious diseases all around the world (Olpinski, 2012). Despite the overwhelming success with vaccinations, pediatricians and family doctors are seeing an increasing number of parents who refuse to have their children receive vaccines. Consequently, there is an overwhelming volume of information that is being highlighted in the news and on the internet about the risks of vaccinations.
On April 19th, 1982, the United States’ anti-vaccination movement began when the DTP (Diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis) vaccination was singled out for causing severe brain damage, specifically seizures and delayed mental and motor development. As a result, many parents refused to vaccinate their children. Additionally, there was an increased number of class action lawsuits from parents who believed that their children were directly harmed by the vaccine. In response, the United States Congress passed the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act to protect vaccine manufacturers. Marian Olpinski explains the purpose for the bill: “the Act was to allow children to be compensated for vaccine damages without suing in state courts; to protect pharmaceutical companies from litigation; and to encourage vaccine makers to produce new vaccines” (2012). Even today, people believe that the DTP vaccination causes sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Many people believe DTP causes SIDS because a portion of children who die from SIDS had recently been vaccinated with DTP. However, most SIDS deaths occur during the age range when three shots of DTP are given; thus, it should be expected for the timeline to be fairly similar to when they receive the shot and when the death occurs. Therefore, the SIDS deaths would have occurred even if the DTP vaccination was not given (Six Common Misconceptions about Immunization, 2018).
In 1998, the second and arguably most influential anti-vaccination movement happened when Dr. A. Wakefield claimed that there was a correlation between the MMR vaccine and autism. In response, a panel at the Institute of Medicine reviewed more than 200 epidemiological and biological studies and found that there was no relationship between the vaccine and autism; however, this statement did not change the public’s mind (Olpinski, 2012). At this point many politicians and celebrities started to share their opinions with the public, which caused the issue to be more prevalent in the news; further influencing parents’ decision to not vaccinate their children.
In Marian Olpinski’s article, “Anti-Vaccination Movement and Parental Refusals of Immunization of Children in USA”, she analyzes Smith PJ’s study, which evaluates the association between parents’ beliefs and vaccination rates. In the study, they used the data from 11,206 parents of children from 24-36 months of age from the 2009 National Immunization Survey. The researchers found that 25.8% delayed, 8.2% refused, and 5.8% delayed and refused to vaccinate their children. Parents who either delayed or refused were more likely to have safety concerns or believe there is no benefit to vaccination (Olpinski, 2012). The internet is the most common source for parents to find their information about vaccines. There is misinformation on the internet, which does not provide adequate information for parents to make an informed decision.
Pediatric and family doctors are becoming frustrated with the increasing numbers of parents refusing to vaccinate their children. As Marian Olpinski states: “Fear of potentially deadly diseases has been replaced by the fear of real, and more often, imaginary side effects of vaccination” (2012).
Before parents make a decision to vaccinate their children or not, they have to know all the information. Vaccines help develop immunity to diseases by imitating an infection. By imitating the infection, vaccines do not cause the illness but rather help the immune system to recognize the disease and fight it in the future. Like any medication, vaccines do have side effects, but they are limited to minor pain, swelling, and redness (where the shot was given) and an occasional mild fever (For Parents: Vaccines for Your Children, 2017). Although there are always risks with any medication, it is important to remember that vaccines prevent dangerous diseases. The media is a medium where many people around the world get their data; however, it can be manipulative and does not always present the truthful facts.
For Parents: Vaccines for Your Children. (2017). Retrieved from
Olpinski, Marian. (2012). Anti-Vaccination Movement and Parental Refusals of Immunization of Children in USA. Elsevier,87(4), 381-385.
Six Common Misconceptions About Immunization. (2018). Retrieved from http://www.who.int/vaccine_safety/initiative/detection/immunization_misconceptions/en/ index4.html
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