Vaccination Without Any Hesitation

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As a five year old, I hated going to the doctor’s office to get shots or have my blood drawn, and most of you in this classroom probably felt the same way. Ten years later, I still despise going to the doctor’s office to get any immunizations, but at least now I’m a good sport about it. Mainly because I know that the vaccines that I’m getting are life-saving and beneficial. According to a study done by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, vaccines save approximately five lives every minute (Rappuoli, Pizza, Gregorio). So while I’m giving this speech, forty lives will be saved because of the effectiveness of immunization.

Vaccination, or the act of inoculating a body against a disease, consists of inserting a weakened part of a bacterium or virus into the body to trigger the immune system. While the bacterium or virus itself is harmless, it causes white blood cells (macrophages) to engulf it and create antibodies that the body can later use. Thus, the immune system is left with a stronger defense if the body acquires the disease again (NIAID). Vaccines are credited for being the most effective method for saving lives, making them a huge achievement in the history of biomedical science (Yarwood). Society today is dependant on vaccines, therefore it is essential that parents vaccinate their children before they begin school, seeing that it is the most effective and safe way to prevent outbreaks among students.

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Vaccines, in their simple brilliance, are the catalysts for the changing face of disease in children over the past centuries. Polio, a highly infectious disease with a 30% mortality rate, caused 60,0000 cases and nearly 3,000 U.S childhood fatalities in 1952 alone. Yet by 1979, there were no reported infections, let alone deaths, of the disease in United States children. The reason? The emergence of the first polio vaccine in 1955, whose effectiveness led to the eradication of a deadly disease within 30 years (Ventula). Today, vaccines continue to be effective in their prevention of disease, with a study done by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention showing that vaccines save an estimated 42,000 lives and prevent 20 million cases of disease each year.

As of 2018, children entering kindergarten are required to have received the immunizations for polio, measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, Hepatitis B, and varicella. The requirements come with good reason. As many students can recall facing elementary school endeavours of flu, head lice, and other not so glamorous problems, it is clear that things spread rapidly among students in elementary school. Now take into account that most of the diseases children are vaccinated against manage to be unpleasant, deadly, and extremely contagious all at once. It is essential that children are vaccinated against these diseases to prevent nasty and deadly outbreaks. While the United States has strict vaccine requirements in place, which should prevent such outbreaks from happening, the growing number of parents seeking exemptions from vaccines because of personal beliefs threaten that policy.

If one unvaccinated student gets infected- which is highly plausible, given that children with vaccine exemptions are 22 times more likely to contract measles than vaccinated children- they put to danger the students that did not get vaccinated not for personal reasons but medical ones (Phadke, Bednarczyk, Omer, Salmon). A student with a compromised immune system, whether from chemotherapy or an autoimmune disease, can not safely get vaccinated, so they have no choice but to rely on other students getting vaccinated to keep themselves safe (Omer, Salmon, Orenstein, DeHart, Halsey). This concept, known as “herd immunity” aims to have a whole community, not just one person, safe and healthy. While one unvaccinated child might manage to get through a disease such as mumps without any complications, their classmate might not.

Laura Bredeson’s ten year old son Benjamin was one of those classmates. Diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at the age of two, Ben had to undergo chemotherapy and steroid treatment, both of which left him extremely susceptible to contracting any of the MMR diseases (Minnesota Department of Health). When another child that was at the same hospital as Ben was diagnosed with measles, Ben was immediately placed into quarantine, leaving his parents scared for their son’s safety. For the infected child, measles might have been a small battle. For Ben, exposure, not even infection, had made a vaccine preventable disease quite possibly as dangerous as the leukemia he was already fighting. Though Ben luckily tested negative for the measles, his close encounter with the infection highlights how these illnesses can be serious and deadly for certain people (Minnesota Department of Health). Vaccinating a child, and keeping vaccination rates high, helps everyone in the community, especially the weaker members. Vaccinations and their effectiveness should not be undermined, and all parents should strive to vaccinate their children for the overall good of the community.

So why don’t parents want to vaccinate their children? What could possibly undermine the obvious effectiveness of vaccines? A study examining parents hesitant to vaccinate their children found that more than a third of them were worried that vaccines are unsafe for their child. A study done by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that most of these worries seem to spawn from a study done by Andrew Wakefield in 1998, which linked the MMR vaccine to autism in young children (Hussain, Hussain, Ahmed, Ali). Though his study was found to be fraudulent by the Office of Special Masters of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims (known as the “Vaccine court”), which stated in 2009 that there is no correlation between the MMR vaccine and autism, it continues to have an impact on parents’ choices today.

Texas, the state where Wakefield has set up his anti-vaccination campaign after having his medical license revoked in England, is a clear example of this. According to Dr. Peter Hotez, the dean of students at the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor University of Medicine, non-medical vaccine exemptions in Texas have risen significantly since 2003, with 20% to 40% of students at certain schools being unvaccinated. Such high rates put all of those students at risk, with the Oxford Vaccine Group stating that 95% of a community needs to be vaccinated in order to establish an outbreak-free environment. Despite parents’ worries, it is clear that vaccines remain a safe option for children all around, with an overwhelming amount of evidence supporting vaccine safety. The Federal Drug Administration ensures that all vaccines administered to children are potent, pure, and sterile. Vaccines are tested for their effectiveness, and only passed if researchers conclude that the benefits well outweigh the risks (

Therefore, the increasing amount of parents hesitant to vaccinate their child appears to be the result of false information. Parents that did not vaccinate their children because of the 1998 autism scandal continue to face the consequences today. Andrew Wilson did not have his daughter vaccinated when she was a baby due to the numerous scare stories he heard about autism and the MMR vaccine. After her encounter with measles at the age of nineteen, he regrets his decision, saying that “it was an extremely upsetting experience” (Lambert). Wilson, like any other parent, did not want his daughter to get sick and wanted to keep her safe. But his misconceptions about vaccines led him to choose to not vaccinate his daughter. It is time for parents to understand that this is what vaccines do: they prevent disease in a safe and effective manner.

Wilson’s story shows how the key to combating fears over vaccine safety is education. Parents need to become more informed on the decisions they make for their child’s health, seeing as these decisions can be the difference between life and death. They need to see how their decision affects not only their child, but other children, children who cannot benefit from the inoculations their own child has the privilege to receive . It is up to pediatricians and other medical care providers to make information about vaccine safety more accessible to the public, as well as taking stronger measures to answer any questions parents might have about immunizations. It is also up to the rest of us; as members of various school or family communities, we can all do our part and help spread the word about the importance of herd immunity.

Furthermore, you can help do your part by making sure you’re up to date with your own vaccinations, thus fulfilling your role in establishing herd immunity. Neither the anti-vaccination movement nor the pro-vaccination movement is for child illness and death. The sole difference between the two is lack of education and misconceptions. The truth remains that vaccines, with their effectiveness and safety, are keeping countless children alive today. By helping to educate the public, we can show that truth and help maintain it.

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Vaccination Without Any Hesitation. (2022, May 13). Retrieved from

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