Immunizations and the herd

Winfo-graphic-2ith the chances of giving birth to a child with autism at a ten-year high, many parents feel forced to make decisions for their new families regarding their baby’s vaccinations. Although there is no scientific link that associates vaccinations with the development of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a roper poll reveals that 36 percent of the U.S. population believes there could be a link. This leads to the question, if there is even a slight chance that vaccinations can lead to autism, should families be legally forced to vaccinate their children in order to be admitted into public schools?


85 percent of families in the U.S. support mandatory vaccinations, the other 15 percent have been vocal about their opposition. With popular faces, like Jim Kerry and Jenny McCarthy, leading the protests against legally mandated vaccinations, it is hard to ignore either side of the argument. 

Associate professor and department head of the University of Denver’s biological science , Joseph Angleson believes that any skepticism is outweighed by the potential threats of living without basic vaccinations. 

“The vaccines provided for children at birth were created to prevent terrible diseases,” Angleson said, “many experts have not found a link between autism and vaccines.”

Vaccinations like the MMA and DTaP are there to prevent serious diseases such as the measles, mumps, tetanus, whooping cough and polio. In the 1950’s almost 60,000 people were diagnosed with polio a year in the United States. Today, polio is considered eradicated in the Americas. The measles and the mumps share similar stories

Some families, however, do not have a choice to vaccinate their children. 

Children born with illnesses such as cancer and certain auto-immune deficiencies are not able to receive vaccinations during the early stages of their lives because their immune systems are too weak.

To become immune to a disease like the mumps, you first have to be given it so your system knows how to counteract it in the future. This is why children with certain diseases are sometime unable to be vaccinated, even with the small doses required to build immunity. Their already compromised immune system would not be able to counteract additional disease. 

This is why many parents depend on other children in the community being vaccinated. The idea of “herd immunity” is that if a majority of the population around you (94 percent) is immune to disease, then you will most likely not get it either. 

If your child can not get vaccinated, then they do not pose a biological threat to those who are vaccinated. However, if you chose not to vaccinate your healthy child, many parents view that as putting other children at risk. A person who chose not to get vaccines may be able to fight off a nasty case of the mumps with a naturally healthy immune system whereas a child with birth disorders cannot be vaccinated and would find themselves at more risk around others without vaccinations.

There are federal laws that require Americans to be immunized, though 47 states allow exemptions for religious reasons. California, West Virgin and Mississippi are the only states to offer no exemptions for vaccinations. 

In 2014-2015 there was an outbreak resulted in 856 cases of measles for un-vaccinated citizens in multiple states. The outbreak was traced back to an amusement park in California which was a deciding event in the approval of mandated vaccinations. 

Many of those infected were members of Amish communities, where getting vaccinations is against their religion. For many religious exemptions, it’s not a matter of health skepticism, rather fundamental belief. Which is another side of the argument. 

“I don’t think that you should be allowed to make decisions that would affect the life of another child,” Nick Sarnelli, a junior at the University of Denver said, “If you are physically unable to receive a vaccination then you get a pass, but that’s why everyone else should get one.”

“The worst reactions that are proven to result from vaccinations are minor allergic reactions, swelling, redness, and at worse will require extra medical treatment, which is a drop compared to getting measles or mumps for an infant, or worse, giving one of those to another child,” Angleson agrees. 

Angleson speaks passionately on the topic, he doesn’t consider himself an expert on the safety of vaccinations but he is well read on the issue and well aware of the different perspectives and their supporting evidence. 

Despite the evidence, many parents would still like the choice. 

According to Pew research center, 30 percent of parents would still like the choice. As a student that has never been vaccinated, Chloe Luiz would like to see parents maintain their right to choose.

“I just can’t see why it wouldn’t be best to allow the choice,” Luiz stated. “My parents didn’t get me vaccinated and I have never had a problem.” 

Louis also expressed the feeling of being stigmatized by the fact she doesn’t believe in vaccinating children. She believes that the public perception of ant-vaccinations is that they are uninformed and ignorant when really her decision against vaccinations is only personal and doesn’t have to be a universal belief. 

The problem with the argument is that someone feels victimized no matter the decision, whilst everyone is honestly doing what they believe is right for their child.

Those who lose their right to choose feel they are being forced into a decision that may harm their children and those who’s religion suggest not taking vaccinations would be forced to go against their beliefs. Those who don’t get stricter regulations have to worry about their child in public schools with those who are not vaccinated. 

However, popular opinion has swayed since the measles outbreak in California. In July of 2014, 77 percent of adults in the United States believed vaccines were safe, yet when the same question was asked in 2015 87 percent of the same population agreed they were safe.

As studies progress in regards to the correlation between Autism and vaccinations popular opinion will sway.

“It will be hard to prove there isn’t a correlation, but as long as there is no firm evidence there will always be those who aren’t sure of the effects,” said Angleson.

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