Vaccines are considered to be one of the top achievements of public health in the 20th century. However, opposition to the vaccine has existed as long as the vaccine itself through religious and/or philosophical objections.
In recent years, parental refusal for vaccines has become a growing concern for children due to the increased occurrence of vaccine-preventable diseases in children such as measles, mumps, and rubella.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spokesperson Ian Branam, M.A., recently came out with a statement about the increase in vaccine hesitancy among parents. ”Due to the increase of children going unvaccinated means that there are about 100,000 children under 2 years old that are not protected against potentially serious vaccine preventable diseases,” said Branam.
Unfortunately, due to the current growth in the amount of people who would rather go unvaccinated can lead to vital health consequences.
From January 1 to April 1, 2019, the CDC has recorded 555 individual cases of measles in 20 states in the U.S. including Arizona, New York, California, and Colorado.
The CDC claims that up to 90% of people who are not immune to measles will become infected if they are exposed to the virus. In addition, death rates from measles have plunged with vaccination, but it could change if vaccination rates decline further.
The measles outbreak in California has caused State Sen. Richard Pan (D) in Sacramento to pass a new bill which would change the immunization policy. Pan’s new bill, SB276, would direct the state health department to develop a standard exemption request form, using guidelines from the federal CDC about what medical evidence indicates that a vaccine poses a risk to the child.
In addition, New York lawmakers want to encourage teenagers to get vaccinated on their own in the midst of the measles outbreak in Brooklyn and Rockland County. According to the New York Times, a pair of state legislators are proposing a new bill in which children 14 years or older are allowed to receive vaccinations without parental consent.
As for the state of Georgia, immunization laws require school age children to get vaccinations for attendance unless a parent or guardian provides a religious or temporary medical exemption form.
With the growth of social media, misinformation toward vaccines and anti-vaccination groups have spread through major platforms such as Facebook, Youtube, and Google. The main example is “avoiceforchoice.org”, a website founded by market researcher Christina Hildebrand, which promotes anti-vaccination ideologies and ‘information’ to educate people on what exactly they are putting in their bodies via vaccines.
As of 2019, YouTube has taken measures to combat the amount of anti-vaccination videos that are uploaded. The method that YouTube proposes is that the company will demonetize channels that contain anti-vaccination content.
According to CNN, Facebook has also vowed to crack down on anti-vaccination content that circulates throughout the social media platform. For example, groups that promote vaccine misinformation will not show up in the list of groups that Facebook recommends users to join.
The media also has shed light on stories of how children are adjusting to the spread of vaccine misinformation through both social media and their parents.
Disproven theories about the safety of childhood vaccines have caused teenagers to go against their parents’ anti-vaccination beliefs. In February 2019, Ohio teenager Ethan Lindenberger defied his mother’s beliefs and went to a local clinic to receive the proper vaccines.
Lindenberger had decided to make the decision to get vaccinated after he saw his mother’s posts about vaccines on social media platforms, deeming her views dangerous and questioning her judgment.
Parental refusal to vaccines can also hinder the ability for their children to attend certain schools to obtain their education.
According to Spectrum News, New York mother, Marina Williams took the Orchard Park School District to court after her children were removed from class because their vaccinations were not up to date. “The school is asking me to go against everything I believe in,” said Williams in her defense.
Williams’ daughters, ages 13 and 15, haven’t been allowed at the school since November 30, 2018 after the district denied request for a religious exemption to the New York State public health law immunization requirements.
In the midst of the rising anti-vaccination movement, people should keep in mind that not only the individual is at risk when they are not immunized, they are putting other people at risk.