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Bella Anderson Enni

Over the holidays, the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’ quickly became a place of fear and panic when at least 42 cases of measles were reported to have originated from an unvaccinated tourist at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. This outbreak has not only spread a potentially devastating disease, but also raised awareness about the importance of vaccinating children.

Though for many, vaccinating a child is a crucial part of parenthood, parents opposed to vaccines (often known as anti-vaxxers) argue that vaccines expose kids to toxins. They point to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which lists vaccine ingredients on their website that include Formaldehyde, Mercury, and Neomycin. Each of these chemicals have extensive FDA warnings against the possible cause of cancer, depression to the central nervous system and dehydration resulting from vomiting and diarrhea.
Nevertheless, while there are some potentially harmful side effects, every parent should vaccinate their child because the life-saving results of vaccines do prevail. By refusing to vaccinate their family, parents put the lives of their children, friends and community as risk.

Perhaps the most irrefutable evidence to the triumph of vaccines can be seen in the hundreds of people you encounter on a given day. 200 years ago, Edward Jenner developed the first successful vaccine to prevent and eventually eradicate the Smallpox virus. Since then, immunizations have advanced to save an estimated 9 million lives a year worldwide from diseases such as measles, pertussis (whooping cough) and polio. According to UNICEF, one-third of those saved are children.

Still, an alarmingly high number of parents currently overlook both the fact that so many people are alive and healthy because they were vaccinated and that many of these harmful diseases still exist today, simply because these illnesses are not common. However, they can still easily spread faster than wildfire, especially between those who are unvaccinated. Officials have said the vast majority of those infected in the recent Disneyland outbreak were not vaccinated against measles

Similarly, if parents are looking for another reason to vaccinate their child, either a biology or history book is a good place to start. Many anti-vaxxers state that kids can build their own immunity naturally. False. The crucial part missing from the end of this statement is ‘by age 4 months.’ Infants and children in early life are the most vulnerable to disease because they are not yet fully capable of producing their own antibodies. History can attest to billions of babies and young children succumbing to the illnesses ranging from tuberculosis to the common cold. Of course there were kids in the past who were able to survive without either vaccinations or a completely developed immune system, but their endurance can be attributed to a simple combination of luck and decent hygiene and nutrition.

The majority of misconceptions surrounding vaccines are about their possible toxicity risks. Contrary to popular belief, vaccines are actually safe as side effects are rare and the benefits significantly outweigh any risks of dangerous effects. Before they can be administered to children and the general public, vaccines are tested extensively by the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. In total, they undergo a six-step process to ensure that they are safe and effective including clinical studies, extensive review and tests for quality.

Additionally, once they are actually released, vaccines are constantly monitored by The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). The most common side effects are a sore arm, joint-pain and low-grade fever that only last about two days. The actual likelihood of a severe problem from a vaccine is less than 1 out of 1 million doses. Before being wrapped up in and persuaded by myths, such as vaccines can cause autism, parents should utilize resources like the CDC website and reconsider fact the vaccines save lives.

Finally, the vaccination of a child has benefits not only for the child, but for literally every person they come in contact with. When a child is healthy, she misses fewer days of school. Her education does not suffer in addition to a relief from a burden that would have fallen on her teachers to catch up their student as well as parents who stay home from work to care for their sick little one. Moreover, this avoids a financial strain that may occur from a parent not attending his job.

But perhaps the greatest advantage of them all is vaccinated child will not get sick and therefore will not pass a disease onto all those in their community, especially those with compromised immune systems due to chemotherapy, a pre-existing illness, or old age. When even a portion of a community is immunized against a contagious disease, ‘herd immunity’ occurs as most members of the community are protected due to the little opportunity for outbreak.

Ultimately, parents should choose to vaccinate their children to keep their kids safe and healthy. Despite many legends, vaccines are not only extremely safe, but also effective in saving the lives of both kids and adults. The best way to prevent future outbreaks of harmful diseases is to fully educate parents and all of those responsible for the health and well-being of another person.