Willing ignorance causes infectious diseases

Recent string of outbreaks is tied to erroneous beliefs on vaccinations

Outbreaks of diseases that were formerly all but eradicated in the United States are making national headlines. Measles and whooping cough are resurging as unfounded fears that vaccines cause autism in children stubbornly persist.

Measles have recently hit Ohio and Texas and cases of whooping cough have surged across the country among children, particularly in Washington. Vaccines exist for these diseases - and are heavily encouraged for young children - but it is not a lack of medical prevention causing these tragedies.

It is ignorant intransigence among anti-vaccine advocates.

A stubbornly persistent anti-vaccine movement continues to grip this nation, putting children at risk of infection by preventable diseases. Despite growing vaccination rates across America, generally, there remain pockets of the country where personal and religious objections to childhood vaccinations represent a large enough contingent to allow for outbreaks.

While parents are - despite public health concerns - within their rights to withhold their children from receiving vaccinations, their reasoning is largely invalid.

A primary boon to the anti-vaccine movement is the erroneous belief that childhood vaccines cause autism. The claim has been debunked by innumerable scientific studies. The Center for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization and Institute of Medicine have all stated that there is not a link. Yet the belief in that link still remains.

Disbelief in scientific facts and active belief in disproved notions are well within individuals' rights. Believing in clearly untrue ideas is nothing new. The issue comes when that disbelief informs destructive, irresponsible and unhealthy actions - especially when those harmed are only children.

The anti-vaccine movement has received some high-profile support, as well, offering a dangerous air of legitimacy to the activists' position. Actress Jenny McCarthy and current U.S. Senator and 2008 presidential candidate John McCain have notoriously been lampooned for anti-vaccine positions.

McCain stated "there's strong evidence" vaccines were responsible for a surge in autism rates. The belief stemmed from the idea that a mercury-based preservative, Thimerosal, that was used in childhood vaccines decades ago was responsible for the spike.

Autism has assuredly increased in recent years, according to reporting by the CDC, but a link to vaccines is dubious at best. The government approved Thimerosal as safe, though it is no longer used in vaccines generally as a precaution, according to the CDC.

Vaccines save lives. This is a fact that has been demonstrated repeatedly and remains common knowledge. Vaccine use, similarly, saves money - approximately 10 times more than administration of the vaccinations costs, according to The Washington Post.

Parents choosing not to vaccinate children creates conditions hospitable to anachronistic diseases in a modern democracy like the United States - conditions opposed to the health, safety and wellbeing of children and the general public.

Vaccinations must be more actively promoted and mandated, and positions against them must be more adamantly opposed.

The protection of public safety, and the safety of children, is not a choice - it is a prerequisite for living in a modern state.

email: editorial@ubspectrum.com