Editorial: Anti-Vaccination Should Not be an Option

Sophia DeDonatis, Reporter

Vaccine hesitancy is defined as the “reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability.” In recent years especially, there has been a rise in what many refer to as anti-vaxxers in America and other developed countries around the world. Vaccine hesitancy is one of the biggest threats to community health in the near future, and anti-vaccination should not be an option.

It is popularly believed by many anti-vax parents that vaccines can cause health concerns like autism or provide young children with too much aluminum for their bodies to handle. These theories, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), have been long debunked by scientists.

There are many platforms that promote vaccine hesitancy for reasons unsupported by any peer-reviewed, scientific literature. One such organization, A Voice for Choice, “promotes people’s rights to be fully informed about the composition, quality, and short- and long-term health effects of food and pharmaceutical products,” when, in reality, the information they are championing is not completely factual, itself.

There are many of these “choice advocacy” groups that promote hostile attitudes towards people that disagree with them. They are a small but vocal faction of society that tend to come off as being severe.

One instance of their aggressive attitudes was chronicled by vaccine scientist Paul A. Offit in the Philadelphia Inquirer. He had taken the opportunity to speak about his research at an event for his newest book. It was a small audience of only about 120 people in total. Offit claimed that as soon as he entered the room people began to harass him about his thoughts on vaccinations. It panned out the way these things often do, with Offit coming up with good counter arguments to their claims well after the event had ended.

Encounters between anti- and pro-vaxxers happen often, whether it is over the internet or in real life. However, not all of these interactions are as hostile as others. There are some vaccine hesitant people who can remain completely civil towards those who lack the same ideals, though it seems like stories of those people are not nearly as widely recognized.  

There are even some instances of anti-vaxxers coming around to the ideas held by the other side, such as one story from a mother, Chrissy, that was published on Voices for Vaccines, a website where “parents speak up for immunization.”

When her son was diagnosed with a mild case of pertussis, Chrissy elected to stop him and her other children from getting any further vaccinations and became firmly rooted in the anti-vax movement for years. Then, after having a baby in the NICU, the mother began to reevaluate her ideals. Through this experience and a substantial amount of research, she realized how far science had advanced and returned to the pro-vax side, even more vehement than before.

Despite all of these conversations about beliefs, it is hard to deny the science. The fact is that herd immunity is the best way to protect children who cannot get their vaccinations, such as those receiving chemotherapy or who have severe reactions to some vaccines. Parents who choose not to vaccinate their children and send them out in the world anyway should seriously take a look at who else’s loved ones their actions might affect.

It does not take a lot of time or money to make a difference. Possibly the best thing people can do to help the pro-vaccine movement is be educated and educate others. Additionally, there are plenty of organizations that anyone can donate to or share their stories with, such as Voices For Vaccines.