The U.S. needs to tighten vaccination mandates
“There isn’t an iota of doubt that vaccines are safe and effective… ” – Scientific American
| Existing religious and philosophical exemptions endanger public health
By The Editors on June 24, 2019
| Scientific American – As of mid-June, there have been more than 1,000 cases of measles across 28 U.S. states this year.
The disease was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000 but has reappeared with a vengeance, mainly in isolated pockets of unvaccinated people.
Those who choose not to immunize their families are not only placing themselves and their children at risk but also others who cannot be vaccinated either because they are too young or have medical issues.
There isn’t an iota of doubt that vaccines are a safe and effective way to prevent many diseases. All 50 states mandate that children entering school get immunized unless they have a medical-based exemption.
Yet almost every state also offers religious exemptions, and more than a dozen offer personal belief/philosophical ones as well.
California, Mississippi, West Virginia and, most recently, Maine have gotten rid of both sorts of waivers, and these states have some of the highest vaccination rates for measles and several other diseases. The others must follow suit. It’s imperative for protecting public health.
It doesn’t take many unvaccinated people to cause an outbreak. Measles is one of the first vaccine-preventable diseases to have reappeared because it is so contagious; the threshold for so-called herd immunity—resistance to a disease conferred by sufficient community levels of immunity or vaccination—is 93 to 95 percent. If vaccination levels fall below that threshold, an infected person can cause an outbreak.
Vaccine hesitancy is nothing new. People have questioned inoculations since Edward Jenner introduced the smallpox vaccine in 1796. Today vaccines are partly a victim of their own resounding success. People rarely if ever see once-common diseases such as measles or polio, so they don’t understand the potential danger.
On top of that, relentless misinformation campaigns have touted such false claims as the idea that vaccines cause autism (numerous studies have shown they do not).
The discredited researcher Andrew Wakefield introduced this idea in a now refuted study, and celebrities such as Jenny McCarthy and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., have given it credence. And the Internet and social media have made it easier than ever for vaccine deniers to find like-minded networks of people to confirm their false beliefs … Read more.
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