These days it seems like everyone, especially parents, is talking about measles. After dozens of people were exposed to the virus last December at two Disney theme parks in California, we are now experiencing one of the biggest measles outbreaks in recent history with more than a hundred people infected across 14 states. But after the virus was deemed “eradicated” in the United States back in 2000, and North America in 2002, how did we even get here?
Apparently, the rise of “anti-vaxxers,” or rather parents who choose not to vaccinate their children, is the leading cause of the latest outbreak.
According to doctors, researchers, and the medical community at large, vaccinations are safe. However, despite the science being settled, some parents choose not to vaccinate their children for a myriad of issues from religion to concerns over a possible link to autism.
Although a connection between vaccines and autism has been roundly debunked, that hasn’t stopped parents, celebrities, and politicians from raising doubt about the safety of the measles vaccine.
Monday, Senator Rand Paul weighed into the debate. Although Paul, who is a doctor, said vaccines were “a good thing,” he went onto to echo the misguided concerns of some anti-vaxxers that vaccines may cause “mental disorders” in children.
“I have heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines,” Paul said.
Other politicians like New Jersey governor, and possible Republican presidential candidate, Chris Christie said that while vaccines are safe, parents should have the choice to opt-out of having their children vaccinated.
President Obama and several Republicans, like Dr. Ben Carson and Senator Marco Rubio, agreed that children should be vaccinated against preventable diseases like the measles, which was responsible for more than 145,000 deaths in 2013.
“There is every reason to get vaccinated — there aren’t reasons to not,” the President told NBC News. “I just want people to know the facts and science and the information. And the fact is that a major success of our civilization is our ability to prevent disease that in the past have devastated folks. And measles is preventable.”
Being a parent is one of the most difficult vocations on the planet. Along with caring for your child, you’re tasked with making the best choices to keep them healthy. While some parents may think they’re doing the best thing for their child by not subjecting them to a host of vaccinations, the science just doesn’t bear this out.
When my son was a toddler, I would feel extremely guilty about holding him down while the nurse would give him a series of shots. With every prick of the needle his little legs would kick, his arms would flail, and he’d scream so loud I almost told them to stop. Watching him go through so much pain was torture, for him and for me. But had I decided to skip the vaccination and, God forbid, he got extremely ill like hundreds of thousands of others last year, I never would have forgiven myself.
Where do you come down on the vaccination debate?