Viruses were the very first forms of life, and have spread to every nanoscale corner of the world. The world will never be rid of viruses, and in all likelihood, humanity will never be rid of the scourge of viral infections. However, as human society with advanced medical technologies, we can halt the most dangerous viral infections from becoming global pandemics. While these diseases often can not be fully quarantined, they can be largely prevented with one relatively simple technology. The vaccines that individual scientists pour tens of thousands of hours into creating, have the potential to save countless lives. However, new concerns have arisen due to the misconceived perception that the administration of these vaccines is potentially dangerous. More and more parents are becoming ‘anti-vaxxers’, boycotting these vaccines. These misinformed parents believe they are keeping their children safe, while in reality, they are actually leaving them vulnerable to epidemics. It is my position, that vaccines must become mandatory to all those who are not immunocompromised, to ensure the safety of people around the world for this generation, and for generations to come.
After the invention of vaccines in the 18th century, diseases that once caused hundreds of millions of deaths can now been contained. As a result, many virus-borne infectious diseases are, at present, very close to being eradicated. Smallpox, responsible for 500 million deaths in the 20th century alone, has been completely eradicated in the general population (Infoplease). Dozens of diseases have been contained to small geographic regions, and disease names that once struck fear into people’s hearts now seem like distant memories (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). It is only natural for every epidemic to show temporal fluctuations in terms of infection rates, but the only significant drop in mortality rates occurred after the invention of modern vaccination (World Health Organization).
As more people are becoming vaccinated worldwide, the chance of these diseases recurring are substantially lowered, creating herd immunity. The immunized people are both safe from the diseases themselves, and also act as a barrier for those who do not have vaccinations. Immunocompromised, weak, and young people are susceptible to these diseases — and cannot take vaccinations. Those with measles, on average, infect 10 – 15 people, and at its height, 4 million people were infected (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). To ensure these people are safe from most diseases, and prevent these diseases from spreading, 80-90% of the population must be vaccinated against any single target disease (Bell 2015).
Despite all the benefits that come from vaccination, there are still those who choose to focus on only the minor, and relatively rare side-effects. Anti-vaxxers argue that vaccines effectively inject weakened, but active, disease particles into a person’s body thus increasing the possibility that a person might become infected with that particular disease. Yet the disease particles contained in vaccines are either severely weakened or dead, which provides the immune system a chance to build up a resistance against the disease. Anti-vaxxers also claim that vaccines may include heavy metals such as mercury, potentially harming people of all ages, but in particular, young babies, interfering with normal developmental processes. While thimerosal is used as a vaccine preservative, and does contain mercury, it is important to distinguish that this compound is an organomercury, unlike methylmercury, and other, much more toxic forms of mercury (FDA). It is far more dangerous to expose people to potentially contaminated/expired vaccines than to even large quantities of thimerosal. Even so, doctors now also provide a thimerosal-free alternative (Bell 2015). However, their most commonly used argument is that vaccines cause autism. However, these arguments have no scientific basis, which has been demonstrated repeatedly in peer-reviewed studies over decades. According to a peer-reviewed article by Dr. Frank DeStefano, Director of the Immunization Safety Office at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “…evidence does not support a causal association…,” between vaccines and autism.
However, the amount of unvaccinated children in America has quadrupled in just one recent year (CDC Child Immunization Survey 2018). This is clearly an unfortunate result of Anti-vaxxer influence. As false information spreads, parents fear for their children’s safety and choose not to vaccinate in a misguided effort to ‘protect’ their children in the short-term, unwittingly facing the possibility of bringing back diseases that were once thought to be long gone. This line of thinking puts everyone at risk — especially those of us who cannot make legal/medical decisions for ourselves.
In recent years, big biodata, bioengineering technology, and improved clinical trial processes have allowed vaccines to be developed at a faster rate, with a significantly safer delivery method, and thus have become much more effective than in the past. Pandemics and epidemics have occurred not just in human society, but also throughout the ecosystem, and throughout the history of life. Geologic history has proven that if left unchecked, viral epidemics may devastate entire species, and threaten their very existence. Human society has at its disposal, a known, safe method of preventing infectious diseases through vaccination. Vaccination continues to be one of the most important forms of medical ammunition in the battle against mortality. Therefore, there is no reason why governments shouldn’t consider the greater good of protecting the future of our species through mandated vaccination, over the scientifically inaccurate representations of a relatively small group of uninformed activists, who are doing nothing but potentially causing the continual recurrence of deadly epidemics that will threaten us all.