As a child, we all remember going to checkups with our family medicine physician. The familiar vile and needle are things that have defined the meaning of immunity across many generations of the human race, all developed with the first vaccination. Research shows that vaccinations are the best way to protect people from diseases that are spread through daily activities. The modern vaccine is changing from its predecessors because a disease has many strains, and each strain mutates rapidly. This means that there is a bright future for vaccine developers unless the opposite of vaccines increases. With growing opposition to vaccines, the future of humanity could be in danger. Vaccines are a “second armor” for humanity, but due to beliefs and concerns about them doing more harm than good, more people are shying away from them. This is leading to the resurgence of once-eradicated diseases, and with no official vaccination laws passed by the U.S. government, people are not required to have vaccinations. This has left Americans with a major question, to vax, or not to vax? Vaccines are scientifically proven to prevent disease in the human body, but certain diseases are making a resurgence due to those who oppose vaccines or, anti-vaxxers. Therefore, vaccinations should be made compulsory for every individual to protect society.
Vaccines have a very interesting history. The word Vaccine comes from the Latin word, Vacca, meaning cow. The practice of inoculating humans stems from early practices in the eastern hemispheres, primarily in China and India. Buddhists would tear cowpox-infected skin to smear on themselves to inoculate them from cowpox diseases. However, modern scientists credit a man by the name of Edward Jenner, as the father of vaccination. He achieved the first recorded and recounted inoculators events when he vaccinated a thirteen year-old-boy with the cowpox virus. As expected, the boy fell ill, but later adapted to the virus and was later immune to the smallpox virus (“Vaccine History”). Louis Pasteur’s developments in vaccination led to the development of cholera and anthrax vaccines respectively. In more recent history, the biggest event is the creation of the polio vaccine (“Brief History”). Dr. Jonas Salk’s work with the viral tissue culture of the inactive polio vaccine led to the creation of the mass polio vaccination and the eventual near eradication of the disease.
As aforementioned, vaccines are used to “immunize” or make someone immune. The body is an amazing machine. It contains trillions of cells all of which have specific functions. The immune system has the task of protecting the body from infections. When someone experiences a cold, the body is thrown out of whack and the immune cells are tasked with the job of ridding the body of the cold. However, it does not just get rid of all pathogenic cells. It makes copies of the virus and produces antibodies that recognize the disease in the future, which means humans require less time to recover (Sampson). This is the reason for vaccines. Vaccines, which have two parts, are inactive versions of illnesses that are injected into the bloodstream. The first part, or antigen, allows the body to produce antibodies in order for the body to use when fighting. The second part, adjuvant, signals the body to respond to the vaccination like a pathogen (Sampson).
From birth to death the human can obtain diseases within the first fourteen days of birth. This is where the childhood trips to the family medicine physician are most important. When sitting in the examination room, there is the familiar sight of a nurse walking in with a vial and needle. Vaccination improvements have led to the development of a specific vaccination schedule that children and adults alike are subject to in order to go to school or travel, respectively. Some of these vaccines include the Pertussis, MMR, Influenza, and HPV vaccines. These vaccines are extremely necessary for protecting humans from diseases like Pertussis (whooping cough) and Influenza (the flu), hence the reason they are required from birth to about age sixty-five. Without this ‘software update,’ the vaccine program that protects us could fade and leave us vulnerable to a slew of deadly diseases.
Vaccinations are prime for society's survival and are just one of a plethora of ways human ingenuity has ensured our survival. Without vaccinations, humans would not be able to continue living on our beloved Earth, which is one of the main reasons to vaccinate. This is due to the nature of pathogens. They breed everywhere that possible, and without any type of protection from pathogens, they could mutate past the ability to develop a treatment for them. Humanity is still producing new vaccinations every year for the elusive flu virus. Its genetic material mutates into one of the nearly infinite possibilities every year. Thus, the CDC and scientist have to predict the next strand using an algorithm in order to create a vaccine. This is the same full vaccine, everyone in America is urged, but not required, to get. With Influenza, three million cases alone are reported in just the United States and can be spread any number of ways, from direct contact with a contaminated surface or through the air that an infected individual breathes (“About Flu”). Symptoms include nasal congestion, pain all over the body, chills, and other rather undesirable effects of contracting the flu. This is one of the reasons vaccinations are called upon. Those who have been vaccinated are immune to the rather deadly and repulsive symptoms, something that everyone desires and can achieve by accepting the flu vaccine. However, this is one of many cases of vaccinations preventing disease.
Vaccines, being one of the noteworthy medical advancements in recent centuries, should not just be compulsory for the mere fact that it provides the patient with immunity from daily diseases deadly enough to finish the entirety of the human race. Vaccines do more than provide immunity. It prevents diseases from resurging; that is, if everyone takes the vaccine, another reason to vaccinate. Smallpox is one of the deadliest diseases with no known cure. With scientific brilliance beginning in the eighteenth century, the human race was able to synthesize a vaccine that was able to inoculate human beings from one of the most deadly diseases at the time. This led to a widespread immunization program, that sought out every living individual to inoculate them. When this had been achieved another thing had also been achieved: the eradication of the smallpox virus (“Smallpox”). This is another reason why vaccinations are necessary. With vaccinations, we are able to protect people from diseases that are easy to catch and detrimental to their health and the health of those around them.
While the general consensus is to get vaccinated, some others do not agree. In recent years, many people called anti-vaxxers have started a movement of their own to protest vaccinations. Why might this be? With all the good that comes from vaccines, who could possibly say there is something wrong with them? Each individual poses their own reason for refusal of vaccinations. Most refusals come on the four bases of religious beliefs, personal principles, concern, or the need for more information on vaccinations. There are also many misconceptions that arise around vaccines, such as the adverse side effects they have on the body or, the fact that people can still contract diseases.
Religion is an important part of many people's lives. Most individuals factor their religion into the decisions they make in their daily lives. This being said, those who rely on their religion to make decisions are the most strongly opposed to vaccinations. According to Chopra Mckee and Kristin Bohannon, cited in the National Library of Medicine, these arguments stem from the disapproval of the ingredients in some of the vaccinations. Christians who are strongly opposed to abortion and the use of fetal tissue would take strong stances against the use of human fetal tissue in the MMR vaccine, specifically the Rubella vaccine (McKee). They would rather risk the protection they need than obtain the vaccine, which gravely damages the concept of herd immunity, or the immunity of a community to contagious diseases if a high number of individuals in the community are vaccinated. However, the refusal of vaccinations, on religious grounds is not limited to those who claim that they are Christians. Muslims, who cannot eat pork have also rejected vaccinations, due to religious beliefs. Due to the inability to ingest “animal-derived gelatin,” they are unable to obtain protection from most of the present vaccinations (McKee). Given, that these are conscious choices to forgo inoculation, it is tough to dissuade those who use religion to refuse vaccination, given their first amendment rights. Rather, when conversing with religious anti-vaxxers, one would have to show them the positives that vaccination brings with it.
Furthermore, those who refuse vaccination based on personal philosophy are another common group of anti-vaxxers. Their belief that natural immunity is more efficient than that which originates from vaccines couples with their belief that natural immunization is better at strengthening the immune system and provides the reason for their objection over medical vaccines. There are also others who believe that because deadly diseases are minuscule and pose no current danger to themselves, children, or the rest of society, there is no current need for vaccination and thus, the ‘harms’ of vaccination pose more of a threat to themselves than if they were to not be vaccinated (McKee). Those who are on this line of reasoning need to be informed of the dangers that diseases pose and the current need for vaccination and the factor that since many of the diseases can breed anywhere, they have the ability to mutate and become stronger. Thus, in the event that contracting this disease, due to lack of immunization, they could pose a danger to society, or worse could be killed.
One of the biggest reasons why parents and other individuals refuse vaccination practices is safety concerns. Due to heavy media influence, concerns about vaccination have reached new heights, culminating in a growing refusal of necessary immunity. In a controversial 2003 study conducted by the IOM (Institute of Medicine), it was discussed that the MMR vaccine “favors a causal relationship and thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism.” (“Cause Autism”). The IOM study fundamentally detailed the belief that thimerosal, a mercury-based compound used in the preservation of vaccines, was related to the development of autism in certain people. Consequently, this would influence many individuals to become skeptical, even refuse vaccines, in an effort to protect themselves. However, in stark contrast, the CDC has conducted or financed nine related studies since the 2003 IOM study and come up with nothing. Another reason for the rejection and skepticism of vaccines is due to individuals’ beliefs about the use of human fetal tissue and the safety of vaccines, it unnerves individuals about the need for vaccines allowing them to avoid necessary processes for the good of society. However, according to Paul Offit at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, fetal tissue was necessary for the development of vaccines and are have not been used since the late 1960s (Offit). The use of fetal tissue, allowed viruses to grow to a great extent due to the incredible ability fetal cells have of going through many cell divisions. It also allowed developers to observe how the virus reacted to human cells, the information was later used to develop vaccinations.
With the CDC and other outside sources corroborating the original notion that there is no link between vaccinations and any other adverse side effects, the argument against the use of vaccination is ultimately disarmed. However, some might still like to pose the question, just how safe are vaccines? Given that there are negative consequences to everything, nothing by that logic is ever one hundred percent safe. However, with vaccines, there are many security measures in place to protect individuals from danger. Vaccines are tested in labs by volunteers, they are monitored for consequences, as well as, for performance (“Vaccine Safety”). The vaccinations are also tested by the FDA and CDC before being approved and recommended for public use (“Vaccine Safety”). Finally, once in public use, the vaccine is monitored by a number of groups including, but not limited to, VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Effects Reporting System) and, PRISM (Post-licensure Rapid Immunization Safety Monitoring System) (“Vaccine Safety”). These programs monitor the vaccinations closely through reports of vaccination performance, and ultimately make the vaccine one of the safest medical developments available. With vaccines continuously put ‘under the magnifying glass’ for monitoring, this means that those whose job is to catch problems with vaccines will find every possible thing wrong with it in order for vaccines to be produced.
Since vaccines are in fact safe and do not cause other life-threatening or perilous diseases this means there is no other logical reason to refuse vaccinations. Because vaccines protect from and prevent the resurgence of diseases, as well as, are proven safe and no longer use fetal tissue, they should be made a requirement to participate in one’s civic duties. It is also a civic duty for everyone to be vaccinated to protect themselves and others. However, given that there are no federally managed vaccination laws, it still leaves the herd, in this case, the U.S. and humanity, at an increased risk of contracting resurging diseases due to a lack of protective laws. The debate is far from over with the lack of vaccine legislation. There is still much to be done surrounding the development of vaccines, those who refuse to take them, and laws to regulate them. However, we are left with one question, to vax, or not to vax?