OPINION: Vaccination is necessary


Brandi Marlin

A paperweight on display in the nurse’s office represents vaccines that prevent several types of diseases.

The World Health Organization (WHO) annually publishes a list of the top ten biggest threats to global health. It is no surprise to see threats such as air pollution, climate change, non-communicable disease, and antimicrobial resistance on this list; however, over the last year, a new threat has appeared. The Anti-Vaccination movement, a movement about consciously not vaccinating children or adults against preventable diseases, was included as a top ten threat. This movement is not a new threat – it has been around for over a hundred and fifty years.


Vaccinations were first created in the early 1800s by Edward Jenner. Jenner’s ideas were novel for the time and were met with immediate sanitary, political, religious, and scientific objections. In 1853, the first mandatory vaccination law came out in Britain and there was an immediate demand for a repeal. Groups such as the Anti-Vaccination League and Anti Compulsory Vaccination League began to sprout in Britain and spread across the world. 

Vaccinations and the Anti-Vaccination Movement began to pop up in the United States in the later part of the 19th century after an outbreak of smallpox. Another outbreak occurred in 1902; this led the Board of Health in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to mandate that all city residents be vaccinated against smallpox. A city resident, Henning Jacobson, refused vaccination, as it violated his right to care for his body in the way he saw fit. The city pressed charges against Jacobson, who lost the case. He then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in the state’s favor, allowing states to enact compulsory laws for vaccination. 

Now a 21st Century Issue

Although the beginnings of the Anti-Vaccination movement were in the 19th century, they still hold strong in today’s 21st century world. In the United Kingdom, the rate of MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccination dropped from 92% in 1996 to 84% in 2002. By 2003, the rate of MMR vaccination was as low as 61% in certain areas. These low rates of vaccinations are well below what the percentage needed to prevent outbreaks. Outbreaks of measles (which can be prevented by the MMR vaccine) began in 1998, when 56 people contracted the illness in the U.K. By 2006, there were 449 cases in the first 5 months of the year. The United States has seen similar outbreaks, especially in recent years. In 2014 and 2015,  there was a measles outbreak that is believed to have originated from a Disneyland resort in California. Roughly 125 people contracted measles from this outbreak. So far in 2019 (between January 1st and April 26th), there have been 704 reported cases in 22 states. This is the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1994, although measles was declared eliminated in 2000.

The Choice to Vaccinate

I am part of what is called ‘the herd’ because I am vaccinated. The herd is a group of people who have been vaccinated, therefore protecting others from contracting the disease. This is called Herd Immunity; however, a certain percentage of the population needs to be vaccinated in order to work. For measles, 90-95% of the population needs to be vaccinated, and for polio, it is 80-85%. As shown above, the vaccination rates are falling quickly, and the farther they fall, the more outbreaks will occur.

My family made the choice to vaccinate my siblings and I throughout our childhood. I am so grateful that my parents are in favor of vaccinations, because if I were not vaccinated, I would be at risk to contract these dangerous diseases. In our 21st century world, technology has developed far enough to show the truth of how vaccinations work. Some people do not vaccinate because they believe that it causes autism. However, more studies in the last two decades have shown there is no link between vaccines and Autism. The American Academy of Pediatrics works closely with the Center for Disease Control to make recommendations for vaccination. A compiled list of studies showing that there is no connection between vaccines and autism can be found in the sources listed. 

Many people do not vaccinate due to stories of someone’s personal experience or their own experience. The Stavola family from New Jersey experienced one of these tragic stories. Holly was a 5-year-old girl who was healthy before her 5-year-old check up. At this check up she received MMR, Polio, and DTap vaccines and fell ill a week later. Within 65 hours of falling ill, Holly was determined brain dead. This is a terrible tragedy that can be attributed to multiple faults. Readers can read her whole story down below in the sources.

There are many of these stories out on the internet, but statistically over the past three decades, there have been on 6,600 vaccine injury cases filed to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program that have received some sort of compensation. Out of these cases, roughly 70% of them have been settlement cases where officials did not find sufficient evidence that the vaccination was at fault. For every one million vaccine shots (any vaccine), there are likely to be two claims of some type of vaccine injury. 

I am not a parent and cannot pretend to understand the responsibilities of one, but with the information available, vaccinating your child should be top item of discussion in your family. Vaccination can protect a child from diseases that can potentially be deadly. Before 1963, almost every child got measles before they were 15. Out of the estimated 3 to 4 million who were infected every year, 400 to 500 died, 48,000 were hospitalized, and 1,000 suffered from encephalitis. Other diseases that have vaccinations include polio, the flu, HPV, meningitis, mumps, and rubella. These diseases can have painful, life threatening, or long term impacts. The chance of receiving a vaccine injury is not high enough that children should not be vaccinated based on that claim alone. With any medicine or medical situation, there are risks involved and that cannot be ignored. What should be considered is the possible outcomes of each choice, to vaccinate or not. 

But the important thing to remember is that vaccinations do not only protect your child, they also protect others. Some children cannot get a certain vaccination or any vaccinations, which puts them at extreme risk for contracting an illness that they were not vaccinated for. When everyone else is immunized around them, then they cannot be a carrier for the illness and transmit it to that one person. I am personally glad that certain vaccinations are required to enter school and college, because each year, 3 million children die from vaccine preventable diseases. 

That is 3 million impactful people that could change the world, lost to a preventable cause. Vaccination is not a choice for your child, it is a choice that can affect the thousands of people he or she will come into contact with.